House debates

Monday, 21 June 2021


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail

1:09 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The NDIS is a world first that all Australians should be justifiably proud of. It was introduced in a bipartisan way. In fact, we have members in the House who were the architects of this. We should really pay credit where credit is due. From the outset it was envisaged that the NDIS would support participants with permanent and significant disability to exercise control and choice over their life with a fair, flexible and consistent package of reasonable and necessary support. The need for the NDIS to remain affordable was also integral to that initial vision.

Almost 450,000 people with permanent and significant disability are now being supported by the NDIS. Incredibly, 50 per cent are receiving support for the very first time. This is an initiative that is being supported enthusiastically by those Australians who need it. We all want an Australia where disability doesn't limit the choices you have available but opens up possibilities for different ones and an Australia where disability doesn't limit what decisions you get to make about your life or require others to make those decisions for you, but there is evidence that the current approach to assessing a person's functional capacity is inadequate, leading to inconsistent and inequitable eligibility, planning and budgeting decisions.

The data also clearly shows that those with lower socioeconomic status on average have lower plan budgets than those with higher socioeconomic status, which suggests that those who have greater means have greater access to systems, assessments and reports. We don't want to see this. We don't want to see it depend on where you live as to how you get access. That is why the Morrison government is looking to ensure fairness and equity for all Australians with disability.

The principles of the NDIS have always been that the government decides who gets the NDIS and how much they get and that the participant with the disability decides how they spend it. That is fair and equitable. As a result, the use of standardised objectively administered assessments is a core element of insurance based schemes such as this. In fact, in 2011 the Productivity Commission recommended the NDIA engage independent health professionals to undertake the assessments of those wanting to receive NDIS support. These are clear integrity measures to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for all.

The Productivity Commission noted that, in order to promote independent outcomes, assessors should be drawn from an approved pool of allied health professionals and that, in order to reduce the potential for sympathy bias, they should be independent from the person they're assessing. Independent assessments will ensure the NDIA can gather more consistent and robust information to better understand how it can support participants.

We also need to be sure that we can sustain the NDIS, not just now but into the future. I will say that parents of children with disabilities understand this very core. They understand that if we destroy the NDIS because it's out of control then we are going to destroy it for the future of these children. We need to make sure that we are fair, equitable and reasonable.

Updated forecasts suggest that there's going to be an increase to the 411,000 Australians between the ages of zero and 64 who would join the NDIS as modelled in 2011. Updated forecasts project 532,000 Australians will join the NDIS by June 2023. On the current trajectory, the NDIS is estimated to cost more than the MBS in just a few years time. We need to ensure that we have a scheme that can financially endure for many generations to come. We all want this. We all need this.

The Minister for the NDIS, Linda Reynolds, has visited Higgins. We had a roundtable to talk about independent assessors. She is listening carefully on this issue. We are engaging with providers, with those who are in the scheme and with the experts. The Morrison government is fully committed to ensuring the NDIS is here to support Australians for years to come. I thank the minister for meeting with us in Higgins to talk about this highly sensitive and very important topic and engaging with the sector, the providers and the participants to make sure that we can together provide great outcomes. Can the minister please provide an update on how the Morrison government is delivering a strong, skilled and sustainable NDIS workforce for now and into the future?


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