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NDIS funding challenge

The PM announces a Medicare-style levy for the NDIS, but the opposition remains wary. Rob Oakeshott calls for action as disability advocates applaud the move.

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Around 2 million Australians desperate to see disability insurance become a reality are now caught in a political game of chicken with neither side of politics prepared to unconditionally back legislation before the election.

Julia Gillard has gone most of the way by reversing her opposition to a special levy. But she has hesitated at the last hurdle, refusing to commit to legislate the special levy before this Parliament ends.

In a farcical standoff, the opposition has demanded that the levy be brought to Parliament for debate, while refusing to declare its position.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are engaged in brinkmanship over a levy to fund the NDIS.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are engaged in brinkmanship over a levy to fund the NDIS. Photo: Andrew Meares

On tour in Victoria, Tony Abbott suggested the proposed 0.5 per cent levy was inadequate. With just half the funds, you get half the scheme, he suggested. But what did this mean? Would he back a full, 1 per cent levy rise? Er, No.

Would he back any levy in Parliament at all? He would not say.

He and Julia Gillard are now engaged in a cynical tango with each positioning in an attempt to wrong-foot the other.

Traumatised by her carbon tax experience, Gillard now wants to retrieve some trust by presenting the new DisabilityCare levy as a change requiring a fresh mandate.

But she also wants to transform the coming election into a quasi-referendum on this much-needed social reform.

Gillard believes she can wedge Abbott on the issue.

Abbott knows the government wants to accuse him of backing a special levy to pay rich mothers up to $75,000 in maternity assistance, while opposing help for the disabled.

For an issue supposedly enjoying bipartisan support, the politics are being played pretty hard and it is the people whom the scheme is intended to benefit who are being forgotten.

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