PM to lean on 'dynamic' states over disability insurance

THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will use this week's meeting with the state and territory leaders to lean on Queensland and Western Australia to commit to the national disability insurance scheme, saying it needs the nation's two wealthiest and most dynamic states.

Pressure has also built on the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, and the WA Premier, Colin Barnett, with the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, effusively backing the NDIS on Thursday and promising to implement it in full, if elected.

Mr Abbott, who again described himself as ''Captain Positive'' when it comes to the NDIS, promised that if he were elected prime minister next year, the Labor opposition would be able to help design the scheme by being invited to sit on a bipartisan committee.

''This is too important to be put in place by one side of politics and then fiddled with and detracted from by another side of politics,'' he told the Conference of National Disability Services CEOs.

Mr Abbott's support isolates Queensland and WA, which stand alone against the scheme. The government aims to implement it in full by 2018.

On July 1, pilot schemes will start in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania. The government has budgeted $1 billion over four years to fund them.

When fully operational, the scheme will cost an estimated $15 billion a year by 2018, about $8 billion more than the states and territories' current combined spending on disability services.

The federal opposition has pledged to find all the extra money from spending cuts and savings while Ms Gillard wants the states and Commonwealth to contribute the extra required.

At Friday's Council of Australian Governments meeting, Ms Gillard will sign bilateral agreements with the leaders of each of the five states and territories holding pilot schemes. But she will also pressure Mr Newman and Mr Barnett to commit their states to the full national scheme.

Ms Gillard wants a binding intergovernmental agreement between the Commonwealth and all states and territories. Government sources said it was too hopeful to secure this by Friday but it would be raised.

Ms Gillard told the CEO conference on Monday that the NDIS was ''incomplete because our two wealthiest and most dynamic states haven't yet come on board''.

She promised ''tough'' budget decisions to fund the NDIS and raised as examples means testing the private health insurance rebate and removing tax breaks for high-income earners.

''But be in no doubt about the commitment I bring,'' she said.

This week's meeting will also feature a dispute over electricity prices as Ms Gillard seeks to have the states agree to a series of reforms which, she says, will reduce future power price increases by $250 per household.

She faces stiff resistance with NSW and Queensland, which still have publicly owned assets, resisting calls for further deregulation while all mainland states except WA are resisting a beefed up Australian Energy Regulator.

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