Minister Shorten interview on Sky Afternoons with Kieran Gilbert


KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: The Press Club address today I want to start with a big picture question because you described it as a landmark report. Do you have a message of optimism and hope for families with people with disability and the people with disability themselves. Do you think you can fix this thing?

SHORTEN: I think we can create a more inclusive Australia. yes. The NDIS is here to stay, Labor is absolutely committed to it. We want to put people with disability at the centre of all decision making, their interests have got to be the first set of interests in any matter. What we want to do though, is we recognise it's growing faster in terms of costs than it should be, and 98% of all the people I speak to know that, but people want to know is are they going to be okay, and I'm here to say yes. We want to make sure that depending on a person's disability, they can get support from the NDIS it's very significant, or if it's disability which doesn't impact you quite as often in your development in your day, then you can get some supports outside the NDIS. 

GILBERT: So you're optimistic? 

SHORTEN: Yeah, I am. 

GILBERT: It's not an easy space, how do you see it in terms of the challenge for you?

SHORTEN: I bleed NDIS, for me, it really matters. For me, If I accomplished nothing else in public life, getting the NDIS right is really important, but it's much more than that, it's certainly not about me. A person can be born with a disability, you can get it in the blink of an eye on a country road, you can get it just through the particular lottery of DNA code you've got, but that shouldn't define you. 

GILBERT: I speak from personal experience, my nephew is 18, cerebral palsy, my brother thankfully and his wife are very well off, but they still find it very challenging. What about those people in the suburbs, the postcodes, that you spoke about today where it's a very different story? 

SHORTEN: When the scheme works well, it's working really well, but what I'd remind all Australians is, before the NDIS it was a disaster, you'd have to fundraise for a wheelchair or place to live. The only way you can get support really was if today was worse than yesterday and if tomorrow was going to be even bigger binfire than today. 

GILBERT: [inaudible] and still find it hard to get…

SHORTEN: Ah yes. I’m saying what it was like beforehand. This is why we’ve got to reboot the scheme, an NDIS mark two, because the system is still too bureaucratic. It's traumatising, it's exhausting, it's debilitating, you need a PhD, a cut lunch and you know, a sniffer dog to work out how to get through the system. That's what we're reinvesting in making the agency better. Here's some simple proof points, one, the person who does your plan or your budget when you get on the scheme, it'd be good if that was the same person you could ring afterwards. Two, we want to make sure that the people who are giving you advice, know what they're doing and that they understand disability so we'll do a range of these things…

GILBERT: Navigators, that's a really good idea from Bruce Bonyhady and Lisa Paul, that makes a lot of sense, because when you get to the NDIS, you need to know where to look and where to go. 

SHORTEN: The job isn't about just giving you a package of money, patting you on the head and saying, good luck. People still have questions, they still need advice, they've got to work out how to get the best out of their support. So we want to have a more human entry point with people who know what they're talking about, a lot of people do, but just make it more consistent, but then what we also need is someone to sort of metaphorically hold your hand as you go through the journey. You know, navigate it for every 40 or 50 families, that'd be just excellent. Someone, who you don't have to keep telling your story to a time and time again. 

GILBERT: We've discussed the fraud and shonks before, are you confident that what you've got here as a prescription will get rid of those?

SHORTEN: I'm confident that we're now taking it seriously. I can never say that the world will be crook free. What I can say though, is to some of these NDIS millionaires, and they're not just people breaking the law, there might be people over servicing, under delivering. The good old days of the wild west are coming to an end, you’ve got to be accountable for what you do. We want lots of service providers in the system, and most service providers are excellent, but what we’ve got to do is make sure they’re accountable. There is crime, there is fraud, and there's the old fashioned taking a lend of it. There's this view that because it's government money, you can overcharge the person with a disability on the scheme and they'll just get the money back of the government. So to some extent, the people rorting the system say well, it's government money, it's not really the disabled person's money, but that's not right, it is actually the person with disabilities money. 

GILBERT: Exactly, that's the lowest of the low, the sooner you can get rid of those the better. Family Centered Practises for children with disability, that’s really another interesting idea. Can you just explain that for our viewers? 

SHORTEN: It's all about best practice. First of all, kids are born, they're beautiful, precious, but some kids don't develop in a standard way they develop in a nonstandard journey. The earlier we can work that out the better. So, the review sort of talks about this situation in the years to come, universal screening, then once you know what the child's needs are, you can not only work out… the child's needs may be mild, they might not need to be on the NDIS, but they do need some help with speech pathology, allied health professionals, but also families need help. The way this scheme is rolled out is that a lot of the services are provided as if the recipients an adult, hour to hour on many hours of direct individual therapy. Quite often what families want to know is how they can do it, how they can raise their child and get the support. To some extent in the rush to these individual services, family centric supports can be overlooked and we want to put families back in the middle of it. 

GILBERT: Again, that's another recommendation that seems a no brainer to me. On the assessments, this is something which has you know, and 60% of the population have some visibility of disability and so they know that this is a sensitive issue, because you don't want to have to prove every year that you've got the same disability, but in this sense, you're saying, if I can simplify, you're basically saying you're going to humanise this process, you're going to make sure that the individual with the disability will be heard as opposed to being done by someone who doesn't even know the person? 

SHORTEN: Well what we need to do is… It can’t just be someone's medical diagnosis alone that gets them on the scheme because what happens is people then get written to that diagnosis. What matters is how your diagnosis of disability affects you, and what we’ve got to do is if it’s about individual support package, then we've got to talk to the individual…

GILBERT: That's an interesting benchmark, so it's not about the diagnosis, it's about the impairment…

SHORTEN: And how it affects you, yes. That’s what it should have all along, and by the way, i'm not going to split hairs, some people’s diagnosis is so immediately clear that they're going to need help, that's fair enough. So no one should panic, but what it is saying is let's look at what the individual needs and personalize the support rather than just sort of… 

GILBERT: So they’ll be listening to [inaudible].  

SHORTEN: And will have proper qualified specialists, people working with the agency to understand disability, and it won't be a 20 minute cookie cutter interview. So we're going to change how we talk to people, we're going to change who's doing the talking and the listening, but then the other thing we want to do is once there is an assessment, that we go back and talk to the person again about it. 

GILBERT: Yeah, well it’s a world first and as you rightly point out internationally is a great thing. I think everyone wishes you success on this one, it’s not a political issue, there’s bipartisan support for it.

SHORTEN: There is from the major parties, I don’t know where the Greens are going to go. The reality is, though, the people that say it's too hard and you shouldn't touch anything, that's actually dangerous, because giving up on reform, that will be a mistake. The other group I’m most concerned about in all of this is people who have battled to get a package of support, nothing is changing overnight. The scheme is going to grow every year, this isn’t about cutting off lots and lots of people, it’s about making sure the scheme’s working in the best interest of the participant.

GILBERT: Minister, I very much appreciate your time. 

SHORTEN: Lovely, cheers.