Senate debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


National Disability Insurance Scheme Joint Committee; Government Response to Report

4:27 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I take note of the government's response to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Joint Committee report into independent assessments. In case there's anybody who hasn't heard of the term 'independent assessments', let me contextualise it for you. This was a program, a proposal, introduced by the former government under which disabled people in Australia would be forced, before gaining access to the NDIS, to undertake a medical assessment by a medical practitioner they did not know and who did not know them. The proposal by the government was to have this assessment undertaken, often, by medical practitioners who had no knowledge of the disability which the NDIS participant may have, and the result of that assessment would impact not only whether they could access the scheme but ultimately also the funds they could receive under the scheme. It was, quite frankly, a terrible idea, and the disability community across the country joined together with the Greens in opposing that proposal every step of the way. The inquiry undertaken by the NDIS's parliamentary oversight body was a critical mechanism for giving effect to the disability community's opposition to this proposal.

There were many disturbing aspects to the proposal, but the most disturbing aspect of the proposal, at its core, was the proposition that a stranger who the disabled person did not know would be the individual who would undertake the assessment of the individual. There was no opportunity to have somebody that you did know and that you had built trust with partake in that process. And the stranger you didn't know would then prepare reports that would ultimately determine whether you got access.

I do have concerns with the government's response to this report, particularly in relation to recommendation 3. Recommendation 3 of the report clearly stated that assessments should be carried out by healthcare professionals nominated by the participant and/or their nominee where appropriate and available. The government has not supported that recommendation. It has simply noted that recommendation. Rather than simply fully support this recommendation it has pushed this question of the assessment off to yet another review.

We heard clearly that the primary responsibility for developing reports should be undertaken by medical professionals who the participant trusts. Let me say that again: one of the key pieces of evidence that our inquiry heard was that an assessment of an individual for the purposes of access or funding should be undertaken by somebody the person knows and trusts, because it is the medical professionals with whom a disabled person has built a level of trust and who knows that participant who is best placed to provide information concerning access and supports and who is ultimately the person most appropriate to provide those supports. Yet the government has not endorsed that clear piece of evidence. Instead it has kicked it off to yet another review. Another concern of mine is the fact that the government has not fully endorsed our recommendation in relation to a definition around co-design, which is a critical element to actually getting the NDIS right.

There are a bunch of things in this response I need to cover in a little bit more depth, given the full breadth of the report, so I seek leave to continue my remarks and expand on this in a future session of the Senate.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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