Former Business Council of Australia chairman Tony Shepherd — breathlessly recounted in yesterday’s Australian — reckons people with disabilities are about to take the government to the cleaners. Shepherd thinks the National Disability Insurance Scheme is likely to cost the government $25 billion instead of the $22 billion originally cited.

The federal government is trying to take over more control of the NDIS from the states, ostensibly to centralise running the scheme but potentially to cut its funding and prevent that $3 billion “blowout”.

But rather than taking money from Australians with disabilities, who probably need the scheme for silly luxuries like carers and mobility equipment in order to participate in society, here are some other budget savings the government might find instead.

For starters, there’s the completely unnecessary $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality that will tell MPs what they already know — that a majority of Australians support equal rights for all and it’s about damn time to legislate for it.

Here’s another expense we could probably do without: the government spends $1.2 billion a year to keep asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. That’s an awful lot of money to keep desperate people in dire, soul-crushing circumstances indefinitely.

And if we really want to pinch pennies to pay for the completely necessary insurance scheme to prevent disabled Australians from becoming destitute, how about we stop invading the Middle East (this would have the added benefit of making Australians safer)? The 2003 invasion of Iraq has cost more than $3 billion, and Australia has spent more than $10 billion on the “War on Terror” since 2001.

Maybe some savings to be had there?

Peter Fray

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