May 1: The Coalition is reserving its stance until after next week's federal budget on the detail of the national disability insurance scheme - but the Gillard government is pressing ahead with an accelerated timetable that would see launch sites in place next year.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed yesterday the government would launch the scheme a year earlier than recommended by the Productivity Commission, and ''select launch sites around the country will begin serving around 10,000 people with disability'' by the middle of next year.
Under a timetable to be set down in next week's federal budget, Ms Gillard said 20,000 people would be served by the scheme from the middle of 2014.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told a rally in Perth that he would defy his general characterisation as the ''Dr No'' of Australian politics.
''When it comes to the NDIS, I am Dr Yes,'' Mr Abbott said.
The Coalition supports the scheme in principle, but has expressed concern about the accelerated timetable.
While Mr Abbott's language on the scheme was positive yesterday, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey highlighted the scheme's high price tag. Mr Hockey queried whether Australians would want to pay the extra tax required to fund it.
''I expect if the government is going to claim that it is proceeding with the national disability insurance scheme it will tell Australians how it is going to pay for it,'' Mr Hockey said. ''It is $8 billion a year. For someone on $67,000 a year that's roughly an extra $1000 a year in tax. Are Australians prepared to pay that?''
The Victorian government was distinctly cool. The states want Canberra to provide all the additional money for the scheme. ''This year Victoria is providing $1.2 billion for disability services. We are supportive of an NDIS. However, we have not been consulted, as was discussed at COAG, on the detail of [yesterday's] announcement,'' said a Victorian government spokeswoman.
But at a rally at Federation Square yesterday, Victoria's Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said the state was doing all it could to help. ''We are there,'' she said. ''There is leadership, there is commitment, there is expertise.''
President of the Victorian Disability Services Board Tricia Malowney, who had polio as a baby, provoked cheers and even some tears, telling the crowd she didn't have ''special needs''.
''I have the same needs as every other Australian: to have access to all the services that other Australians have. I need access to health … to justice … to education … to transport,'' she said, adding ''and I need a job'', to loud cheers.