Yesterday the federal government ramped up the pressure on senators who might block its $4 billion omnibus of savings – comprising significant welfare cuts – by indicating that would put funding for childcare increases and the National Disability Insurance Scheme at risk.
It was almost breathtaking in its absurdity which was captured in a single headline in The Australian Financial Review. ‘Here’s a tip: Don’t pick on disabled people.’
The fact that the AFR’s Laura Tingle needed to spell out the cruelty – and stupidity – in pitting poor people against disabled people is astonishing.
Less astonishing is the fact that Nick Xenophon and his team will not support the government’s savings.
“As a negotiating tactic, this is as subtle as a sledgehammer,” Senator Xenophon said. “Pitting battling Australians against Australians needing disability support services is dumb policy and even dumber politics.”
Whilst the NXT views the childcare reform as important its position is that, under the current proposal, these reforms come at too high a cost to families by way of the scrapping the family tax benefits and cuts to paid parental leave.
“This is fundamentally flawed policy, and fundamentally unfair,” said Rebekha Sharkie, Member for Mayo and NXT spokesperson for Social Services. “Of course we support child care reforms. Of course we support a fully funded NDIS. But these measures should never be off the back of our nation’s most disadvantaged.”
Without the support of NXT, the government will only succeed in the senate with the support of the Labor party or the Greens, which seems unlikely.
Nicole Lessio, the Principal Campaign Manager at The Parenthood, said parents were sick of the government targeting those most in need. “First they came for single parent and vulnerable families through cuts to FTB, then they went for new mums stripping back their paid parental leave and now it’s the NDIS being held to ransom,” Lessio said. “Can the Turnbull Government make life any harder for Australian families?
It might not be the intention but it certainly appears to be the most likely outcome. “Parents of children with disabilities have been waiting years for support and now the government is pulling the rug out from under them – holding the full roll out of the NDIS to ransom.”
It’s no surprise the government’s ultimatum failed but it’s a hollow victory: the fact it was propositioned at all speaks volumes about the government’s understanding of these policies.