House debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Constituency Statements

National Disability Insurance Scheme

10:18 am

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to warn against the Morrison government's radical proposal to introduce independent assessments to the very important National Disability Insurance Scheme. Independent assessments were announced last year by the Morrison government to be introduced this year. What it means is that people with a disability will have to audition in front of a complete stranger to get access to the NDIS and to find out how much funding they can get on their plan. This is a radical change, where a new independent assessor, unknown to the participant, will have a much greater say than the treating professionals who have been working with the person on their plan and their life.

The Morrison government says this will fix consistency and fairness. It is true that NDIS decisions can be inconsistent and that sometimes these decisions result in unfair outcomes. The problem is that there is no evidence that the proposal, the solution of the Morrison government, actually fixes the problems of inconsistency. Many consumers and many advocates are worried that in fact it will have the opposite effect and make it harder to get packages. My own officers set up a petition, and we already have 2,000 signatures calling upon the government to stop and keep hands off the NDIS and independent assessments.

The evaluation report released on the pilot scheme to date makes heavy reference to scheme sustainability. This is coded bureaucratic language that they want to wind back the amount of money that people are getting in their disability packages. These are cuts by stealth to these schemes, whereas now the benefits that the NDIS offers will contribute to the GDP of Australia. This is now under threat.

The independent assessment process started in 2018. The second pilot was abandoned in March 2020 but the government issued a tender anyway, even though the pilot schemes had been abandoned. The government has actually said that it relies upon the rollout of independent assessments in its independent assessment pilot scheme. The first pilot was voluntary; a total of 513 out of 762 people approached agreed to participate. But only 145 people completed the survey and, of those 145, only 34 were actually people with a disability. So on the basis of 34 people's survey responses the government is changing a scheme for 400,000 people.

The government knows it has a problem; it's tried to do the NDIA pilot again. It's invited 4,896 participants to participate in a second round and just 215 have accepted the invitation—4,496 have not even responded. The government is now paying people to go into the pilot scheme.

Independent assessments are the wrong direction to take the NDIS in. We say loudly and clearly, 'Hands off the NDIS'. I encourage people to attend the rally at the State Library on Saturday in Melbourne at 2 pm.