Minister Shorten Doorstop interview to discuss opening of the Carpentaria Supported Disability Accommodation property in Wanguri.


SUBJECT: Opening of the Carpentaria Disability SDA property; national meeting on the future of the NDIS; accessibility to disability services; FASD funding; fines for companies breaching environmental rules

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GIVERNMENT SERVICE: Good morning. It's great to be here with Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Minister Ngaree Ah Kit at the opening of this amazing facility for people with profound and severe disability.

The Northern Territory is doing some great innovation for people, for Territorians who live with disability. This house today represents a $1.2 million investment. It's cooperative between the Albanese Government, the Northern Territory Government and what it's going to do is provide safe, quality housing for Territorians who have special needs. It's a great effort by Carpentaria Services who will be running the house and making sure everything is working as it should. And congratulations to the builders to have done such quality construction effort.

The Federal Labor Government invests approximately $600 million in individual supports for about 6000 Territorians who are on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I'm here for three days visiting with Minister Ngaree Ah Kit. We're having a national meeting to talk about the future of the NDIS right here in Darwin. I'm looking forward to the work we do, but I just want to say to Territorians who might have a disability or have a family member with a disability or one of the 1000 service providers currently delivering services for people with disability in the Territory, The NDIS is here to stay.

We are determined to make sure that every dollar gets through to the participants for whom the scheme was originally designed. We're going to make sure that the shonks and the people who are price gouging and ripping off disabled people don't have a future, that they can just move their unethical business models away from the NDIS. We want to make sure that little kids who have developmental delay get the best possible start in life. We want to make sure that disability is a growing sector where young Territorians and older Territorians can come and work and work in community caring for people. We're very conscious in conclusion though, that the Northern Territory has unique challenges amongst the Australian Federation. There are many people in remote communities who have a disability. There's no doubt that the NDIS, working with the Northern Territory Government and with communities in remote parts of the Territory, that we deliver a better deal for people with disability. A person shouldn't be defined by their disability. They deserve a fair crack at life. We just want to make sure that they're getting that support. Bottom up, from the grassroots working with the Territory Government and of course the national government. Thanks very much.

NGAREE AH KIT, NT MINISTER FOR DISABILITIES: Ngaree Ah Kit, NT Minister for Disabilities. So, this morning we gather in the northern suburbs of Darwin to celebrate the fantastic opening of a new specialist disability accommodation. Thank you to Carpentaria for delivering this fantastic home. Three Territorians will get to call this place home for a very long time hopefully, and they're going to be supported through their packages and by the on care supports in their homes and they're going to be supported to live independently and to be their own decision makers and enjoy this beautiful piece of land in the northern suburbs of Darwin.

It's really important that my government continues to partner with the providers to make sure that land becomes available. And I'm pleased to announce today that Carpentaria have two builds in Darwin that are that are opening today and being launched. They are in the design phase of a home for SDA in Alice Springs, and today I was able to announce that they've been successful in two more land grants from my government. We will continue to ensure that land becomes available because we know that there are many Territorians, not just in Darwin and Alice Springs, but right across the Northern Territory who need and deserve the quality home that we are standing at today.

It's really great to have my Federal colleague, Minister Bill Shorten, the Minister for the NDIS, in Darwin for a couple of days to meet with disability stakeholders and Territorians to hear their stories, to hear their solutions and to hear not just about the NDIS, but about the Territory and how we bond together to get stuff done. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Do you have any questions?

JOURNALIST: Minister, what's something like this going to mean for the Territory? And I mean, is this the first of more that we're going to see?

SHORTEN: The Federal Government is committed to working with the Territory Government to make sure that people with disabilities which are profound and severe, have got decent, dignified accommodation. In the past people with profound and severe disabilities were locked away in big institutions. They weren't treated safely. They weren't treated with dignity. A disability shouldn't define you, and people with disability have got a right to be part of the Australian dream. We also want to reassure their families, their carers - you know, we've got Territorians with disabilities whose parents might be in their 80’s whose siblings might have moved away. We want to give them that peace of mind at midnight when they worry about what's going to happen to their family members, that you can have an okay house, that you can get care, you can be safe, but you can participate in the community. You can build friendships. You can build connection. So, I think it's a real positive. And I'm very impressed. I travel all around Australia, haven't seen a house which is any better than what I've seen here today. So, it's a real tribute to the ingenuity and community of the Territory.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned in your intro, you know, the shonks and price gouging that the NDIS has struggled with. No different here. How rampant is it still, do you believe, in places like the Territory, which may be a bit, you know, harder to govern that?

SHORTEN: Oh, I've got no doubt that the problem with exploitation of people with disabilities on the NDIS is far too rampant. It occurs far too frequently. I just want to give a special warning to service providers who are doing the wrong thing. If you see someone with an NDIS package, you do not have the right to rip them off. We are going to crack down on overcharging, of under servicing, of the provision of poor quality. Just because someone has a government package, an NDIS package, doesn't make them fair game for you to rip them off. So, we're going to create new laws to make it illegal and we're also going to give tools to consumers, to people to be able to fight back against price gouging.

But, you know, they've had that business model since the Scheme was set up. It's not everyone, but there is definitely an unacceptable number of people who do it. We're on to you and you'd better pack your bags, hop on the bus, ride out of town - because your business model is not going to have a future in the NDIS. We’re for people with disability and we're going to stand up for them.

JOURNALIST: Just for a colleague, Aboriginal controlled health organisations have told the ABC that Indigenous children in Darwin are waiting 1 to 3 years to be assessed and diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disabilities like FASD and ADHD that get them into trouble at school and with the law. Is this an acceptable time for Indigenous children to be waiting for such a diagnosis?

SHORTEN: Clearly not. Just know how the NDIS works though. Just because you have a diagnosis doesn't mean you automatically get onto the NDIS. The NDIS is not the full shop for disability services. There's a range of disability services in our school system, our early years, in the broader community. We're going to have very important discussions in coming days about how we can build up support for people with disability outside the NDIS, where the disability is not that severe.

But I mean, my colleague Senator McCarthy, has done a lot of work in terms of the general problem, which is not just in disability but waiting times, getting health professionals, allied health professionals, but clearly waiting 1 to 3 years - the most important thousand days of a person's life is their first thousand days. So, the more that we can do, and we'll have more to say in coming months, in investing in the detection of developmental delay earlier in a child's journey, that's going to be important. And we also want to help families. A lot of families are crying out for information, what to do, how to do it, who can they talk to? So, we want to strengthen families in the first thousand days of a child's life. And we want to strengthen developmental delay detection so we can start giving options to kids. I don't know if Malarndirri, do you want to add something else?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Sure. I'll just add, in terms of the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder, we are absolutely focused on that. Minister Linda Burney has made an announcement in central Australia in regard to the concerns that have been raised by Congress and other art shows around the region, we recognize that this is an area that we do need to do extra work in. And that was certainly announced this morning.

JOURNALIST: That funding announced today by Ms. Burney was a re-announcement of funding. Is your government extending any new funding for FASD assessment and diagnosis in the Top End or places like the Top End?

MCCARTHY: At the moment we're concentrating largely on Central Australia because of the concerns that we've been experiencing in Central Australia with youth on the streets there. And there has been a call by Congress and others in the centre that we do focus specifically on Central Australia. So, we are doing that, but that doesn't mean we're not going to be looking at other areas of not just the Northern Territory but right across Australia. We do recognise that FASD is not just an isolated incident in the Northern Territory, it is a disorder that we see occurring right across the country.

JOURNALIST: What was the purpose of re-announcing that funding, though I guess? If it's already known where it's going and how much it is. Why not add new funding?

MCCARTHY: It was actually about having further conversations with Congress. We've got to make sure that there are movements in Central Australia regarding FASD and the care that is required for those youth on the streets. And we know that Linda Burney has worked very closely with the Aboriginal organisations in Central Australia, along with Marion Scrymgour and myself. So, we want to ensure and give confidence to the people of Central Australia that we're, we're actively working in this space.

JOURNALIST: I have one more question from a separate colleague on an environmental issue up here, Malarndirri. A major cotton station has been formally found to have cleared land illegally and has been fined around $10,000. Environmental groups say this is just a slap on the wrist. Do you think this amount will be a deterrent or does more need to be done to ensure the cotton industry is following regulations?

MCCARTHY: I'm conscious that there are concerns regarding the environment across the Northern Territory, but that particular area does fall under the Northern Territory Government. I'm certainly happy to speak more once I've had further briefings on that matter.

JOURNALIST: Minister Ah Kit, would you mind if I just ask that question to you? Is that all right?

AH KIT: I don't have the information, but I'd be happy to follow that one up for you. In regards to cotton, did you say?

JOURNALIST: Yeah, that's right.

AH KIT: I’ll find out –

JOURNALIST: Do you think do you think the cotton industry does need to follow formal regulations more closely, or is this just a slap on the wrist?

AH KIT: I don't have enough information on that. I'd be happy to refer it to my colleague and have them get back to you.

JOURNALIST: Thank you, Minister.

AH KIT: Absolutely. We'll take that on notice.