In the Media

Supporting Government’s bank tax in exchange for $41.5 million package for mental health and disability support services

5AA |Andrew Reimer

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent, you’ve had a bit of an interesting day up to $41.5m for mental health and disability services has been negotiated from the South Australian Government in return for the Dignity Party’s support for the bank tax.

Kelly Vincent: That’s right, the Dignity Party has been in negotiations with a number of people including the Treasurer to find the best outcome in regards to the bank tax, and we have decided after careful consideration to use this as an opportunity to again defend and support the needs of some of the most disadvantaged people in our community including people with mental illness and other disabilities. So we’re very pleased to announce $41.5m of new funding to support those needs.

Andrew Reimer: How would the money be spent and what sort of programs?

Kelly Vincent: It includes $10.25m for a centre of excellence to treat people with borderline personality disorder, you and I have discussed BPD before basically it’s a very serious mental health diagnosis categorised by persistent self-harm and an unstable sense of identity. So many, many people with BPD will eventually tragically lose their lives to suicide. About 10% is the official number of people with a BPD diagnosis will eventually commit suicide. So South Australia really needs to catch up to other states in having a hub and spoke model, a centre for excellence, to give people the effective, proven treatment so that they can recover, get back to employment, back to home life, community life and contribute to society.

We’ve also negotiated $17m to reinstate the highly effective Intensive Home Based Support Program to allow people facing a mental health crisis to get support in the home, it’s proven to significantly shorten stays in hospital on average by 10 days. So this is actually going to save money in the long term because it’s very expensive to stay in hospital and we need people with mental health issues to be able to stay at home and be supported to again maintain that connection to work, employment, study and community life. So it will actually see improvement in the mental health in the long term.

We’ve also negotiated $6m to continue funding for the Centre for Disability Health at Modbury until 2022. Now, this is a centre that provides healthcare for people with disabilities who simply unfortunately don’t fit into the current healthcare system. So it could be people who have autism or other complex and severe disability that mean they need to be treated in a very particular way. And without this centre they’re at risk of having their needs not met in any way whatsoever and therefore at risk of being given higher doses of sedative medication to actually treat the symptoms of the illnesses rather than actually finding out what’s going on.

We’ve also negotiated for $1.7m worth of grants to allow for more changing places facilities to be built here in South Australia. Now, changing places are high level accessible toilets with features like an adult sized changing table and an electronic hoist to allow someone to get on and off the toilet and on and off that changing table. Now, as I speak to you, Andrew, there are about 14,000 South Australians who will continue to have needs for support around their continence and need support with changing well into adulthood at the moment those 14,000 people are either very limited in where they can visit or they’re forced to change on the floor of a public toilet. So this is a really important measure that will allow for the dignity of people and allow them to get out in the community and spend their time and their money just like anyone else. So those are some of the major negotiations that was reached with the Government that will not only improve quality of life for many, many South Australians but I believe will also save lives.

Andrew Reimer: Just missed out though from what I understand Kelly around about $6 million to maintain across departmental exceptional needs unit, can you elaborate on that a bit?

Kelly Vincent: Sure, I was trying to be brief but I’m happy to elaborate.

Andrew Reimer: No, no you’re fine.

Kelly Vincent: The exceptional needs unit essentially provides disability support for people who don’t fit into the system. So for example they might have no formal diagnosis but they have an evident need for support under the NDIS there is a risk that those people without a clear diagnosis who may be don’t fit into those categories will risk missing out on vital supports and funding. So we want to make sure that while the NDIS continues to roll out, while it’s not fully rolled out the State Government meets its responsibility to all citizens with challenges by continuing to fund the exceptional needs unit.

Andrew Reimer: Now the bank tax that the Government wants to put forward it went through the Lower House back in August, it’s still got to go through the Upper House, you’ve come forward with your support after negotiating this deal; there are still a number of other MLCs who are not happy with it. John Darley I believe has said he’s not going to go with it, Robert Brokenshire, he’s saying they’re probably not going to go with it as well as it stands the vote’s pretty much deadlocked at the moment as far as getting across the line.

Kelly Vincent: That’s right, but as I said at the end of the day my job is to defend the most disadvantaged people in this state, taking this opportunity is exactly what I achieved. I’d like to add also that the nature of my negotiations with the Treasurer only depend on my support for the tax. So ultimately whether or not it goes through the Parliament these measures will still come into play and the Treasurer will have to find another way to fund them, but at the end of the day I’m not going to join with other parties in playing childish games and taking unprecedented measures to block a budget, to block some of these measures that will not only improve lives they will change lives that’s the kind of change I want to see in this state.

Andrew Reimer: Kelly, I understand it’s your job to advocate for those out there in our community with disabilities but I hardly believe when it comes to the argument of those who are not in favour of the bank tax I don’t believe it’s childish because one of the reasons they don’t want it to go forward is the fear of loss of jobs as a result of that bank tax and the cost being forwarded on to the South Australian public.

Kelly Vincent: Look absolutely, can I clarify that I’m not calling anyone who opposes the bank tax childish I’m calling the tactic to block the entire State Budget on the grounds of this one measure childish because it means that South Australians will miss out, including businesses will miss out on all the positive measures in that budget as well and in 150 years of Parliament a State Budget has not been blocked, so this would be an unprecedented measure that could see people miss out on many, many benefits if parties are willing to block the entire State Budget Bill on the basis of this one measure. So I completely understand that there is opposition to this bank tax but I should hasten to add as well Andrew that there is a specific clause in this bill that legally prohibits the banks from passing on those costs to consumers. So I think we do have a safety net there at the end of the day businesses and banks are only as strong as consumers and the customers and the people that they have using those services in the community at the moment we are losing too many people to suicide, we are locking out too many people from contributing and participating in the community because we don’t have these investments. So I actually believe that these measures will be positive for business, including the banks, because for the first time in their lives some of these people with mental health diagnoses and disabilities who have for too long been treated like second class citizens will know what it’s like to come first and be able to spend their time and money in the community and on services including banks as a result.

Andrew Reimer: When it comes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme the money that’s coming from that going into the community that’s not enough to sort of cover these areas that you’re talking about as well or be able to assist in these areas?

Kelly Vincent: The first point I’d like to make is that the NDIS obviously being a national scheme is a federal scheme so certainly there are positives to that but the South Australian Government still has a responsibility to people with mental illnesses and disabilities as part of the South Australian community particularly while the NDIS is not fully rolled out and the other point I would make too, Andrew, is that the NDIS is very clear on the cut off points for criteria to be eligible for the scheme so certainly there will be people who miss out and those particularly include people with mental illnesses including those that are more chronic and episodic in the way that BPD can present, particularly severe BPD, so that’s why this investment really needs to come from a state-based perspective in the same way that it has in Victoria with Spectrum BPD service on which this model that we’re going to get as a result of this negotiation in South Australia is heavily based and in New South Wales as well. It’s State Government investment that is proven to be effective in the treatment and even the cure of a very serious mental health diagnosis.

Andrew Reimer: You’ve negotiated $41.5 million for mental health and disability services with the State Government should this go ahead but how much is the Government predicting they’re going to make out of the bank tax?

Kelly Vincent: The official figure is around $100 million per year so this would give us more than enough money for these measures but again I’ll stress my negotiations with the Treasurer mean that these things going ahead only depend on the Dignity Party’s support for the measures not if they ultimately go ahead and the other point ultimately these measures $100 million adds up to 0.15 of 1%, so not even 1% of the big five banks’ revenue and at the end of the day.

Andrew Reimer: I thought it was of 6%.

Kelly Vincent: I’m sorry, of the 6%, that’s right so at the end of the day this is a tiny investment by some very wealthy people to make in contributing positively to the life of some very, very disadvantaged people and the society and the economy as a whole benefit as a result.

Andrew Reimer: The $41.5 million is just a one off from the State Government.

Kelly Vincent: This is a $41.5 million investment over the next four years so certainly we do have a long way to go and we need to keep lobbying to make sure that these changes are implemented, but given the significant impact, positive impact that this will have on the lives of many South Australians this is a huge step in the right direction for the future of this state and once these are up and running I’m more than happy to negotiate for more. Ultimately that’s my job but for the time being I want to focus on making sure that the measures I have negotiated for get properly implemented.

Andrew Reimer: I’m just suggesting maybe you’re in a better bargaining position than you maybe think you are and you probably should be asking for a hell of a lot more up front.

Kelly Vincent: I believe in making change one step at a time and I think it’s better to focus on a few major initiatives to get forward first to make that lasting positive difference to the state and then move on to the next few and certainly that’s what I’ve done through my entire time in Parliament through measures like the Disability Justice Plan, it’s a one step at a time process that leads to some major changes for some of the most disadvantaged people in South Australia and then we move on to the next few. I think really that’s how you make change rather than demanding everything at once and things getting lost in the fray I’d rather focus my energy on comprehensively achieving a few major things at first and then move on to the next few, I think that’s really how you achieve lasting change.

Andrew Reimer: When does it go before the Upper House.

Kelly Vincent: It’s still got to go through the Upper House but this doesn’t depend on whether the tax gets up, this simply depends on our support for it the vote will be going forward in the next few weeks before the end of the year this will get through one way or another but at the end of the day this is still a win for all South Australians.

Andrew Reimer: What happens if the Liberals win March 17 next year?

Kelly Vincent: I continue to work constructively as I do with all parties to make sure that we get the right changes that we need for all South Australians and these measures are exactly that so no matter what happens I will continue to work constructively but my focus is on getting these measures up and running as soon as possible before we really need to enter into those discussions.

Andrew Reimer: I imagine if the Libs get in all bets are off as far as the bank tax is concerned.

Kelly Vincent: That may well be the case, I’m not here to speculate on Liberal Party policy what I’m here to do is to make sure that no matter who is in Government the human rights of some of the most disadvantaged people in the state are beyond politics.

Andrew Reimer: Always good to talk to you.