Minister Shorten interview on ABC AM with Sabra Lane



SABRA LANE, HOST: Bill Shorten is the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and he joined me earlier. Bill Shorten, the review says all the recommendations work together, basically, they can't be cherry picked, you'll have to come up with some solid reasons if you reject any of them, won't you?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Well, I think that the Review sets out the direction. One of the things which we'll do is as we talk to people about the Review, there might be wrinkles raised, so I wouldn't want to give 100% that absolutely everything here is exactly as is what's going to be, because we've still got to test these things aloud with the world and with people with disability, but I completely support the direction of the Review.

LANE: Most Australians do want the National Disability Insurance Scheme to work, is this the last shot to really fix it to concede, if large cost blowouts continue that that's going to erode public support for it?

SHORTEN: Well, I’m a bit more positive than whether or not it’s the last shot. The reality is most Australians, as you say, do want the scheme to work, because it is changing lives, but it needs to work better. So, you know, I'm a glass half full sort of person, I think that doing nothing is not an acceptable option. So therefore, this is a good plan and let's work together and iron out any issues which arise, but this is good for people, and it's good for the future.

LANE: The Review says diagnosis alone won't guarantee access to individual support packages in the future, many parents will be a little bit anxious about that, can you guarantee that no one will be taken off the NDIS until this new foundational scheme, a second support scheme is ready to go?

SHORTEN: You could have your package increased or decreased right now. So when you say guarantee no change at all, there’s change every day. What I can guarantee, which I think does go to the heart of the matter, is that if your child needs the supports, which only the NDIS can provide, then that's what they'll get.

LANE: But this Review also suggests a second support scheme be set up in mainstream schools and childcare centres. That's not something that's going to happen in a matter of weeks or months?

SHORTEN: Oh, no, no and no one's - I would definitely say to parents, this will be a case of hastening slowly, listening to people, we’ll have to assemble the workforce, we’ve got to do a lot of talking with the states and indeed other departments of the Commonwealth. So nothing happens overnight, but when you say there's one scheme and another scheme, I don't want to confuse people. Disability is on a continuum, some people have very severe and profound disability, for them, it would be the NDIS. What the Review has identified is that there needs to be services for people with disabilities, which aren't as severe or as permanent. So, this is not so much creating a second scheme as completing the fence or making sure that there is a universal system of support for people with disability, not just the NDIS.

LANE: People with Disability Australia is worried that it's going to create something of a location lottery where services are available everywhere but not consistent, and in fact that they may not be available everywhere. How do you avoid that that's going to be really tricky, isn't it, especially when workforce is hard to find right now?

SHORTEN: We already have a location lottery, what we're trying to do is actually increase what the safety net covers. The issue about reforming the NDIS is important. It's about making sure that every dollar gets to the people for whom the scheme was designed. It's about making sure that there's more equity. This Review is aimed at tackling the inequity of the current location lottery. So the general problem you make, that you point to I should say, about thin markets, there's a lack of services, lack of workforce, that's the problem right now, not just in disability. What we want to do is make sure through alternative commissioning, through not recognizing that the market isn't working as it's meant to. There's plenty of recommendations how we improve support in the regions and how we tackle what you correctly identify as a location lottery, but that exists right now.

LANE: The scheme doesn't seem to be working well for those with psychosocial issues, there's a sentence in the Review that really stands out, it says the NDIS is not stewarding the market to deliver a recovery focused approach. My reading of it, it's not focused on getting people well, what's your commitment to ending that?

SHORTEN: Well the fact that you're reading from the Review shows that we've identified that problem, and that's our commitment, but there's been a couple of mischievous rumours put out. One is that there's some plan to make sure that people who have disabilities arising from psychosocial disorders would no longer be covered by the scheme. That's not right, there will be. What we're looking at, though, is going down the path of what we call the recovery model, more early intervention for people with psychosocial disorders, so that we can support exactly what you just said.

LANE: You mentioned yesterday that Some people had become NDIS millionaires out of this, how many providers have become millionaires? Do you know?

SHORTEN: No, I couldn't give you a list down to the last decimal point but I am concerned, and I think many Australians are concerned, that some of the money which is going from the taxpayer to participants with profound severe disability gets siphoned off by some service providers, some of whom are unregistered, where they are making a motza and getting triple double digit returns, delivering outcomes, which aren't as good as they should be, over servicing, or in some cases under servicing or in other cases, just plain old fashioned fraud.

LANE: That ends under you?

SHORTEN: Oh yeah, the people who've moved into this world thinking there's an easy buck without thinking about people with disability first, they'd be well advised to sell their businesses tomorrow.

LANE: Bill Shorten, thanks for talking to AM.

SHORTEN: Thank you