A BUDGET FOR DISABILITY? The Future Picture . . .

Just what does this Budget mean for people with disability? We’ll be dissecting it over the coming weeks in an attempt to find out . . . 

Page 144 of Budget Statement No5 is largely occupied by a table. This gives a breakdown – and projection – of the growth in cost expected from different programs. There’s an extract of a few selected costs below:

Table 5.3.1: Top 20 programs by expenses in 2022-23

Program

2021-22 2022-23 2023-24 2024-25 2025-26 

Revenue assistance to the States and Territories:

$76,495 $84,787 $88,405 $92,667 11$94,158

Support for Seniors:

$51,610 $54,153 $56,579 $58,846 $61,895

National Disability Insurance Scheme:

$30,773 $35,756 $39,444 $42,857 $46,083

Army Capabilities Defence

$7,624 $7,941 $8,752 $8,934 $9,038

Air Force Capabilities Defence

$6,934 $7,764 $8,302 $9,398 $5,928

Fuel Tax Credits Scheme Fuel and Energy

$6,894 $7,721 $9,262 $9,952 $10,699

National Partnership Payments – Transport and Road Transport communication

$8,120 $11,772 $13,266 $11,286 $6,693

Most of these figures are exactly as you’d expect: they keep growing – indeed, the NDIS figures grow exponentially. Apart, that is, from spending on the Air Force and roads. Then look into the detail. The RAAF increase is from a spend of $6.9bn this year to $7.7bn the next; then $8.3bn; $9.3bn and yet, amazingly, gets slashed to just $5.9bn in financial year 2025/26. Really? In what fictional world does this happen, particularly as every other program keeps expanding.

Roads are similar. $8.1; $11.7; $13.2; $11.2; and then $6.6!

Yes, I’m sure these sudden plunges can be explained. The point is they’re just not plausible.

Quite off-the-record, a senior public servant assisted my understanding.

“Of course they’re fudged. You’ve got to understand that we’ve got an election coming up, the government will probably change, and nobody’s going to die in a ditch over projections five years into the future.”

And this is the key point to remember: no matter how accurate the figures appear to be they are still constructs that rely on particular assumptions. Although they’re not mythical, they are built up from embedded guesswork that isn’t necessarily apparent by the time you get to the bottom line.

This is important when examining the huge growth of the NDIS, from $30bn to $46bn. Is it really plausible that it will be allowed to grow by more than 30% in five years? Or is this intended as a warning to suggest what could occur unless spending on disability is slashed?

 

 

 

Nic Stuart

Nicholas Stuart is an author (Kevin Rudd, an unauthorised political biography; What Goes Up, behind the 2007 election; Kevin Rudd, 2007 - 2011) and columnist with the Canberra Times. He was the ABC's Indochina Correspondent when he suffered a significant head injury in a car crash in Bangkok.

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