Minister Shorten interview on ABC PM with David Lipson


SUBJECTS: Labor’s NDIS reforms.

DAVID LIPSON, HOST ABC PM: The federal government has introduced legislation aimed at reining in spiralling costs by ruling out the provision of support services that are deemed unreasonable to ensure taxpayer funds aren't being spent on things like holidays and cosmetics, for example. But a lack of clarity over who will be supported by the NDIS in the future and who will be serviced by the states, has left the premiers and chief ministers fuming. Here's the New South Wales premier, Chris Minns and Victoria's Jacinta Allan. Okay. Uh, we don't have those grabs, but the Minister for the NDIS, Bill shorten, is with me now. Thank you for being on the program.


LIPSON: Your legislation seeks to define what NDIS supports are reasonable and which ones are not. It gives examples of ones that are not holidays, groceries, online gambling, perfume, cosmetics as things that shouldn't be paid for with taxpayer funds, I guess. How prevalent is this sort of use of taxpayer funds?

SHORTEN: I don't believe it is, um, rife within the system, but it shouldn't be occurring. But if I can go back to your opening comments, uh, about changes in the States, I really addressing my remarks tonight to the 650,000 participants on the Scheme, the 400,000 people who work in NDIS, and of course, the families of the people on the Scheme. This legislation is part of what we the proposed bill. It's a draft law. It's not the law is the result of a review which took over a year talking to 10,000 people on the Scheme and experts and people with disability lived experience. And what we want to do is make sure that the NDIS is here to stay, that every dollar is getting through to the people for whom the Scheme is designed, and that it's there for future generations. Truthfully, the Scheme is growing faster than I think anyone expected. It's at about 1,516% growth annually. That's not realistic to sustain that. The Albanese government, since we've come in, wants to get the Scheme back on track and we've been doing a lot of other things stamp down on fraud. We want to eliminate price gouging. We're putting people with lived experience in charge of the NDIS. Kurt Fearnley is now the chair, great Australian. We're also getting people out of hospital more quickly so they're not stranded in hospital and finding them accommodation. So we're doing a range of measures. This first bill is the result, as I said, of over a year's hard work. But to be very clear to people, I understand and that when you talk about any change at all, people get anxious. People with disabilities and their carers work bloody hard and just, you know, and they don't want to lose what they've got. And I'm saying that this proposed law, which will be the subject that will consult the opposition and the crossbench and talk to people with disability in coming weeks and months. We're not changing the eligibility for the Scheme. The plans will be set the same way that they currently are, and funding will still be based on need, but we do need to put some cost control in around things, money being wasted. And we want to start a conversation with the states, which will continue, the one which we had from last December where we committed with the states. How do we make sure the NDIS is not the only lifeboat in the ocean-

LIPSON: So what do you mean by you're not changing the eligibility under the Scheme? There'll be no changes to who will be on the Scheme?

SHORTEN: I'm saying that this bill doesn't change eligibility or anything.

LIPSON: You are at some point in the future. This is what this discussion with the States is about, isn't it? Which is shifting some people who are able to be shifted, who aren't going to lose out, I guess, um, from the NDIS Scheme to the existing foundational supports in the states, that is sort of the health system, the education system that's sorting them through that system. Right?

SHORTEN: I think the states are worried, uh, that all of a sudden tens and hundreds of thousands of people are going to somehow not be on the NDIS and are going to turn up tomorrow looking for support from the state governments. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have forecast that with the reforms that we're doing that we will see about an 8% annual growth in the Scheme in about three years. I stress 8% down from 15. Yeah, that's a lot. It is. But I tell you what, no other Scheme in Australia has promised a target of 8% growth. So what that means is there'll be more people on the Scheme than there are now. But what we want to do is just make sure that we're getting the right assistance to meet people's actual support needs.

LIPSON: Can you guarantee that people with disabilities won't fall through the gaps? When that system changes?

SHORTEN: I can guarantee that I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that both the NDIS is there and that we start building supports outside the Scheme. Um, at the moment what's happening is that you can get NDIS, which is great, but if you don't get NDIS there's not that much support. I was involved with creating the NDIS with thousands of uh, everyday disability activists back in oh eight and oh nine and ten. It's quite a privilege to come back and see how we can get the Scheme back on track ten years later. The Scheme was never designed for every Australian with a disability. What's happened? And I'm not going to blame anyone because that gets us precisely. Nowhere is that there's been, uh, I think, a less focus on services for people who shouldn't be on the NDIS, and there's not a lot there for them. That's why I use that analogy. It's only lifeboat in the ocean. So we're having an overdue conversation. Evolution not revolution. Working with the states who were crucial co-governors of the Scheme. How do we build support services outside the Scheme for people who don't need the full orchestra of the NDIS, but still need some support?

LIPSON: But as you know, the states are very worried that they will end up carrying on funding here, that any blow up blow outs in the future will be on them. Can you guarantee that this won't increase pressure on already straining hospital and education systems in the States?

SHORTEN: It's a great question, David, but you're asking me. I'm not in charge of the hospitals and the schools of Australia. If I was, then I'd probably give you that guarantee. I think there's more things influencing hospital care in Australia and schools than us, making sure that there's modest supports for people with disabilities. What I can guarantee is this is not about, um, denying people support when they need it. It's about finishing the job. The NDIS is incredible around the world. It's changing hundreds of thousands of lives. No one else in the world has something as good and clever and important and worthwhile as this. But it's not the full story, the review, which we're relying on to inspire much of our reforms, said, hey NDIS, let's make that run better. You do need to trim the growth there because there's stuff getting spent which just shouldn't be being spent. But the other story is what exists for people outside the Scheme. What we've got to do is remove this sort of, uh, in and out mentality where “I must get the Scheme, otherwise I get nothing”.

LIPSON: Yeah, Bill shorten, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining us.

SHORTEN: Excellent. Lovely to catch up.