New South Wales and Victoria have given ground over the National Disability Insurance Scheme and it now appears they will host trial sites.
After two days of deadlock, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu this afternoon increased his offer to $42 million and said he expected that to result in a launch site for the Barwon region.
New South Wales also lifted its offer to $35 million, but that was only half the amount the Commonwealth wanted to include the Hunter in the scheme.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said while there was still work to do, she expected there to be launch sites in both states.
These would be in addition to three trials sites already agreed for the ACT, Tasmania and South Australia.
“This is a big win for people with disabilities, it’s a big win for their families and carers,” Ms Gillard said.
“It’s a big win for all of us who want to see people with disabilities getting a better deal in our nation.
“I am now very optimistic that we will see National Disability Insurance Scheme sites in Victoria and in New South Wales.”
Mr Baillieu and his fellow conservative premiers from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia refused to sign up to a trial at Wednesday’s COAG meeting in Canberra.
This afternoon, Mr Baillieu said Victoria would now offer $17 million over three years and a one-off facilitation payment of $25 million.
“Victoria is willing to increase, for the purposes of a Barwon region trial, our current average spending of some $19,300 per person per year in the Barwon region to meet the Commonwealth benchmark of some $20,700 per client per year.”
Mr Baillieu told reporters he was not willing to allow the issue to be treated as a political football.
“It is not a backdown at all,” he said.
“I have never chosen to have a fight with anyone about this.”
Mr O’Farrell also indicated his state was prepared to meet the per-client benchmark for care and support.
But he took a swipe at Federal Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin for refusing to meet NSW Disability Services Minister Andrew Constance for two days in a row.
Ms Macklin had said she would not meet Mr Constance unless he was willing to put more money on the table.
Mr O’Farrell insisted NSW was willing to come to a compromise and said Ms Macklin had behaved disgracefully.
“For two days Jenny Macklin has refused to meet those ministers. That demonstrates no good will by the Federal Government. It demonstrates a lack of will to compromise.”
Western Australia and Queensland remain the only two states that have not signed up.
Premier Colin Barnett said further amendments to the scheme were needed before Western Australia would agree to the proposal.
He said he had written to Ms Gillard reaffirming his support for such a scheme but had outlined concerns about how it would be administered.
Mr Barnett said he proposed some middle ground on the governance arrangements, and if agreed to, he would allow WA to be a trial site for the program.
But Ms Gillard says things are looking grim for people with disabilities in Queensland.
She says Premier Campbell Newman has refused to provide funding for a trial despite the fact the state’s per-capita expenditure is lower than other states and territories.
“He’s been crystal clear, he’s not going to put any more money into disabilities,” she said.
“He doesn’t seem to be concerned that they are at the lowest benchmark for any state.”
Earlier, Mr Newman said the states had offered Ms Gillard political support for a Medicare-style levy to fund the scheme in the long term and that she rejected it.
“The Prime Minister had the opportunity to implement NDIS in a fully funded way as soon as possible, and that’s the opportunity the Prime Minister still has,” he said.
Mr Newman accused the Prime Minister of being “cowardly” for not accepting his idea and defended revealing the details of private conversations with Ms Gillard.
“Given the Prime Minister’s political overdrive and spin effort yesterday to try and brand the Liberal states as not wanting to support this, I feel given that it is in The Australian and it didn’t come from me by the way, I’m now going to talk about it,” he said.
“Because Australians deserve to know the truth.”