PM's pledge on disability funding

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has given an assurance that the government will ''inscribe'' funding for its multibillion-dollar ambitious disability insurance scheme in the finances of the nation.

Ms Gillard conceded the government did not yet have the full details of its funding package beyond the $1 billion already committed. Finding ''responsible savings'' across government outlays would require some tough decisions. But ''we can have responsible economic management and invest in the new services our nation needs,'' she said.

The search for savings was under way and would continue into the new year, Ms Gillard said.

The government would have more to say about this in the budget, before the launch of the scheme in the middle of next year, she told a national disability conference. The scheme will cost $8 billion extra a year when fully operating, and the government faces constant calls from the opposition to say where the money will come from.

Ms Gillard said that five premiers - including Ted Baillieu - and chief ministers had agreed to run launch sites for the scheme and she would hold them to their word at Friday's Council of Australian Governments meeting. She also urged that pressure be put on Queensland and Western Australia, which have not come into the scheme.

''Remember that as we begin this journey, it is incomplete because our two wealthiest and most dynamic states have not yet come on board. Tell them that you want them to stay engaged and at the table, so that they are part of the national scheme when it is agreed,'' she said.

So far, Queensland and WA are not shifting. Queensland says it supports the scheme but cannot put in any money. It has launched its own trial.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said his state had offered to run one of the launch sites but the federal government had declined. ''I remind the federal government that in WA more than 70 per cent of the funding for disability services already comes from the state government, almost all of which is through services provided by not-for-profit organisations,'' he said on Monday.

Addressing the disability conference, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he was committed to bringing about an NDIS ''as quickly as we reasonably can''.

The Coalition supported the legislation the government introduced last week. ''We might talk to the government about possible improvements, but rest assured we support the scheme,'' Mr Abbott said.

He repeated that on the NDIS he was ''Doctor Yes''. ''Yes, there may be some who accuse me and the Coalition I lead of negativity - well, there is no negativity in the Coalition towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme''.

''We will, from time to time, ask questions about exactly what the government is doing, exactly what their funding commitment is, exactly how these things are going to work out in practice - as we should … But we are there to help. We are not there to carp.''

If he were in government, he would offer Labor a jointly chaired parliamentary committee on the scheme, ''because this is too important to be a bone of contention between the political parties''.

The story PM's pledge on disability funding first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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