Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: National Disability Insurance Scheme
Mr Speaker, I join with you in giving a shout-out to Joe Hockey, who was part of the class of '96, and also to the refinery delegates who are here talking about their jobs. My question is addressed to the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I refer to the report of the disability royal commission on COVID-19, which found that the government failed to provide PPE to people with disability and support workers, failed to provide access to essential food and medications and left people with disability feeling forgotten and ignored. Why is it that the Morrison government keep leaving vulnerable Australians behind?
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. Let me say categorically that the government responded with speed when COVID occurred. February was when planning commenced and 5 March was when engagement with the agency occurred. There were four meetings of the Disability Reform Council. All ministers got together to work through the planning and response. The first meeting was on 18 March.
The government made $90 million available to support people with disability as part of a broader community support package. There were $660 million in advance payments to more than 5,000 providers. Over 280,000 masks from the National Medical Stockpile were provided. Over 81,000 calls were made to individual vulnerable participants to ensure that they were managing and coping well.
I'll give an idea of the results. Tragically, 907 Australians have so far lost their lives. That is a tragedy—something everyone in this House shares. Of those 907, nine were NDIS participants. This represents less than one per cent of the tragic loss of life, but participants are 1.6 per cent of the population. The response that this government had to NDIS participants saw the loss of life half that of the national average. Look at infection rates. There were 179 NDIS participants infected, compared to 27,854 across Australia. The infection rate for participants is 0.6 per cent, and they are 1.6 per cent of Australians. That is one-third. These numbers are testimony to the speed at which the government—
I ask the Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat. The Minister for Health will cease interjecting. The Leader of the Opposition in his preamble referred to a number of matters, but he only had one question at the end. It was a very open-ended question. The minister, therefore, has extreme latitude, and he's in order.
Thanks, Mr Speaker. After the 18 March DRC, the shadow minister for the NDIS, the member for Maribyrnong, was briefed on 23 March and the Greens spokesman was briefed on 25 March. At no point at all did the opposition raise any issues with the government's response—at no time at all. DRC then met again on 9 April, 11 May and 24 July. At each of the four emergency meetings of all disability ministers, state and federal, we worked together with over a billion dollars worth of supports to assist Australians with disability. The list goes on and on, as the health minister's press release showed, of the levels of engagement that this government put in place, and that is why the rate of infection and the tragic loss of life amongst NDIS participants are a third to a half of the national average.