Treasurer Scott Morrison has announced that the federal government will redirect $3bn to the National Disability Insurance Scheme if its omnibus savings bill passes. According to the treasurer, this money would be placed into a new “locked” savings fund, presumably the same fund that was proposed before the election, and would help pay the federal government’s half of the NDIS, expected to be around $11 billion annually.
In his announcement, Morrison sought to pressure Labor and the crossbench to pass the controversial savings bill, saying, “The NDIS’s account will be poorer for it, if this bill is not passed.” As far as wedges go this is a doozy. Who would want to be seen taking funding away from people with disability?
Leaving aside the ethical question of harming one group of poor – the bill would push unemployed people under 25 from Newstart to Youth Allowance, as one example – to help another, there is something quite unsettling about the way Morrison is framing a refusal to vote for the omnibus as some kind of attack on the NDIS. It’s unsettling to see a bipartisan enterprise like the NDIS (remember that sense of hope when it was introduced) used as a wedge in this way. Particularly when it’s being used as a tool to further chisel away welfare. But there was also a unsettling pang of surprise when I read Monday’s announcement.