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Scott Morrison and the politics of empathy

Nikos Fotakis comments on the 2017 budget

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Treasurer Scott Morrison.
Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

12 May 2017

Sometimes people rise above the circumstances; when it happens sometimes, we're caught short.

For instance, nobody was prepared for Scott Morrison's rising above the ideological barriers of the party system and delivering a balance which seems to be all about serving the community.

And we were certainly not prepared for a Federal Treasurer who would go forward and present a budget, explained not with factsheets and numbers, but by telling a personal story.

In his address to the National Press Club, the Treasurer explained his decision to increase the Medicare levy, by telling the story of his brother-in-law, Gary Warren, a former fireman who was in the audience, and his long battle with a very aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.

It was out of a sense of duty towards him that Scott Morrison was determined to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme by any means necessary, even if that meant turning his back to the conservative dogma of lowering taxes and doing what the Labor Government did, when the NDIS was introduced. It is, of course, totally worth it.

For the NDIS is the only national scheme of its kind in the world, providing people with disability with choice to use funding according to their actual needs and desires, instead of the one-size-fits-all approach of the past.

It is a scheme offering tailor-made services, unique to each individual, allowing people with disability to not only overcome the challenges they face, but to thrive and become active members in the community.

That's why its introduction is often likened to the groundbreaking impact that Medicare had in Australia. And this is the reason why, for all the burden it will cause taxpayers, funding the NDIS is crucial. Scott Morrison understands that.

This is why he went on to ensure a $55.7 billion funding gap over the next 10 years will be closed, and to guarantee that the NDIS will be fully funded by committing to the 0.5 percent levy.

"I'm not saying no to Gary, and the 500,000 Australians counting on this," he said.

His stance is a testament to the importance of empathy in politics; to what can happen when people in power feel compassion and understand the challenges that other people face.

Because the Treasurer happened to have a person with disability in his immediate family, he managed to ensure funding for a national policy that is bound to make Australia an international example of addressing social needs.

Now, if only, there was a way for him to get in the shoes of a young person trying to enter the job market, repay student loans, dream of starting a family and buying a house . . .

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