Monday, 21 June 2021
Questions without Notice
National Disability Insurance Scheme
My question is to Senator Reynolds, the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Minister, in 2011, the Productivity Commission estimated a national disability insurance scheme would cover 411,000 participants at a gross cost of $13.6 billion when fully implemented. A half-a-percentage-point rise in the Medicare levy was introduced in the 2013 budget to help fund it. It is now forecast that the cost of the scheme will rise to a staggering $30 billion plus by 2024-25, with a projected 530,000 participants, costing more than the Medicare costs for the whole nation, and could blow out to $130 billion by the 2030s. Minister, what is the government going to do to rein in the cost of the NDIS so that it is sustainable and affordable to taxpayers?
I thank Senator Hanson for her question and I also thank her for her passion and commitment to this extraordinary, globally unique scheme. The Australian government is ensuring that this world-first scheme—and remember this is a scheme for people with significant and permanent disabilities—continues for many generations to come.
Today, there are 450,000 Australians on the NDIS—fifty per cent of those for the first time. As Senator Hanson has said, that is a significant increase over what was anticipated in 2011, in terms of both the number of participants and the average cost of the packages. We have seen more people enter the scheme, and I think that says so much about the goodness in Australians' hearts, about their abilities and about their commitment to pay for this. But this also means that we have sustainability issues with the scheme now.
The average payment per participant has increased by almost 48 per cent over the past three years alone. That is a 12.5 per cent increase every year, which, as all of us in this chamber know, is not a sustainable growth trajectory for taxpayers into the future. The NDIS will always be fully funded under the Morrison government, which is why over the last two budgets alone we have made a commitment of an additional $17.1 billion—that's $17,000 million—to fully fund the NDIS over the forward estimates. This takes the total investment in the NDIS to $121 billion over the next four years, which, as Senator Hanson has said, will make it more expensive for taxpayers than Medicare.
Unlike other government benefits, there is no means-testing of recipients of NDIS assistance. Is it fair that people on other benefits are means-tested while people on NDIS, regardless of income or wealth, are not?
Again, thank you to Senator Hanson for the question. It's important for everybody in this chamber, and also for those watching or listening, to realise that the NDIS is a social insurance scheme; it is not a welfare scheme. The NDIS is a way of providing individualised support for people with disabilities, their families and their carers. This means support provided is related to a person's disability and the support that they need; it's not directly related to their capacity to pay for support. The NDIS was based on the principles of fairness and equality, meaning that your postcode, your socioeconomic circumstances or your means to pay for medical reports should not matter. But, sadly, today, they still do, and we have much work to do together to actually make sure that that is not the case. For example, in the senator's own home state of Queensland, the average plan budget is $76,000, while in Brisbane— (Time expired)
Minister, I've been advised that, under current arrangements, sex worker therapy—that's prostitutes—could cost the taxpayer anywhere between $400 million and $2 billion each year. If this is correct, what is the hourly rate for the service? I've got the current price guide and I can't find the hourly rate for a prostitute. Can you advise if that could be the cost to taxpayers? What are we paying an hour?
Thank you, Senator Hanson, for the question. The previous Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme has already discussed this issue at some length and clarified the government's position on this. We do not believe that taxpayer NDIS funds should be used for the services of a sex worker, because we don't believe that that is in line with community expectations, nor should the NDIS pay for what might otherwise be considered an ordinary living expense. We do recognise that people with disability should be supported to have control over and choices about access to services that pertain to their sexuality, to enable them to live an ordinary life. However, should an NDIS participant feel that they need to purchase such services, they should be purchased using their personal income. Reasonable and necessary support must come, we believe, with some boundaries, and I notice that this has bipartisan support and that Mr Shorten has recently endorsed the government's approach on this issue. (Time expired)