Minister Shorten Interview on Sky Newsday with Kristie Lloyd


SUBJECTS: Report on group housing of NDIS participants, Voice to Parliament

KRISTIE LLOYD, HOST: More than 7000 serious incident reports within disability group homes, including injury and abuse, have been reported in the past four years. The National Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission report investigated group homes Australia wide, around 1700 reports included serious injury, 1700 included abuse and 1300 claimed neglect. There are also almost 1000 incidents of unlawful physical contact and over 100 claims of unlawful sexual contact.
Well, joining me to break this down further is the NDIS Minister, Bill Shorten. Minister, thanks for your time this afternoon. Some of these findings are quite concerning. Take us through a bit of this report.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Well, this is about people with profound and severe impairments who live in group homes. This is where you might have two, three, four other people with disabilities who really require around the clock care. There's north of 20,000 Australians with these sorts of disabilities who live in group homes.
The regulator or the people who are in charge of safety are the Safeguards Commission. The Safeguards Commission's released a report today. It's the result of looking at evidence from the last four years and it reveals, I think, a far too high risk rate where people with disability, through their interviews, talking to the Safeguards Commission, have expressed the sort of problems that you went through in your opening. Inappropriate contact, unlawful physical contact, physical violence. Now, I should say that for many people, this isn't what is happening, but for some, this is, and that is unacceptable. And so I've asked the Safeguard Commission to, in the light of this report, provided me changes so that people with disability have greater choice and control than in some of the cases we've seen here.

LLOYD: And that brings me to my next point. What needs to be done to fix this and what changes should be put in place?

SHORTEN: Well, I think at least three things, but no doubt there'll be more. One is some of the people we're talking about have great difficulty communicating. So we've got to make sure that they have the opportunity to understand their rights and the resources to put into communicating with them so that they can tell the authorities what's going on and they can understand their rights. This is not a new development, this need, but clearly more needs to be done.

Also, we need to, I think, have a new standard or a code of practice which just governs how these facilities are run so that it does reflect the concerns of people with disabilities and their families. I think also this review’s done on not-for-profit providers who are registered under the NDIS so at least we can have a line of sight into their conduct but there's also unregistered providers providing accommodation and care support for people who are profoundly disabled. We need to extend some measure of regulation because we don't have the same ability to look through and see what's happening in some of those.

How do you regulate it? Well, I think it's a whole range of things. One is we've got our Safeguards Commission. Two, it's educating and empowering people with disabilities and their families. But the NDIS has some providers who are registered. Then it has unregistered providers as well who people can choose to use. I think that we need to make sure that the unregistered providers’ standards are up to scratch as much as we expect the registered providers to be. I do think we need to support the workforce. There's a lot of great people working in these facilities, but there are some who the report shows are not doing the right thing. So we need to absolutely improve the training and professionalisation of the workforce. Also, there is a really gnarly issue here that you might have three different people with different disabilities, all of which require profound care. But if they're not getting on with each other, we've got to be able to provide more options so that we don't see conflict arising where you've got people who are unsuited to living with each other, being forced to live with each other, and then we see the trauma which can occur after that and the conflict which occurs after that.

LLOYD: Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot that needs to be done to bring that into line. I just want to touch finally, on the Voice to Parliament, would you like to see Opposition Leader Peter Dutton make his stance known on the Voice to Parliament?

SHORTEN: That'll be up to him. This referendum will be decided by the people of Australia. What I don't want to see, though, is this notion that this principle, this ideal that including our First Nations people on the nation's birth certificate, the Constitution, just descend into political wrangling.

I recognise that Mr Dutton he's got some pretty right wing conservatives who are not interested in the voice and he probably has more progressive, but still liberal voters, who are. It's not for the nation to try and bridge all the internal turmoil in the Liberal Party. I would just say that now is the time for leadership. There is nothing particularly radical or controversial about saying that when we make decisions affecting our First Nations people that they can have a say and be consulted genuinely prior to decisions being made. This is not radical. It's an overdue idea. And by endorsing that principle in the Constitution, I think Australia says to our First Nations people, partnership, not paternalism.

LLOYD: All right, we'll have to leave it there. Minister, Bill Shorten, thanks so much for your time this afternoon.