Considering the options of funding stipulated by the Australian Productivity Commission, consolidated revenue and not a new tax is the best way to finance National disability policy.
No one can quite comprehend the various services needed, and costs associated with having a disability until you have walked a day in their shoes. Hopefully many of us will never have to experience it and most of us have put the thought of living with a disability in the back of our minds.
Because of this, disability policy is not high on the agenda of most Australians when they do think about social or public policy. It is in this context that a disconnect has emerged between governments and disability policy.
Thus governments for decades have neglected an effective policy that would provide essential services to those living with a disability. Moreover, there is a view that governments could effectively ignore the disabled because they often don't have the strongest or loudest public voice.
While it has taken many years and various campaigns, finally a policy, which may drastically change how services are provided to people living with a disability, is within reach. The Labor government has taken the first steps towards a more equitable Australia, accepting and developing policy based upon the recommendation made by the Productivity Commission, of the need of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The voices of carers and 360,000 Australians living with disabilities are no longer being ignored.
The Productivity Commission report on disability and care support estimated that the amount required for the NDIS to function effectively is around $13.6 billion annually, which will require an additional $6.5 billion, twice the amount currently committed. This is a significant monetary commitment, made larger still by the lack of incremental development and expansion in disability policy by previous governments.
The NDIS cannot function effectively without this monetary commitment and it is up to government to find the most efficient way to guarantee it. Thus like any policy the first hurdle is how government will secure its funding. The Productivity Commission report has provided two broad options of ensuring that the NDIS is sustainable long term, suggesting funding could either come from another tax or levy, similar to the Medicare levy or through consolidated government revenue.
Views over the funding of the scheme have divided many groups. The progressive think tank Per Capita has emphasised that the future of the scheme should not be subjected to the uncertainty of general funding and has recommended the adoption of a levy. The think tank believes that a tax system would be more beneficial as it would not be subject to budgetary pressures.
The reservations of the think tank are understandable. They do however disregard the ramifications of promoting yet another tax. Taxes cannot fix all the problems of our society and in the end people don't want to pay more than they think they have to.
When Australians were asked to pay just one dollar more a week to help the reconstruction efforts of Queensland after the floods earlier this year, only 55 per cent supported the flood levy. In this respect if Australians weren't willing to pay one dollar more a week to help flood victims it seems unlikely that they would be inclined to pull out another 15 dollars to support the NDIS. Will the introduction of the NDIS, if it is a levy based policy, face the same fate as the Queensland flood levy?
Funding the NDIS through a tax in this current climate might have an adverse effect on those who seek to benefit from it. Considering the recent backlashes over the implementation of the flood levy and carbon tax, the introduction of another tax to fund a vital social policy may create a climate that discriminates against people with a disability.
Taxpayers will correlate a hike in their tax - thus money out of their pockets - to those with a disability. This could create a further disconnect between the general public and those living with a disability. The NDIS needs to encourage an inclusionary Australia, where all individuals have a right to live a fulfilled life regardless of their ability. The nature of a tax may undermine this vision.
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