Monday, 8 June 2020

Riddle me this.....

Q: What do Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, the federal drought relief plan, bushfire recovery response funding and COVID-19 pandemic response have in common?

A: It seems the answer to this riddle is Morrison Government mismanagement, parsimony and, an almost pathalogical inability to keep policy promises.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) commenced on 1 July 2013 and had an annual budget of $148.8 million. The initial 2013-14 budget was underspent by $18 million.

In the following financial years NDIS ran an operating surplus of $0.4 million in 2014-15, $15.8 million in 2015-16, $617 million in 2016-17, $146 million in 2017-18 and $ 694.4 million in 2018-19.

Despite growing concerns about the slow rollout of this scheme and allegations of poor services and needs not met, in 2018 est. $1.6 billion dollars was removed from NDIS and returned to federal government coffers to bolster that financial year's budget bottom line.


On 1 September 2019 the $5 billion FutureDrought Fund was created by siphoning $3.96 billion from the Building Australia Fund. It consists of the Future Drought Fund Special Account and the investments of the Future Drought Fund. Fund earnings are to be reinvested until the balance reaches $5 billion (expected in 2028-29).

As of 31 March 2020 the Future Drought Fund was holding $3.99 billion, of which a total of $23 million is net earnings – an investment return of only 0.7 per centFrom 1 July 2020 there is a Morrison Government undertaking that the poorly performing fund will transfer $100 million each financial year to the Agriculture Future Drought Resilience Special Account despite the fact that it does not have the required balance of $5 billion.


On 6 January 2020 Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison announced the federal government would allocate $2 billion for the National Bushfire Recovery Fund (NBRF).

At the time of the announcement $1.6 billion was unallocated.

The 2019-20 bushfire season officially ended on 31 March 2020.

As of 15 May 2020 only a total of $1 billion of the $2 billion in NBRF funding has been spent.

Of the 26 programs being funded by NBRF: 6 do not commence until 1 July 2020; only 3 have fully spent allocated funding with another demand driven program running over budget (funding provided to farmers, fishers, and foresters located in declared bushfire affected areas); and, the remaining 16 programs have spent from 0% (mental health support for emergency services workers) to 89% (additional emergency relief delivered by charities, plus financial counselling) of their allocated funding.

On 20 March 2020 the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians & Liberal Senator for Tasmania Richard Colbeck announced temporary funding to support Aged Care providers, residents, staff and families - including $234.9 million for a COVID-19 ‘retention bonus’ to ensure the continuity of the workforce for aged care workers in both residential and home care.
This retention bonus would have seen a total of $1,600 tax-free paid in two installments to direct care workers and $1,200 tax-free paid in two installments to those providing care in the home.

However, by 5 June 2020 and ahead of the first installment being delivered, the Morrison Government announced a change to the 'retention bonus'. The bonus will now be capped at $800 for direct care workers, $500 for those providing care in the home and will now be taxed at the individual's marginal tax rate with most aged care workers losing est. >30% of the bonus. 

This measure is expected to save the Morrison Government somewhere in the vicinity of $50 million.


On 31 March 2020 Scott Morrison headed a joint media event with two of his ministers at which it was announced that the federal government was committing $50 million to fund 3.4 million meals for 41,000 older and/or vulnerable people for 6 weeks – the equivalent of two meals a day for which there is a cost to Meals-on-Wheels clients. In addition $9.3 million was set aside to buy 36,000 emergency food supplies boxes to assist this same group to stay safe at home.

The purchase cost to government of these food supply boxes averages out at ext. $258 per box. It does not appear to be value for money.

On 5 June 2020 The Guardian revealed that only 38 food supply boxes had been delivered to date. In all probability because the contents of these boxes were decided by individual grocery chains and came at a cost to vulnerable recipients of $80 per box from Coles and Woolworths.

An additional impediment was that the Morrison Government initially restricted food supply box eligibility to people over 70 years of age who were registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme or My Aged Care. This locked out so many older Australians with health condtions which made potential exposure to COVID-19 infection high risk.

Now desperate to rid itself of the remaining 36,962 boxes the only eligibility requirement seems to be that you are a registered online customer of a supermarket chain.


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