Minister Shorten interview on 2GB Mornings with Ray Hadley


SUBJECTS: NDIS rorting and funding plans

RAY HADLEY. HOST: I promised you that I'd talk to Bill Shorten when I came back from leave about the NDIS. He's the Minister responsible. I have to say that I believe quite significantly that he is totally committed to ending the rorts. In fact, he and I have had many conversations both on the radio and away from the radio about people being placed before the courts as they allegedly thieve from what's a finite resource. And the point I make, and I know he joins with me in making the point, the more money that gets stolen from the NDIS, the less will go to children and adults who are deserving of our support. Bill Shorten, good morning to you. Happy New Year.


HADLEY: How's the battle going with the rorters?

SHORTEN: There’s a lot to be done. I shouldn't smile. There is a lot to be done, but - one good thing I'm looking forward to this year is we're going to be introducing new rules which will criminalise charging more for a good that you provide someone, if you say it's NDIS and where it's not NDIS, you charge less for the goods, you know, that sort of wedding tax where the words NDIS get put in front of us are good and all of a sudden it costs a lot more. And we're also looking to extend that to services. So I want to end the great rip off. It really is just a rip off.

HADLEY: How do you physically police that? And you and I have spoken about, you know, speciality beds for people with special problems, and if you buy them retail, they cost, you know, $2,200; you put NDIS in front of it and someone says, oh, that's a $6,500 bed. I mean, that's just one example of many.

SHORTEN: Well, one, absolutely, it's a real problem. One thing which we do is we want the providers of people selling things to people on the NDIS to have to keep their financial records. At the moment, if you were to mount a case against a scallywag who's having a lend of the system, a service provider, what happens is, um, it's half million dollars in the federal court just to gather the right evidence. So I don't want to have to rely on unicorn evidence cases where finally it all comes together like a magical unicorn. What we want to do is reverse the onus that if you're selling shower chairs and you say, this is an NDIS shower chair, and all of a sudden, yeah, quadruple the price, you keep the record, then the way we make it easier is we put some resources into the regulators, and it's gathering the evidence, which is such a time consuming process. So what we're going to do is the provider just has to keep their pricing data. So then when there's a complaint from anyone, it's very easy to say, show us your books. So that's one way, which I think is sort of smart, but overdue.

HADLEY: Look, this one I find difficult. I don't want to be a narc, because if I've got special needs, you know, life can be fairly miserable and you need some respite from it. But on the way back from the Gold Coast, I sat next to a lovely lady and a gentleman and he was assisted onto the flight in a wheelchair. And I was talking to the lady, just, you know, you have conversation, and she was quite sweet. And I said, oh, you're flying to Sydney? And she said, yes, yes, I'm this gentleman's carer on NDIS. And I said, oh, that's nice, you know. And I said, what are you doing? She went, I'm going on a cruise. I said, all right, okay. And I said, how long is the cruise? She said, ten days. And she said, I've never been on a cruise before. And I said, what do you do on the cruise? She said, oh, you know, hopefully he'll sleep a bit and I'll be able to go up and, you know, have a bit of a swim and do these things and do these other things. And now, the gentleman is in a wheelchair and appeared to be quite frail, and I don’t want to be a narc, but I'm thinking about all the other Australians at the moment, and you know how tight it is, you know, for a quid, who can't go on a holiday on a cruise. And I'm thinking- now, he pays his own fare and I don't know who pays her fare, but she obviously is paid a fee to look after the gentleman while she's on the cruise for ten days, let alone accompanying him from Rockhampton to Brisbane- or to the Gold Coast, I should say more correctly, and then to Sydney. Am I being a narc or is - I'm very- I'm strained to criticise because I don't want to, you know, say that people with special needs, you shouldn't have a holiday.

SHORTEN: No, I reckon that's - yeah, I reckon a lot of people wouldn't think that was what the Scheme was for. You're quite right. People with disability are entitled to have a holiday, have respite. They shouldn't just be stuck in their house They should be able to travel. But I think there is a - this is a personal opinion - I think there's a line between where you're paying for someone to have a pretty, really, really nice, high quality holiday and - so I - it would all depend on the facts of the condition, of the circumstance. I don't know if this is this bloke's first holiday in ten years or if he's doing it every year, so, no, it doesn't sit totally easily with me. It seems like that's almost, it sounds a bit too generous just on the surface of it. That'll be my - that's my honest reaction.

HADLEY: Yeah. Okay. Well…

SHORTEN: [Talks over] I don't know every fact.

HADLEY: No. And neither do I. But I mean- and that would be the reaction - your reaction would be the reaction about 98 per cent of people I would think.

SHORTEN: I think, but I must say about the Scheme - most people are not having those sort of - that is not the standard experience on the Scheme I’m aware. They get support to be able to go to work. Kids are getting therapy so they can get the speech lessons and the physio. So yeah, that - I share- I share your sort of hesitation about that particular example. But I've got to say, most people are just getting the basics and it's changing their lives.

HADLEY: Well, I think- what I think getting at without trying to be a narc is that people who, you know how I feel about the NDIS. I think we have to - we have to make sure we provide for people with special needs, whether they be adults or children, and we didn't do it before the NDIS, and we could. But it's not infinite. It's finite, the amount of money available. And I just think a holiday and a cruise ship, whether the person pays for their own fare and then there's a subsidy for the person accompanying them on the cruise, is just over the odds. Who approves that? Is there an organisation with NDIS that says, oh yeah, we approve that funding for that holiday? Is that how it happens?

SHORTEN: Every person has an individual plan.

HADLEY: Right.

SHORTEN: And they get funding for a range of different activities so that they can have a more meaningful existence rather than being trapped in a group home. So it's an individual plan. I do think there needs to be more clarity about the guidelines, about what's funded and what isn't.

HADLEY: Right.

SHORTEN: So that's done through - at the moment, it can be done through an individual planner. It can be done through agency guidelines. Sometimes people take us to court to - take the agency to court to demand this or that and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal decides. It also can be found in the regulations. So short answer is it's quite complicated. And we're going to put through some reforms which provide more clarity around what's in and what's not. You know, you get these private Facebook groups and some people are, you know, coaching people on what they can ask for.


SHORTEN: Some of it's reasonable and some of it's rubbish.


SHORTEN: You know, if you wanted to take a young man who's, you know, a quadriplegic, sort of trapped in his body, to the cinema. I think that's fine.

HADLEY: Yeah, sure.

SHORTEN: I think if you - if your kids have never been camping, you know, that's good to have those things. So I'm not against- absolutely not against people having some recreation and some respite. But you can't be too lavish otherwise it - I think it undermines the trust the community has in the Scheme.

HADLEY: Okay. Now I go from that to one that I texted to you about yesterday, and this is a young mum, two children, one two, one four, two little girls. The two-year-old, Ella, has cerebral palsy. Mum and dad, they still have some funding left over from the allocation previously. They go to the NDIS in October. They say apply for this really special course which is in Brisbane. It's an intensive course that goes for three weeks, five hours, every weekday, and this little girl will, you know, really benefit from this at her tender age. So it comes back, the NDIS say yeah, that's- it's approved for all intents and purposes. We'll come back to you in November 22nd, because it starts on the 3rd of February and hunky dory, away you go. So just through - I don't know this young lady, but she somehow knows someone that knows one of my daughters, and they contacted me two days ago and said, look, it starts February 3rd, and we've- and they've been - your people have been really helpful, NDIS have been really - but they say, look, you're on a long queue. Um, you know, we're trying to push it through. So, you know, people are very generous. They phoned me yesterday and said - emailed me, text me, and said, look, if you need six grand to get this little girl into it. I said, well, that's not how it works. The NDIS is there to provide for [indistinct]…

SHORTEN: [Talks over] No. It’s meant to replace that.

HADLEY: And so my plea to you is, because I've made a guarantee to Sam on your behalf or my behalf, as the case may be, but my behalf, but I'm looking for your behalf, to make sure Ella gets into the course on the 3rd of February, if possible, because then she can't do it for another 12 months.

SHORTEN: Yeah. You've alerted us to this. And mum's name is Sam. My people have gone back to the National Disability Insurance Agency. They're the decision makers, not the politicians, which is the wise thing. And we said, listen, this seems to have taken longer than it should to give this lady and her daughter an answer. I'm informed that over the Christmas - it had - first of all, it has taken longer than it should.


SHORTEN: I'm informed that over the Christmas period, we've reduced staffing and people's needs are 365 days of the year. But it's - there was not enough people in the agency to get through all of it. There'll be a meeting next Monday to try and finalise what can be done.

HADLEY: Okay. So the bottom line is, through generous support, you know, if it can't be done, it can't be done. But I'm sure it can be done given that they've got to have it a week before February 3rd because they lose their $500 deposit if not. But, um, I'm almost certain that your people look at it and that Sam and Ella will be able to continue on with…

SHORTEN: Yeah, certainly it's a reputable course and all of that. You know, it's, I think, quite different to the - sort of the more luxurious options that some people reputedly receive. So, yeah, we'll follow that up. But I’d just say to people who are waiting for decisions, the agency historically was understaffed. They had about 4,000 people working in it when there were 170,000 people on the Scheme. There's now 600,000 people on the Scheme, and so we've had to just lift the staffing numbers. So there's good people in the agency. But there's lots of different questions always being asked. So I'm trying to eliminate the stupid stuff where people are just box ticking and wasting time in red tape for - and just get on with the decisions that need to be made, not the ones which are just going through the motions.

HADLEY: Well, you say- yeah, this would be a no brainer. Two-year-old child, cerebral palsy. NDIS is set up to assist her and her parents and that's what should happen.

SHORTEN: Well, my instinctive reaction was when I heard about this issue, I said, what?


SHORTEN: But they’ve got to go through a process. But the process is now- I understand mum is available for a chat next Monday.


SHORTEN: And we'll get to the - we'll see - hopefully there'll be a positive outcome.

HADLEY: Well, if it’s - it needs to be done before Australia Day because of the holiday. Because February 3rd is to follow shortly after that. Anyway, I appreciate your time, as always. How did you spend the New Year? All right?

SHORTEN: Yeah, good. With the family. You know, they miss me when I'm not around, but I'm not sure when they spend a bit of time with me.

HADLEY: Were they happy to see you go back to work a bit like me or...?

SHORTEN: Yeah, I do wonder that. Where are you? Where are you? Oh, you’re here? Okay. That's good.

HADLEY: Get back to Canberra. All right.

SHORTEN: Good on you. Okay.

HADLEY: Thanks. Thanks, Bill. All the best.

SHORTEN: Cheers. Bye.

HADLEY: Bill Shorten, Minister for National Disability Insurance Scheme of Australia.