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Australia: National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding At Last

The funding of a National Disability Insurance Scheme has been a political football in Australia. Legislation for the NDIS passed with unanimous support in March 2013. Both sides of politics had argued that it should be funded from general revenue. However, the opposition questioned whether the national budget could afford new spending.

NDIS campaigning logo

(NDIS campaigning logo – Courtesy: Every Australian Counts)

On 1 May 2013, Prime Minister Julia Gillard opted for an increase in the Medicare levy instead. She threatened to make it a key issue in the Federal election in September unless Opposition leader Tony Abbott agreed to pass legislation for the levy beforehand. He has relented and given it conditional support.

Julie Novak at group blog Catallaxy Files explains why some oppose the levy:

With many Australians effectively feeling the economic pinch of numerous cash-grab tax increases of recent years, it was with lightning speed that folks generally figured out for themselves that the NDIS levy is merely a crude and nasty generalised income tax-increase con, that won’t cover even the net costs of running the NDIS in its first year of operation.

On the trending twitter hashtag #NDIS, there have been lots of people prepared to pay the levy whether it’s really a tax or not. Weezmgk is amongst them:

‏@weezmgk: Show me a person who begrudges the 0.5% #NDIS levy & I'll show you a person who failed ‘sharing’ in kindy & never has learned the lesson.

RubyRainbow is not happy with the media meme that it has been all about political advantage:

‏@ColouredView: Most journalists simply cannot comprehend, let alone report, that the Govts support for an #NDIS may be because it's the right thing to do?

The OzPolitic forum has been busy discussing its merits. Its New NDIS Levy thread soon became a popular one. John Smith led off:

I personally don't mind paying a little extra for this type of service, especially if it can help a lot of my opponents on this forum, who will most likely complain about it.

Meanwhile a sideshow opened up following controversial remarks by the CEO of Myer, one Australia’s largest retail chains. Bernie Brooks suggested that the levy would affect sales. The backlash was immediate, especially online.

Stafford tweeted:

@HollywdBubble: Save $5.76 a week 2 pay 4 the #NDIS by Not making a purchase at Myer, Target, Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, Officeworks or Coles #boycottMyer

Andrew Reid was concerned about Myer's employees:

@surrenderdotty: While I understand the calls for a Myer boycott, let's not forget that a large % of the people it will affect are casual staff. #NDIS

Gary Sauer-Thompson at Public Opinion suggested that the disabled are consumers too:

The Bernie Brooks Myer episode over the proposed funding of the NDIS exposes the nature of business intervention into political debate. It is intervention from the position of self-interest in the form of profits before people.

This ignores that the aim of the NDIS is to redistribute Australia’s considerable per capita wealth to allow around 400,000 of the most disadvantaged in our community a better shot at earning a living.

His second link is to The Conversation where medical specialist and academic Michael Vagg offered this advice:

I have a one particular patient with a lifelong severe disabling illness which she has had since birth, who has now lived 10 years past her predicted life span, and shows every sign of going on longer than that. She has gotten her driver’s license and now has to fundraise to afford a modified car. I’d be happy to organize for Mr Bernie Brooks to give her one, if he is looking for a public gesture to make up for his unintentional but enormously offensive comment.

Myer's Facebook page was the target of lots of negative feedback and threats of a boycott. Elizabeth Streep‘s comment was typical:

I called my mum and asked her what she'd like for mothers day and she replied “ANYTHING NOT FROM MYER!” Mum- happy to oblige.

The apology was quick in coming: Myer apologises for NDIS remarks after social media backlash. It has been a brutal lesson in the power of social media.

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