Minister Shorten interview on ABC Perth Mornings with Nadia Mitsopoulos

SUBJECTS: States submission on NDIS legislation; NDIS sustainability and growth; Budget funding for NDIS.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS, HOST ABC PERTH MORNINGS: Now, we found out today that state Premiers have got together and written a letter to the NDIS Minister, Bill Shorten, accusing him of making hasty changes to the NDIS. Now, they say they need more detail about who will be able to access the NDIS, who will not be able to access the NDIS because ultimately the state governments will have to pay more money to provide some of the services, for instance, in schools. They know that. Be well aware, this is a stoush about money and we always love it when the Prime Minister, the federal government, rather goes up against the state governments. Now, Premier Roger Cook was asked about this letter that he co signed. Here's what he had to say this morning.

RODGER COOK, WA PREMIER: [audio clip] Concerns is that this legislation has been brought to parliament without proper consultation with the States. Now, part of that is explained by the Commonwealth government that they had to introduce the legislation in order for the objectives of the legislation to be reflected in their budget papers. So, we understand they are working to a timeline, but we want to see better outcomes for NDIS users, not simply a deal that bill shortly wants to push through. I think the federal Minister is particularly focused on the cost blowouts associated with NDIS. If you have NDIS providers, owners of companies that are driving Porsches, you know the system isn't working. We want to continue to improve the outcomes for NDIS users and we're willing to work with the commonwealth to make that happen.

MITSOPOULOS: Ok. That was the premier, Roger Cook, speaking a little earlier this morning. Well, as I mentioned, I did catch up with Bill Shorten, the NDIS Minister. We spoke a little earlier this morning. Minister, good morning.


MITSOPOULOS: Premiers  are concerned you are making hasty changes to the NDIS that could lead to worse outcomes for participants. How do you respond to those concerns in the letter you received?

SHORTEN: People with disability don't have time to sit around and wait for the States to catch up. People with disability are impatient for change. You could take what the Premiers  are saying perhaps more seriously if we hadn't had a five year disability royal commission, if we hadn't had a twelve month root and branch review into the NDIS. The Premiers  agreed twelve months ago to lift their engagement in terms of the NDIS. In December of last year, they agreed to build out services outside the Scheme. But perhaps they didn't think the Federal Government or people with disability was serious. So, I think they still want more and more time. People with disability don't want another review. They know what needs to be done, they just want us to get on with it.

MITSOPOULOS: But what they're saying they want is detail who will be in the Scheme, who won't be in the Scheme. Isn't that fair enough to have that sort of detail before this legislation goes through?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, we've been talking about this since we got elected. And more significantly, though, we know there's 650,000 people in the Scheme, we know that the Scheme is going to go up and there'll be thousands more every quarter going into it. The States need to get on board and work with people with disability and some are doing it, by the way, it's not all bleak. I think the letter that the Premiers  wrote probably is underselling what they're doing. In Queensland they're doing very good work talking to disability organisations about extra services. But it's as simple as this. The NDIS was never to be the only lifeboat in the ocean. What all of us need to do, other Federal departments, State governments, local council, is provide a range of services for people with disability who don't get onto the NDIS but still need some support. We know the story. You know the story you've covered on your show. It's better buses, better trains, better support in schools, making sure there is some mental health support for people, making sure that the criminal justice systems are dealing with people with intellectual disability. None of this is new. It's our housing that we design. It's just that we've got to make a decision to commit.

MITSOPOULOS: Do you then have an explicit list of what services will be covered and what won't be? Has that list been finalised?

SHORTEN: Explicit list of services will be covered by- for Australians with disability? You know that you've covered it.

MITSOPOULOS: Yeah-but isn't the concern that - my understanding with this letter is, the concern is with Premiers  that, for instance, if it will no longer cover children with autism, for instance-

SHORTEN: That’s not right.

MITSOPOULOS: -they're arguing there'll be a service gap for some people.

SHORTEN: Can we just tell the truth? Because people with disability hate being used as a political football.


SHORTEN: The reality is that there'll be hundreds of thousands of young people still on the NDIS. It's just that the States are worried they'll have to do more to support kids with disabilities in the school system and, yes, they probably should. We're forecasting the Scheme will go up in terms of numbers and in terms of investment. But at the moment it is the only lifeboat in the ocean. And what we need to do is have the right supports for people, not just one size fits all.

MITSOPOULOS: My guest this morning on ABC Radio Perth and WA is Bill Shorten, the NDIS. Minister, is this about money, then, Minister, is this about the fact that State Governments are going to have to put more money into this and they'd rather you fund it?

SHORTEN: Probably. The reality, though, is that we're going to put more money in every year for the foreseeable future. And I think that the States, I think the States have got a sort of internal battle in their own head. They know they need to do more. But part of the challenge is that States have got other priorities. I mean, we're providing much extra, much greater funding in hospitals. But the deal is they step up and look after people who were never intended to be on the NDIS. And the reality is that States aren't doing quite a lot of what they're worried about doing. It's just that I don't think that they're fully engaged and I think they're a bit surprised that the federal government's actually said, we're going to do this, and now we are. Maybe that's not the way they view federal governments. We had a disability royal commission, which went for five years. We've had a review into the NDIS, which you've covered several times on your show for the whole thing for 2023. What it said is that the NDIS should be run better and we're doing it. We're cracking down on fraud. We've got more people working in the Agency, but we also need to reform the legislation. But we've also said that, and this is what the review into the Scheme said, you've got to have services for people who were never intended to be on the NDIS out there in the community. And now the States are sort of saying, oh, we don't know what that means. Well, you do, actually, because you're already doing quite a bit of it. It's about inclusion.

MITSOPOULOS: And have the Premiers asked you for more money to cover those services that they'll need to pick up, like you said, for instance, you know, helping kids in schools. Have they asked for more funding from you for that?

SHORTEN: Well, this is what's a bit odd about them, because the Federal Government is prepared to use some of the money that we're not outlaying in the NDIS to invest in a system of supports outside the Scheme. But some of the States are cash strapped. So, they just don't want to do anything. Not because they're bad people, but because NSW has upset at its share of the GST. You know, Victoria's building some very expensive infrastructure and they start saying, well, that's our priority. You just worry about people with disability, but that's not how it rolls. People with disability are citizens in those States and they have a reasonable expectation of support, so we'll work with them. But the point about it is that we need to fix this because people with disability don't have time to sit around and wait. They're impatient for change. The review said that we had to do more outside the Scheme. For twelve months we've been telling the States this and now I think they seem a bit surprised. On one hand that we're actually meant what we said, and on the other hand, I think that because they got out of the business of disability services and made everything NDIS, they're trying to rebuild their muscle memory on delivering services. But in the meantime, this is not about their worst nightmares. And by the way, I think the States let themselves down when they say, oh, we don't want to be responsible for people with disability. That's someone else's job. Just remember how that is heard by people with disability and their families and the people who love them. Every level of government's got obligations to support people with disability and that's what we want to do together.

MITSOPOULOS: And on that point, Minister, you were saying that, you know, state government's got out of the business of disability. Do you think they really want to get back into it? Or would they rather you just handle all that and you continue to cover and fund what you're funding?

SHORTEN: Well, they may think they're out of the business disability and to be fair, they are doing disability services. So, nothing is ever black and white. But if you run a bus or a train system in your state, you're not out of the business of disability. If you run housing standards, you're not out of the business of disability. If you run schools and tafes, you're not out of the business of disability. If you run jails, you're not out of the business of disability. Like people with disability are us. It's everyone. So, it could be any of us. So, anyone who thinks that disability can be neatly pigeonholed as an NDIS matter is underestimating the life of a person with a disability who simply wants to be included. The NDIS is the best Scheme of its sort in the world, but we need to make it operate better. It's changing lives, it's an investment, but it's growing too fast. And we think we can rein in some of the growth. That's all. Not massive cuts. But the problem is that state governments, rather than resist it, and when they get together with the Prime Minister, they say the right things and that's good. Why do we have to. Why do people with disability have to keep waiting? The NDIS is like a chapter in the story of Australians with disability. Now we want to write another chapter and that is going to involve engagement. But when the States say, slow down, slow down, I worry that just becomes an excuse to keep doing the minimum possible. And we'll work through. We can make improvements to the legislation, but the parliament. Not everything they've said is wrong, but the general proposition that somehow time is neutral and that we can just keep waiting till some perfect date in the future. I'd just say to the States, don't make the good the enemy of the perfect.

MITSOPOULOS: Finally, Minister, you talked there about needing to rein in the growth of the NDIS to make it sustainable. What are the figures around that? What were you save with these changes?

SHORTEN: Well, the Scheme is growing at nearly 20% this year. That's not sustainable. We'd like to get it down to about 8% in future years, in about two, three years time. That is literally billions of dollars. But the beauty is we forecast that we will invest $211 billion over the next four years into the Scheme. We forecast that there's 650,000 people receiving supports. Now. That number will be in the 700,000 in four years time. This is not about slash and burn, as the States would sort of scare people with. But why would we keep growing inefficiently at 20% when we can use some of that margin and reinvest it with the States in partnership with the States. Like saying to the States, you've got to do something, which we're not prepared to be there with you on. But people with disability, they're not a problem, they're not a nuisance, they're not an inconvenience, and they're not someone else's responsibility. They're all of us.

MITSOPOULOS: I'll leave it there. Appreciate your time, Minister. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Thank you.