Federal Budget signals the return of humanity and compassion to the NDIS

Tuesday night's Budget brought relief on many fronts and had all the hallmarks of Labor values.

I am particularly pleased that it has delivered for participants of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

It confirmed that the NDIS is here to stay.

A decade of Coalition government neglect of the scheme led to a version of trickle-down economics that resulted in the suffering of some of Australia's most vulnerable citizens.

With this Budget, the Albanese Government is saying, unequivocally, that it will get this life-changing scheme back on track.

On Tuesday night, Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced a $733 million investment in the National Disability Insurance Agency, the agency that manages the scheme, plus another $177 million for the scheme's watchdog, funds to assist the disability workforce to stay safe from COVID-19 along with other measures.

The investment is the most significant decision any government has taken to change the agency's trajectory, to lift the culture and the scheme so it can better support participants.

As has been my mantra since having the privilege to serve as minister for the NDIS, my top three priorities for the scheme have been participant outcomes, participant outcomes, and participant outcomes. It's pretty simple. If that is our focus, every dollar spent on the NDIS will go to the people it is intended for, ensuring the right supports, the right equipment, and the right services.

Add to that the support of the village that grows around NDIS participants — inside and outside the scheme — and their chances of living the ordinary life Australians with disability crave increases exponentially.

Importantly, we're ensuring that people with lived experience of disability remain at the centre of the NDIS, as we develop the reforms we know are needed to correct course.

We will work in partnership with the disability community on these necessary reforms.

We have already increased the number of people with lived experience of disability at the heart of decision-making of the NDIA.

We now have 50 per cent of the board and 30 per cent of the NDIA executive consisting of people with disability, and disability champion Kurt Fearnley in the role of chair.

Kurt is one of the most accomplished leaders I've had the privilege to work with and we're incredibly lucky to have someone of his calibre at the helm.

The partnership between Kurt and CEO Rebecca Falkingham, one of my first appointments as Minister for the NDIS, is already breathing new life into the agency.

And now, the 2023-24 Budget package will allow them to fix many facets of the NDIA that have been so badly neglected.

This funding will go towards upskilling the agency workforce and employing more planners with disability. If we build expertise in the workforce, we create planners with specialised training who understand the participants' disabilities and their specific needs. And that means targeted supports, services and programs for optimal effect.

And to a participant, specialisation and understanding means even more than that. It signals the return of humanity and compassion to the scheme.

Knowledgeable planners can also relieve participants of the fear that their money will run out before the end of the year, and build flexibility into a plan so it responds to their changing needs over time.

We will also put an end to the insanity of price gouging on everything from shower chairs to wheelchairs. We'll leverage the buying power of the NDIA so participants get greater value for money in plans.

We'll keep cracking down on fraud and non-compliance so we can stop millions of dollars getting into the hands of crooks. And not just once it's happened, we'll put develop a business case for new IT platforms to detect and prevent it from happening in the first place.

That's just a few of the initiatives this Budget funding is driving.

We must improve the participant experience, we must make people's lives easier rather than harder. If we do that, we also reduce waste, inefficiency, and inflationary costs.

The 2023-24 Budget package is a major investment in the NDIS and in the capability, capacity and systems of the NDIA.

Not only that, it will help improve the lives of participants and that of their families and carers. With the right care package comes such benefits as greater independence, the chance to study, get a job and form friendships. To enjoy economic and social participation in this great country of ours.

I applaud my Treasurer Chalmers and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher on a Budget with heart and vision.

It is, as Prime Minister Albanese said, a Budget that builds a stronger foundation for a better future, for Australia and for the NDIS.

There is no doubt there is a challenge ahead, but I assure you that it is more than matched by the strength of the Government's determination to succeed.

Today, I could not be more proud to be part of this Albanese Labor Government.