Senate debates

Monday, 27 November 2023


National Disability Insurance Scheme; Order for the Production of Documents

10:18 am

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to take note of the minister's response, as I did on the Monday of the last sitting week and as I'll do on the Monday of the next sitting week if we're still in this position. It is important that people listening to this debate, in the gallery, understand what is happening here. We're having a debate in relation to one of the most significant social programs which is administered by the federal government for the benefit of Australians. Six hundred and thirty-one thousand Australians have benefits under the NDIS, and there will be hundreds of thousands more Australians who will come under the scheme in future years. That's what we're talking about.

We, in the opposition and on the Greens crossbench, are seeking fundamental documents, core documents, to understand the sustainability of the program in the context of the government saying that they will cut $74 billion of funding from the NDIS over the next 10 years. We are trying to understand, discharging our obligation as a house of review, how the government can say on the one hand that they are going to cut $74 billion from this scheme over the next 10 years, and, on the other hand, we see the latest figures which tell us that's just not possible.

Something has to give. As Senator Reynolds so eloquently put it, either the number of participants needs to decrease or the amount spent per participant needs to increase. Something needs to give. We are asking to see the actuarial data which forms the basis of the government's assertion that it can cut $74 billion from the NDIS over the next 10 years, but the government is refusing to give us that information. We represent the Australian people. By refusing to give it to us the government is refusing to give that information to the Australian people, and the Australian people deserve that information. They deserve the senators in this place having the opportunity to analyse that information and ask questions of the government in relation to it, because that is how the system is meant to work.

In my capacity as the chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, I'm currently looking into a reference in relation to Australia's freedom of information laws. I've read the basis for those laws as they were first passed. Australia was a leading jurisdiction in the world on FOI. It was about transparency. It was about the Australian people having the right to know the basis upon which policy decisions are made. That was one of the bases of the FOI scheme. Here we are, some 40 years later, and the government is refusing to provide one of the most important documents in relation to one of the most important schemes that this government administers. It is simply not good enough. We will keep prosecuting this point. I congratulate Senator Steele-John on his prosecution of this point, and Senator Reynolds.

We need to understand the actuarial basis on which this government asserts it can cut $74 billion out of the NDIS. All the evidences—I have figures given to me by my good friend Senator Reynolds—is to the contrary. Let me give an example. Total scheme expenses for the three months to 30 September 2023 were $10.1 billion, or 0.9 per cent higher than the estimate from June 2023. They were nearly one per cent higher over the course of a calendar quarter. The report showed plan inflation at 5.1 per cent in the September quarter or 15.1 per cent per annum. Where are these cuts coming from? Where is the maths? What is the actuarial basis? It doesn't any make sense at all.

The Senate deserves that information so senators can analyse it and ask the questions that our constituents expect us to ask. That's the way the system is meant to work. What are you hiding? Provide the information, not just to this Senate, but to the Australian people.

Question agreed to.


No comments