Thursday, 14 November 2019
National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Streamlined Governance) Bill 2019; In Committee
Labor will be supporting this government amendment. This amendment compels the chief executive officer of the NDIA and the NDIS quality and safeguards commissioner to provide data and information including protected information under the NDIS Act for the purposes of a royal commission. Currently under the NDIS Act 2013, agency heads can release information at their discretion. This amendment eliminates that discretion and associated administrative process that may prevent a royal commission, including the disability royal commission, from accessing the information it needs for its purposes. Labor supports measures that will ensure that the royal commission can maintain its integrity and that people with disability, their families and carers and the disability sector can have confidence their evidence is heard independently and impartially. That's why Labor is supporting this amendment.
I'd like to continue on with where we were before we were so rudely interrupted and put a question to the minister. We were discussing the nature of the genesis of the bill. I think we pretty clearly landed on the person who has so far had the shepherding of this process. Could you go into a little bit more detail as to what motivated the government to put this bill forward. What, ultimately, are the series of problems that you are trying to solve here?
Thank you very much, Senator Steele-John. My understanding is that a major motivation behind the substantive component of the bill, as opposed to the amendments we're currently debating, is to ensure that we maximise the efficiency of the operation of the act by making sure that the requirements around the rules of operation are appropriate for purpose.
Could I take you to the Commonwealth's submission to the Senate inquiry into the bill. It talked at length about some of the delays that had been experienced in the appointment of members to the board, therefore creating—I'm not quite sure—obstructions. Could you outline for us what obstructions we are talking about here and the length of time that we are talking about, in terms of delays, that have motivated relevant sections of the bill?
Senator, just to clarify, this is what the department gave in their submission. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the government's aware of the submission that it made. So, in the submission, you spoke clearly about 'a lack of interest' and that the bill was a remedy to that, but I'm just trying to burrow a bit into that. The evidence that you gave in the subsequent hearing spoke again to that lack of interest and that the bill was part of a remedy to that lack of interest. I'm just wondering what the examples were the department had in mind when it was talking about a lack of interest on the part of states or territories.
Certainly, Senator Steele-John, the complexity of this issue and the rollout of this scheme mean there are a number of moving parts that are all happening at the same time. I am certainly unaware of 'lack of interest' being the driving factor behind the requirement, or the desire, for this bill to be brought into this place. That's certainly not my understanding of the genesis of or the motivation behind this bill. I don't think you said that I had said that it was through a lack of interest. I think you were referring to the submission—
You might clarify whether you were or you weren't suggesting that when you respond. My very clear understanding is that this bill was not generated because of 'a lack of interest'. However, I think it would be fair to say that some of the concerns and some of the delays and timing problems that have occurred with the administration and the rollout of this scheme have certainly come about because of different jurisdictions having different levels of prioritisation of particular issues. Clearly, the desired outcome we're trying to achieve here is to make sure we get some sort of clarity around how these decisions are going to be prioritised.
As you would well know, the process that sits behind the appointment of the board is, we believe, very important, but we would seek to make sure that—with all the right sorts of measures in place to ensure its integrity—it's not a process that in the future takes two years to go through to enable appointments to the board. We did need to address that. I raise that as an example, and there are a number of other situations that have occurred in other areas of the agency that that applies to. As I said, I haven't seen the 'lack of interest' comment. To my mind, it would suggest that it is about the relativity of prioritisation in decision-making. That is probably how I would have couched it.
Just to clarify, I was referencing evidence given by Mr Broadhead to the Senate inquiry. When the department were asked to contextualise why there had been, to their mind, extended periods of time between the appointments, he characterised it as 'a lack of interest' that the bill would remedy.
But, moving on to another question I have, would you be able to explain to the chamber what safeguards exist to prevent the minister making unilateral and unpopular decisions to appoint or terminate members of the board and of the IAC should this legislation pass?