The Federal Government has been accused of holding the National Disability Insurance Scheme hostage over billions of dollars in welfare cuts that face being blocked by a hostile Senate.
In a move that angered disability advocates yesterday, the Government announced $3 billion in leftover savings from its welfare omnibus Bill would be quarantined for future contributions to the NDIS.
Treasurer Scott Morrison warned that should the Senate block the Bill, the NDIS could be underfunded.
“The balance of the savings achieved through that Bill will be provided and debited into the NDIS special account,” Mr Morrison said.
“The NDIS account will be poorer for it, if the Bill is not passed.”
The legislation, introduced into Parliament last week, already ties the Government’s long-stalled $1.6 billion childcare reforms to previously rejected welfare measures, many of which have languished in parliamentary limbo since the 2014 Budget.
In making the funding for the NDIS contingent on the cuts being passed, the Government has piled more pressure on the Senate crossbench to pass the Bill.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter last year set up an NDIS special account to help make up a $4 billion shortfall in funding predicted for 2020.
Mr Porter said the Government would much prefer the NDIS not be funded by debt or tax
Labor and the Greens remain opposed to the Bill and key cross bencher Nick Xenophon, who controls three votes in the Senate, has publicly opposed measures affecting young people that would make the newly unemployed wait a month for income support.
Shadow families minister Jenny Macklin, who insists the NDIS was fully funded under Labor, said the threat was a “disgraceful political game of brinkmanship”.
“The Turnbull Government is now holding the NDIS hostage over its $5.6 billion in cuts to families, new mums, pensioners, people with disability, carers and young jobseekers,” Ms Macklin said.
“People with disability do not deserve to be treated with such contempt.”
Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie rejected the linking of welfare cuts to the NDIS. “This is robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Dr Goldie said.