Confused Minister offers no clarity on 50 per cent cut to disability

Victorians with a disability got little explanation today for a $15 million “error” in the State Budget papers that saw funding “incorrectly allocated” to the wrong portfolio area.

In a bumbling and confused appearance at Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) today, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Anthony Carbines showed he is not across the detail of his portfolios.

This included a savage 50 per cent cut to the Office for Disability, which indicated funding of $15.4 million in 2021-22 will be decreased to just $7.8 million in 2022-23 (Service Delivery Budget Paper, p 197).

The Office provides crucial support in disability advocacy and community outcomes.

Questioned today at PAEC, the Minister could not provide an explanation, before eventually blaming a “mistake in the budget papers” that “incorrectly allocated [funds] to disability services in error”.

Shadow Minister for Disability Tim Bull said the Minister’s bumbling response was no confidence for the disability sector.

“If this is nothing more than an accounting error, as the Minister suggests, why didn’t he come clean with the sector as soon as he realised the mistake? Why keep it secret until he was pushed for a response?” Mr Bull said.

“It is no comfort for the sector that the Minister in charge of leading it into the future clearly doesn’t care or isn’t up to the job.”

The next topic was the Budget reference to the reduction of 103 pension-level beds in Supported Residential Services (SRS).

When asked about the detail of this, including for the location of the beds that will no longer be funded, the Minister was blank, with no knowledge of it at all, simply stating – again after a long pause and more paper shuffling – “we will have to get back to you on that”.

Finally, the Minister was asked about the reference to 38 ‘new’ aged care beds in Orbost and whether this was 38 new beds, in addition to the 38 existing beds, or whether it was simply a refurbishment of the existing 38 beds.

His response that these were new beds, in addition to the existing beds (meaning 76 in total), is at complete odds with the local health service, with Orbost Regional Health confirming it is simply a refurbishment and new layout for the existing 38 beds.

“These were not difficult questions and ones the Minister should have anticipated,” Mr Bull said.

“That he had no idea in relation to any would be of great concern to all Victorians who rely on the sector for support, for their loved ones and for all stakeholder groups in the Disability, Ageing and Carers portfolio.”

Tim Bull MP

Shadow Minister for Disability