Tuesday, 17 October 2023
National Disability Insurance Scheme; Order for the Production of Documents
I'd like to, again, commend Senator Steele-John for this motion. It is not one that the coalition takes lightly. There are very, very serious issues that this government has to explain to the 610,000 Australians whose lives rely on the NDIS. This has been the subject of some considerable debate in this chamber, and the lack of transparency by those opposite is quite frightening. Measures that I put in place, when we were in government, to have monthly financial reports released publicly—and also regular quarterly reports—were incredibly important not only for participants of the NDIS but also for those in this place to have some visibility.
What the government is doing here is incredibly distressing, and not only for NDIS members; it should be a concern to every single person in this place. The government has repeatedly refused to provide the information based on a public interest immunity claim. As I said here previously and I would like to reiterate, that does not hold water. Let me remind you: if the minister concludes it is not in the public interest to provide the information, the minister must do two things. First of all, the minister must provide a statement on the grounds for that conclusion. We've heard repeatedly in this place that it would compromise state and federal relations, but, having conducted five, if not six, ministerial councils with disability ministers on this exact topic, I know that is complete rubbish. It is nonsense.
Even though they have made a statement that stretches credibility to its extreme, the second requirement is that the minister specify the harm to the public interest that could result if the information is provided. The government has in no way met that second test. They have not specified the harm to the public interest that could result if the information was provided. The only harm that would come is to Bill Shorten and to the Labor government. They went into the last election rejecting the hand of bipartisanship to have a serious look, together, at the sustainability of this scheme.
As an insurance scheme, ultimately there are only two levers available to have this as another demand driven scheme for which the federal government can control the budget, like Medicare, the PBS and others, and those are the number of participants in the scheme and the average cost per participant. That is patently obvious. It was obvious to the opposition before the last election, before they promised every single NDIS participant, past and future, that their plans would never be cut. That is the promise they went to the last election with. Bill Shorten was at the Press Club saying, 'There is no sustainability issue.'