Tuesday, 17 October 2023
National Disability Insurance Scheme; Order for the Production of Documents
That the Senate take note of the explanation.
Before making my contribution, I will just ask my Senate colleagues who may have been used to my rather loud contributions on debates like this to tune in anew to the contribution I'm about to make. I want to acknowledge the seriousness of the step the Senate has taken today in asking for the attendance of the minister, a procedural step which I know has caused the minister personal inconvenience, which is a rare thing for this place to do. I want to now embark on an attempt to explain to those who may wonder why it is that the Senate has taken this step precisely why the Senate has taken this step and the grounds upon which we rebut the government's claim. In making this argument, I want to provide some basic context. 'Nothing about us without us' is something the disability community often articulate in our demand that we are centred in the decisions that impact us. It is something ultimately and absolutely that we are not seeing from the government of the day, particularly in relation to the NDIS and the release of the financial sustainability framework.
Here's what we know. Here are the facts: (1) back in April, the National Cabinet agreed to the NDIS financial sustainability framework; (2) the government have based their financial decisions around the targets for the NDIS on the contents of the framework; and (3) the government has repeatedly defied requests of the Senate to release the framework for broader scrutiny, first insisting it didn't exist and then claiming and invoking a public interest immunity claim. Such actions are not in line with the principle of 'nothing about us without us'—in fact, they flip the very notion on its head. What we are seeing is 'everything about us without us'.
The executive government have placed a claim of public interest immunity, and, as a result, we do not know framework's contents. We have not been provided with the actual nature and documentation of the framework. This is a cause for serious concern. The Australian Greens do not accept this claim. We do not believe that the release of this information would prejudice the relationships between the states and territories. This is an agreement on a framework which they all entered into as part of a National Cabinet process. There is unanimity among the states and territories on the contents of the framework. To argue before the Senate that its release would prejudice those relationships simply does not make sense. The only resulting impact of the release of these documents would be to provide greater information to the Australian public as to the thinking of the states and territories and the federal government in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That's important, because what this government does with the NDIS impacts the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled Australians and their families.
Let's be really clear. The single biggest so-called budgetary saving in the government's first budget—the $59 billion saving—was based on the outcomes of this framework, and yet the framework has not been publicly released. This is wrong. It's particularly wrong in the context where the public has been asked to place great trust in the so-called independent NDIS review. There is now a question in the minds of the public. Is the review independent? Is it truly allowed to come to whatever findings the evidence leads it to, when the government has already decided to adopt a framework with such a significant financial implication that it is continually refusing to release it? Have decisions already been made? That's what it seems like to us. The Greens will continue to fight for transparency alongside the disability community in relation to the NDIS. (Time expired)