Minister Shorten Interview on ABC AM with Sabra Lane


SUBJECTS: Disability Royal Commission findings

SABRA LANE, HOST: It'll be some months yet before we know how governments will respond to the Disability Royal Commission's 222 findings. The Commission recommended governments tell the public by the end of March next year how they'll respond, if they choose to ignore recommendations, why? The Federal Government has set up a task force to go through the findings to plot a way forward. Bill Shorten is the Federal Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Bill Shorten, thanks for talking to AM. What do you think it will take to achieve the kind of respectful, inclusive community that embraces people with a disability and gives them the same access to jobs and housing that abled people get?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: It's going to take all of us. It's not really down to people with disability to force themselves to be included. It's about the rest of us saying, you're welcome, you're included. So, it's all levels of government. It's also the community more generally. We've got to recognise that disabilities, any of us at any time, or it's a family member or someone we know. So, it really does come with a major mindset. But in the meantime, there are specific actions which can be done.

LANE: One of the startling facts from the report was that there are 400 deaths each year of people with intellectual disabilities, and they're considered avoidable. What did you think when you read that?

SHORTEN: I was upset, and I was shocked. I want to find out more about what that meant so that - that to me was perhaps, of all of the statistics, right up at the top, the individual stories were shocking. And the thousands of people who gave evidence were very brave and so I salute them. But the idea that there are 400 avoidable deaths each year is a number which we've got to understand why that happens and then reduce it.

LANE: The government is now setting up a task force to go through all of the findings. Are you able to say who's going to be on that task force? And will you have people with lived experience of disability on that task force?

SHORTEN: Well, the task force is made up of government departments. So, they're departments as opposed to just individuals. I've got no doubt as it gets set up the people with disability will be involved in the task force. There's no other way to be.

LANE: Most of the royal commissioners wanted an end to segregation in schooling, outlining a 30-year time frame to do that. The Greens senator, Jordon Steele-John says that's not good enough and it should be done by 2030. What do you think? What kind of effort would be needed to end segregation and enable mainstream schools the capacity to cope?

SHORTEN: Well, it was a big recommendation. The idea of having an inclusive education system though, I'm sure everyone shares from disability rights activists through to parents of kids in the school system now. But you can't just click your fingers and make things happen. We need the states to be engaged in that. The federal government doesn't run any schools, so we need the states to decide that's where they want to go. We also need to have the resources in the mainstream system. So, do I - is the goal a worthy goal, inclusive education? Absolutely. We have to sit down with the Catholic school system, the non-government school system. We have to sit down with the state mainstream school system and also the special schools and parents and people with disability and see, how do we do it. I mean, the reason why some of these schools exist is frankly, the mainstream system would never cater to them. So, you can't just shut down one without looking at what the other is going to happen. I think there'll be a lot of parents right now who in the real world would be concerned and upset if they thought their kids would have to change. But again, part of the reason why some parents choose special schools is a lack of support in mainstream schools. So that's where the hard work has to be done. The mainstream school system I know in Victoria, the State Minister for Education, Natalie Hutchins, has put an extra $1.8 billion into inclusive education. But it's going to take a big effort on behalf of every jurisdiction in Australia, and so I don't want to speak for them, but I'd like to encourage them to have that conversation.

LANE: Well, the Royal Commission's findings feed into the review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which you're scheduled to get at the end of this month. And if there is disagreement by panellists there on the NDIS review, what do you think? How are you going to overcome that?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, hopefully there won't be disagreement. So, you know, I'm a cup half full guy. I've been meeting with the review, the review panel, the people working the review, pretty consistently. This is a review into the NDIS. The NDIS has over 600,000 participants on it. There's 325,000 people who work in the NDIS. We set it up after we came into government as an election promise. It's on track to finish its recommendations on the NDIS. The NDIS is part of the way in which Australia looks after disability, but it's not the only lifeboat in the ocean. I'm confident as far as the review goes, it will be informed by the Royal Commission and the general underlying message of the Royal Commission was that we should take a human rights lens towards how services for people with disability are delivered and I'm sure that will inform the NDIS review.

LANE: Will you make that NDIS review public?

SHORTEN: Oh yeah, absolutely. The issue is of course in terms of timing. The review is presented to the state and myself and the state ministers at the end of October, towards the end of October. Then it's a subject of discussions for the National Cabinet. So, whether or not all the detail is revealed late October or mid-November, I still think is a to be discussed. But yes, ultimately it should be public.

LANE: Bill Shorten, thanks for talking to AM this morning.

SHORTEN: Great Sabra. Lovely to chat to you. Thank you.

LANE: And Bill Shorten is the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.