Transcript: 2GB Sydney, Interview with Ray Hadley

12 October 2017

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Welfare
E&OE

RAY HADLEY: 
You know that I go in search of answers for people suffering with Motor Neurone Disease. It is a dreadful, dreadful, dreadful disease - fatal.

Last year I got a representation from a listener and yesterday I got another representation from another listener; one suffering with motor neurone. It was the sister of a sufferer.

I wanted to talk to the Minister for Human Services federally, Alan Tudge, about this because I think it is very important that his Department understand what these people are confronting.

And I know that there is compassion there. I know that when we alert them to it that things seem to move a bit quicker. And I also want to commend one of the companies involved in paying Super to one of these people and I will go through that in a moment.

The email I got from this sister yesterday, this lovely sister, is about a young man named Shane, who is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and cannot get financial support. He is 37.

He has four young children aged between three and 13 and a young wife. As is normally the case with people suffering with Motor Neurone Disease, it is one or maybe two years and that is about it.

MND affects the nerve cells, which control our muscles; enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow. Most people with MND survive an average of two to two and a half years after the diagnosis.

This poor young man is unable to work and obviously wants to spend the time he has left with his family without having that added financial pressure.

We are dealing on his behalf with his Super, but he has applied for the Disability Support Pension; the DSP.

Given all the rorters that I have identified here that are on the DSP, this is a man deserving of our support. Absolute and utterly deserving of our support.

I think we may have had a result with Centrelink, but I want to check right now and I want to talk to the Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, in general terms about this problem. Minister, good morning.

ALAN TUDGE:
Good morning, Ray.

RAY HADLEY: 
I know that privacy concerns prevent you from talking about things specifically, but I just wanted to make an appeal to you as the Minister to make everyone in the Department aware that when someone has Motor Neurone Disease you have not got time for a haircut.

It is a death sentence and a fairly quick death sentence, and it is really important that people are dealt with really quickly.

What I would also like you to explain is when young families like Shane's family confront this one day they are healthy, happy, married young couple with four kids, the next day he is dying.

And then, there may be mistakes made when they go to apply for it, but you can imagine the pressure, Minister, these young people are under, confronting a death sentence at the age of just 37. Just terrible.

ALAN TUDGE:
It absolutely is. Ray, I have taken a look at the particular case which you have raised with me and what I have seen from the advice that I have got this morning is that the decisions which have been made have been the correct decisions based on the information which the Centrelink officials have got.

I have asked them to go back to the gentleman and reconnect with him and I have asked my officials to have another look at his files as to make sure that he is given the best possible advice, and that we have not made any errors on our behalf. I do not think we have.

RAY HADLEY: 
No.

ALAN TUDGE:
I am satisfied with the…

RAY HADLEY: 
I think what I can clear up for our listeners, and this is a terrible thing to have to talk about, given his circumstances, he applied for the DSP, and you and I have spoken any number of times about the rorters, you know, benefit by that.

But inexplicably his own doctor did not specify the illness is terminal. There must have been a box to tick there and he did not tick it, and that appears to be the main problem.

You know, that will be a problem for the doctor. Not a major problem. Mistakes are made.

But given that it is a terminal illness, I am sure that once your Department go back to this young man and his wife, and realise exactly what he does have, and the doctor perhaps ticks the box that everything should proceed quickly through the system.

ALAN TUDGE:
That would ordinarily be the case, Ray. If a person is classified as having a terminal illness, then they would be eligible for the Disability Support Pension.

Basically, if you have got a terminal illness, you have got the medical evidence to support that, then that is deemed to be a manifest disability and so automatically you will be eligible for it.

Typically, a person even in, before they get to that situation, might be on some sort of other payment, perhaps they are on a Newstart payment.

RAY HADLEY: 
Sure.

ALAN TUDGE:
While they are going through this process there would not be any work search obligations upon them.

RAY HADLEY: 
No.

ALAN TUDGE:
So they are still getting some financial assistance, but say a Newstart payment is not worth as much a fortnight as the Disability Support Pension.

RAY HADLEY: 
What I dislike, and I know you cannot intervene in the tens of thousands of cases that we are talking about, but in this case I would really like you to help.

I have just got a note on my desk. This young man's family have confirmed your Department have contacted them already.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yes.

RAY HADLEY: 
And they are already getting both the DSP and the Carer's Pension. These are the people we need to help. I mean, you know, there are, as you know, the former Prime Minister used to say lifters and leaners. Well, these people are lifters, they are not leaners.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think that is absolutely right. We have got a good social security safety net precisely to support those people who are down on their luck and suffer terrible things like motor neuron disease.

That is why it is there, but we do have to have pretty rigorous processes to ensure that the right people get the payments and those who are not eligible are not getting the payments because we get, believe it or not, we get about a million applications for payments each and every year.

By in large, I think Centrelink process them and do a pretty good job. Inevitably sometimes mistakes are made, Ray, but by in large they do a pretty good job. But they can only make decisions as well on the basis of the information which is provided to them.

If it was the case, for example, that a doctor did not quite specify exactly what the condition was, or that it was terminal, then the Centrelink officials can only make the decision on the basis of the information and not on any other information which has not been provided.

RAY HADLEY: 
Anyway, look, what I will say to you is when we bring this to people's attention, as we have done here in your Department, things move a lot quicker. I am hopeful that it will there, and I appreciate your time today.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yeah, thanks very much, Ray.

RAY HADLEY: 
Thank you. Alan Tudge, the Minister for Human Services.