Minister Shorten doorstop interview at Hearing Australia Belconnen


SUBJECTS: Hearing Australia testing program; NDIS legislative reforms; NDIS access and State justice systems

ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FENNER: We're here today at Hearing Australia, a terrific resource for Canberrans and indeed a resource across the nation. I'm here with Bill Shorten, the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Minister for Government Services. My name is Andrew Leigh, the federal member for Fenner, and I just want to thank the whole team here at Hearing Australia for the vital work that you do. Those critical tests, the fittings, ensuring that more Australians are included in Australian society. And there's no one in federal Parliament who has done more to shape an inclusive Australia for people with disability than Bill Shorten. So, I'll hand over now to Bill.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THIS NDIS AND GIVERNMENT SERVICES: Thanks Andrew. Good afternoon, everybody. Lovely to be at Belconnen. Very pleased to see the ongoing work of Hearing Australia. Hearing loss is a fact of life, but it's important that Australians know that when they have hearing loss, they can receive support. Hearing Australia annually is looking after nearly 290,000 of our fellow Australians, from children living in our remote communities, right through to the big city, to pensioners, to veterans, to other people who need support. The Belconnen office has already seen 1400 people this year. It's a great resource and we'd encourage people to come into a 15-minute hearing test. It's free for anyone over 18. And we, just the earlier that we can detect hearing loss, the more that people can strategies into place, so the hearing loss doesn't define a person. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: I'd just like to ask on the NDIS legislation, some disability advocates from People With Disabilities Australia and some other agencies said that it wasn't proper co-design around this that those advocates that were consulted had to sign NDAs. What's your response to that criticism, and why did people have to sign NDAs for that process?

SHORTEN: First of all, the Parliament is where you consult. I guess it's a catch 22. If we didn't have the legislation presented to Parliament, we'd be accused of being secretive. And if we present the legislation to Parliament, and we're accused of, uh, being secretive. So, you really can't win, can you, some days. The point about the Parliament process is that we tabled the legislation. The legislation reflects the best experience from the review, reflects the best advice that we receive from the NDIA, the Department of Social Services. There will now be an extensive Senate process to examine the work. And in terms of consultations before this, ever since I got elected and appointed as the Minister, I've been consulting on the future of the NDIS. I understand that there's always legitimate concern about changes. For me, what motivates the Albanese government is the best interests of the participants on this Scheme, making sure that the NDIS is sustainable for future generations. And that's been governing our actions to now and we'll continue to do so in the future.

JOURNALIST: So, do you think those who say they want co-design are unfounded?

SHORTEN: I think that if you look at the work that we've done between the review, the work of the NDIA board, the work of the NDIA, I think the ledger shows that this is a government who does consult, but I can understand that talk of any changes to legislation would create a period of concern, because people have battled hard to get what they've got. And of course, some of the times when we cover the issues, by the time it reaches out into social media world, facts can be distorted. We'll just do a proper consultation. We have the Parliament; the draft legislation is in the Parliament. As I make clear in my second reading speech, that we think this bill is a genuine reflection of what we've heard so far. And of course, they will welcome comments in the next number of weeks and months.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what about the NDAs to be signed as part of this process.

SHORTEN: Um, in terms of consulting people, the use of NDAs is not unusual.

JOURNALIST: Minister, I'd like to ask you a few questions about reports that sex offenders have been receiving substantial support packages from the NDIS to live under supervision in the community after being released from detention. In some of those cases, packages have of over $1 million. Do you think it's appropriate that the NDIS is the one who is funding these kinds of support and monitoring arrangements for sex offenders that used to be done by States?

SHORTEN: I saw the headline where your newspaper said, there was a clear implication that paedophiles are getting NDIS funding. I think that was a bit over the top. Uh, fair enough that you wrote it. There are some people, when they come out of jail, we have an obligation to provide disability supports for. I think the vast majority of people on the Scheme are not sex offenders. In terms of the States, which was your question? Um, the States are responsible for the justice system and for when people are released into the community, we have an obligation to look at people with disability needs and in terms of their security and safety needs, that is a state issue.

JOURNALIST: So, do you think that NDIS should be approving plans like this that involve services such as supervision?

SHORTEN: Have you got an example in mind?

JOURNALIST: Um, I think you are familiar with the reports from today and read them out in detail. Um, so, for example, one 40-year-old man who -

SHORTEN: Well, let me save you time, if it's about individual matters, you’ll understand we can't comment on that.

JOURNALIST: I guess it's a broad as a broad principle, are these the kind of services that you want the NDIS to be providing, or should they be provided through other measures such as state services?

SHORTEN: I want the NDIS to be provided to people who have got severe and profound disabilities and need assistance with living. A very tiny group of those people might include people who have served time in jail. In terms of the safety of the community, that is an obligation upon state police and justice systems.

JOURNALIST: Right, and so is, is the situation we have there where there are circumstances like this and packages like this within the NDIS, is that a case of States abrogating their responsibility for community supervision in these circumstances?

SHORTEN: I'm not going to sensationalise the issue. 646,000 people receive supports in the NDIS. I will always stand up for the NDIS and for the people on the Scheme who are eligible on the Scheme to receive support. I think it's a little easy just to go to very extreme examples and try and discredit the whole Scheme. I'd refer you to the three earlier answers that we gave you in this conference and the material that we provided to you over a number of hours as you prepared that story. And really, there's nothing much more I can add.

JOURNALIST: Can you progress that you were asking the agency about to investigate whether people should be agency managed, not self-managed in some cases?

SHORTEN: That’s underway.

JOURNALIST: Okay, so there's no update on that yet?

SHORTEN: No, that's underway.

JOURNALIST: Do you know when there might be a time on that?

SHORTEN: What happens when someone is convicted of crimes, they do the time. You would appreciate that that is a State matter. We don't run the prison system. We don't run the police system in each state. When people come out of jail, a small number of the Scheme will be people who have served time in jail, if they're eligible for disability supports, they receive it in terms of public safety and community safety, that really is a matter for the States.

JOURNALIST: Just finally, again, on the transparency issue, with the FOI’s, there has still been a discussion about the modelling behind the 8% that there is something the department has identified, there's about half a page or a page that underpins that, but that it's not appropriate to release. There is criticism about the lack of transparency regarding that. What's your response? Why can't that model be released?

SHORTEN: I'll take the advice of the department.