Minister Shorten interview on 2GB Mornings with Ray Hadley


SUBJECTS: Eliminating fraud and overcharging in the NDIS

RAY HADLEY, HOST: I have spoken to Bill Shorten on many occasions since he became the Minister for this fiasco. He's back on the line. Minister, good morning.


HADLEY: I think it's fair to say I've given you a fair shake at the sav to use one of your former colleagues’ expressions. I think I've been more than patient with all of this, but I've got document after document after document in front of me from people, including documents from your own head of fraud and integrity, John Dardo, who tell me that the whole system is basically not far away from collapsing.

SHORTEN: Is there a question after that, Ray?

HADLEY: Yeah. Is it going to collapse? Are you going to keep spending billions of dollars or what are you going to do about it.

SHORTEN: No, it's not going to collapse. We're fixing it. And you know, I get the frustration. But, you know, the very fact you're quoting John Dardo. Do you know much about him?

HADLEY: No, I don't.

SHORTEN: Let me tell you a bit about him. I hired him. He's a gun in tax, he was in the ATO. He's very good at creating systems to stop rorts. Now it's taken years. He spent six years working in tax in terms of the digital transformation. Now I become the Minister. I look at the existing stock of people I've got in the old agency people, nice people, but I didn't think they were good enough. So, I personally went out to John, who had a reputation across Government, I said I just need someone hard. And I tried to persuade him, and he did agree to come on board. So, the very fact that we're talking about what John Dardo is uncovering is because I hired him. You know, I wish that I could click my fingers and sort it all out in one day and you'll, you know, you've said, oh, you know, you've given me a fair suck of the proverbial sap. Thank you. But we are doing a lot more today than the mess that I inherited two years ago. And the very fact we're talking about John Dardo is because the bloke you've got on the phone, Bill Shorten, convinced him to come and work for us so we could get the best of the best.

HADLEY: Okay, well, given you gave him the job, were you stunned by the revelations that have been shared today? About 90% of our plan managers that managed between 0 and 100 plans. That's out of 1000 managers.

SHORTEN: I have to say, I knew there were problems before we came into Government.

HADLEY: Right.

SHORTEN: But now we've got in here. Yes, I'm shocked... and it was Dardo, Dardo has got a team called the Fraud Fusion Taskforce. Now, I set that up. I convinced my colleagues to give me money to set this taskforce up at the end of 2022. It now covers 19 agencies. What shocked me is that you had 19 different Government departments who weren't talking to each other. We've got that happening. And what that's uncovered is that since - and by the way, I must say there is some good plan managers out there. There's some very good providers. But what the Fraud Fusion Taskforce did is they set the anonymized data of the 900 smallest plan managers, and it found out that 300 plus had declared no income to the ATO. Now, if the NDIA is paying the money, but they're not declaring it to another Government agency, that's a big problem. But it's taken us 12 months to get to the bottom of that. And that's what John's talking about yesterday.

HADLEY: Okay. Well, just while we're there and John's the head of fraud and integrity for the NDIA, what role does the Acting Commissioner Michael Phelan play? The former deputy AFP commissioner, where does he fit into all of this? Michael Phelan.

SHORTEN: The National Disability Insurance Agency administers the Scheme. That was set up in 2013, 2014. In about 2018, the Libs under Turnbull set up the Safeguard and Quality Commission that's meant to look after quality and safeguard within the system. It was the right idea, but they underfunded it. What's happened since then is it's had two heads, you know, but they haven't been funded to succeed. The previous head who I inherited, resigned. And I was able to encourage Mike Phelan, the former police deputy commissioner, head of the crime commission, to be the interim new regulator. I want to bring an investigatory eye, someone who's, you know, who's not naive, who's been around criminal networks and spotted the patterns. So, he's now giving me the prosecution's teeth and changing the culture there. There's very good people at that. Safeguards regulator, but they’ve needed the leadership.

HADLEY: The problem is he's not an applicant. He's not an applicant for the full-time role. He doesn't want the full-time role.

SHORTEN: Yeah, no I have had that discussion with him. But he's setting up the right culture. But we're now, we'll get we'll get some very good and tough people into that role.  There’s a shortlist underway/

HADLEY: Okay, well let me share this with you okay. There's a copper 22 years in the Queensland Police Service, 12 years in the AFP. I can't play golf every day, so I landed a senior investigative role and compliance contractor with the NDIS. Ray. I lasted eight weeks, 32 years in policing, and pardon my French, it's a shitshow. Terribly disorganized, lacking direction. Michael Phelan and the acting commissioner is a capable fella. But he won't be an applicant for the full-time job, and there'd be a reason for that. He doesn't want the pain and suffering. So, what do you - what's your reply to the fact that he's a bloke with 32 years on the clock telling me and you, it's a shitshow.

SHORTEN: Well, I think that he's got some points to make there. I don't know when which eight weeks he worked there. I've had my concerns about the joint, and now I've got someone new in. Mike Phelan and I are working closely. I handpicked him to do it. That should at least reassure some of your listeners who have got their concerns that what I want is the best investigatory knowledge and changing the culture. The people at the safeguards commission are alright. But the problem is they haven't had the investment. I've moved them from 500 people to 1000, and we've given them, you know, Mike Phelan, when he got there, said we they have a state-of-the-art investigation system for 1988. We want to bring it up to 2024.

HADLEY: Let's go back to that phone call you just heard, or the presentation of a phone call. Now that bloke's put himself on YouTube. I'm not, I've edited out his name, the name of the person he's talking to, his address and all the rest of it. But he's obviously quite proud of it. Now, if you listen to the full 80 minutes like I did this morning, he's quite eloquent. I don't know what his health concerns are, but he's getting between $4 and $500,000. Mate, it’s a rort. Something's going on.

SHORTEN: I don't know the gentleman's circumstances.

HADLEY: Well, I can tell you his name because it's easily disclosed on YouTube. He gave his name, his address, his age and all the details.

SHORTEN: I'm just saying, you know, fair's fair. You've played me two people talking, I didn't - I’m not saying that what I've heard is wrong. I don't think it is, but I need to find out why the person has it. A few people do have very high packages. The average package, though, is under 100,000 bucks. Most of the kids on the Scheme, their average package is, you know, $20-30,000. I'd have to - I mean, I can be more precise.

HADLEY: No, I'm not going to hold you to that. But let's go to A Current Affair on Monday night. Okay. Let's go to A Current Affair. And you've got plenty of criticism for your appearance. I don't totally adhere to it. I didn't think you tried to bully Ally because she's too tough for anyone to bully.

SHORTEN: I didn't try and bully anyone.

HADLEY: I didn't say, I didn't say, I said you said it, I said people.

SHORTEN: No, no you were very good, Ray. You were even-handed.

HADLEY: Yeah, that's what I try to be Minister. Anyway, in relation to one bloke, Kyle. Okay. Now Kyle's there in a three-piece suit, looking better than smarter than I do most days. And he's obviously got some significant health issues, ADHD, schizophrenia. And so, I nearly fell off my chair. $370,000 a year, which has been knocked off, allegedly by Denise Clissold and the company. I mean, but full-time care 24/7. And then I read the reason he's on full time care is because he's got a problem with the punt. They don't want him to go down to the local rubbity and pump it through poker machines, so they've got to keep an eye on him 24/7 so he doesn't ill spend the $370 grand that you give him, or I give him, or the rest of the mob give him. I mean, how many other people are getting $370 grand a year, $7,000 a week, $7,000 a week, probably more than you're paying, John Dardo, I mean, really? On what basis does someone get 370,000 a year?

SHORTEN: I don't know Kyle’s, all his circumstances. I understand he has a well, I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about it, but I understand - well, he said it himself didn't he - he has a, uh, he has um, he got unspecified intellectual disability.

HADLEY: ADHD, autism, he's declared that, look, I'm not here to bash the poor bugger up. He's got enough problems.

SHORTEN: I'm coming to answer your question. When it's the bigger packages, it generally is a signpost that they're getting carers in, you know, for a lot of hours in a day.

HADLEY: 24/7, apparently.

SHORTEN: Yeah. The SIL packages are without a doubt, the supported independent living, are the most expensive component of the Scheme. I don't know if you think he's getting too much or not. I mean, I assume the man has been assessed as that’s his needs.

HADLEY: I wish they'd assess me. I mean, look, if you don't think $370 grand is-

SHORTEN: I get assessed every day. I understand the problem.

HADLEY: Well, I'm trying to assess you now, but if you don't think giving someone $370 grand a year and not checking that it's getting knocked off, allegedly by Denise Clissold.

SHORTEN: Well, that's the issue. That's the issue I do think - listen, I just want to say most participants, the vast number I think are ridgy didge, but I do think that some of the money gets spent on things which are beyond the scope of the Scheme and be on the original intention and beyond what I think the community expected. I also think that there's been a huge level of naivety in the Scheme, for the best part of a decade. And by naivety, what I mean is that where there's Government money, it attracts flies like a barbecue, and there's been insufficient checking of the back office. And that's why I brought in experts like Mr. Dardo, former Commissioner Phelan, because there hasn't been the due diligence done on the systems to check out the rorters.

And a lot of people - and I get bombarded both ways. You know, you've got everyone who's outraged on watching A Current Affair, but I also get a whole lot of the sort of the Greens and the disability advocates who say I'm being hard on participants, and then I get a lot of providers who say, we do a good job. I want to be really clear. I think most people on the Scheme are okay. I think a lot of the service providers are okay, but there's an unacceptable long tail of rorts. And I do think that we are on the right track, we've got 20 prosecutions in court right now. There's another 12 in the waiting for the public prosecutors. There's 210 investigations, 220 investigations, 510 compliance notices. I get your basic point is, listen, you know, you've been in this two years. Why is it all still going on? Because you know what? We’re working in the heat of the day, doing the hard work, and it just takes time. But I'm not making any excuses. It's not acceptable.

HADLEY: Well, can I save you, can I save you one aggravation. You know, when the Greens complain, just dismiss them. They're all stark raving mad, so just dismiss them. Don't worry about what the Greens say. Because whatever they say, they're stark raving mad. If you work on that basis.

SHORTEN: Well, in this area, they've been very irresponsible.

HADLEY: No, no, no, they're stark raving mad. And if you take any notice of them, you're stark raving mad, unfortunately.

SHORTEN: Well, not on this I am, I'm certainly not. And I have to say that whilst I'm critical of the previous Government. Ah, the current opposition spokesman, Michael Sukkar, he just says we just want fair dinkum changes. So that bit of politics is working in the right direction for once.

HADLEY: Now, you and I had a discussion on the 8th of December, and you and I talked about the number of these organisations who are not registered. And I nearly fell off my chair when you said, well, yes, they're not registered. And you agreed, well, we've got to have more registered, we've got to have some sort of regulation. So here we are at into June, and someone sends me a thing overnight for the Australian Health Company. Now I sent it to your office. I hope you've been able to see it. “The Australian Health Company provides luxury accommodation and tailored experience for the NDIS”. So, we check it out. They're registered in Maroochydore, their offices at Leppington, which is in southwestern Sydney out past Liverpool, not normally where you have a high-powered business at Leppington. Anyway, they're not registered. And they what they sort of suggest to it. And they've got all these videos of beautiful people overlooking beaches and cruise ships and laying on floaties on, you know, beaches and surfboards and paddle boards and jumping into pools. NDIS short term accommodation, NDIS long term accommodation. What I'd like you to do for me by the end of business today is get rid of this mob, get rid of them all together, the Australian Health Company. Get someone, John Dardo, someone else to ring them and say, listen, you're closing your doors. You bastards aren't doing this anymore.

SHORTEN: You had the courtesy to send that to us about an hour ago. In the meantime, I have asked, who are this mob? And I've got two bits of information. One is, I don’t want to give away too much, but they are on the radar. People are looking at them. Uh, but there's another problem. And it goes to this registration. Most service providers are unregistered. We don't have the same right to tackle unregistered service providers. Now, in December, we said we wanted to. I've got a very skilled lawyer, Natalie Wade, and a team, who are presenting me with their recommendations and how we create registration for service providers. And I'll get that report in two weeks’ time, as to how to do it.

HADLEY: Okay. A couple of other things. And you remember I told you the story about the bloke on the NDIS getting his lawn mowed on the Central Coast, and the people mowed his lawn next door, and he had two lazy bastard sons sitting on the veranda watching the bugger, and the bloke next door got it done for $150. The NDIS paid him $350 to do the same area of lawn. Now here's another one from a listener on the Northern Beaches. When you talk to the minister, ask him why my child who attends an occupational therapy is charged differently compared to her classmate who receives the same service but is on the NDIS. It seems the other child is charged double for the same service that my child gets. You see, it's what I spoke to you about before, Bill. It's about the BER, Remember that, the BER. Wasn't that a great idea? The building, the education revolution, where we had five tiers, where the lead contractor got this past it, the next tier, next tier, next tier. So, a covered outdoor learning area that used to cost 400,000, cost 2 million because it was being funded by the Rudd Government. Here we are today talking about the same thing with the NDIS. As soon as you mention NDIS, someone, whether they're an occupational therapist or someone else says, oh, you're $100, but they're $300 because you're not, they're not paying for it. The Government is.

SHORTEN: Okay. Well, you'll be pleased to know that in between our conversations, I've now written to every participant and given them the good news that's now illegal to charge this wedding tax. So, if your child is on the NDIS and you get charged more, if you've got to cancel, if you get charged more for seeing it and they're receiving an identical service to someone not on the Scheme, that's illegal. And I've told every participant and every family, so I can't be on every medical -

HADLEY: Okay. No, well, the message -

SHORTEN: But I’ve made it illegal.

HADLEY: Okay. Now one final thing, because I've taken enough of your time. There's an ad. This comes – now look, I have great compassion, and I don't want to be a narc. And so, this is going to collapse. And you've told me it won't. But if we keep going the way we are, it will. But this is - I have great compassion for parents with special needs children. Because for the sake of God, go we all, including me with my grandchildren now. But here's a go. Okay, so a Facebook advertiser, a child’s camp, for the next school holidays for children with autism. When I inquire to discuss the cost $9,000, which has to come out of the NDIS, obviously, for a five-day camp, if I've got two autistic children, the second kid gets $5,000. The charges don't include travel to and from the camp - on what planet is that acceptable? I'm appalled as a carer of children with autism and a taxpayer. So, I go to it. This mob is called the Autism Camp of Australia. “Escape to this eco resort Tweed Byron for a life changing winter adventure. Join us for the Autism Camp Australia New South Wales camp, designed for campers 7 to 14 of all abilities. Make new friends, create lasting memories of breathtaking landscapes. Reserve your spot now”, and it's called Autism Camp I mean, can you chase them up like you chase the other mob up and see whether they do exist?

SHORTEN: We will. And I just say to people who are running overpriced services, your time is - we’re going to chase you out of the business because deliver a service, but don't treat NDIS money as for-profit money to just build your second veranda on your beach house.

HADLEY: Okay. And I did say one final thing, but there is one final thing. Uh, Denise Clissold, the subject of the Australian Current Affair report on Monday night. And I know you didn't know about it, but now you do. She's got a property being sold on the edge of Lake Macquarie on Saturday with McGrath Real Estate, with an indication of 1.5 million. I thought when I saw it, maybe she's not the owner, but I then got the contract for the sale of the property. She is the owner. Do you think the, could you ring your old mate at the ATO and say, look boys, slip up to Eraring on Saturday just in case she gets 2.5 million. So, you can make some claim on the 1.8 million she owes you, along with the other 4 million she owes everyone else.

SHORTEN: I'd say she's been more watched than the - you know, I don't want to comment on whether or not she's a good or bad person, but I'd say she's more watched than the Taiwan Strait, and the liquidator will be watching all those assets. So, for people who think somehow, I don't know, there's no accountability, there'll be, I suspect, with the attention that that family's had, the ATO and the liquidator will be all over that transaction like a rash.

HADLEY: Okay. Well, one like calamine lotion as I often, say, now a former sex worker named Estelle. This has just been sent to me, so it's not as if I'm springing on you. I haven't heard it myself. She's teaching people on YouTube how to get the NDIS. Have a listen to this for the first time, as I will.

AUDIO PACKAGE: And the means test means you don't have to prove that you're poor. You don't have to prove that you're worthy for this. You just have to prove that you're disabled and that it impairs you in your day-to-day living. So, the NDIS is not means tested. It means if you have money, it doesn't matter. If you have a supportive family or lots of people around, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you meet the eligibility criteria.

HADLEY: That's a former sex worker called Estelle with a how to lesson on YouTube. I mean, I don't know who Estelle is. Be nice to find out where she's at and what she's doing.

SHORTEN: Well, listen, this [inaudible] it's the history of Government Schemes. Since the Rum Corps put in a tax, there's the people trying to flog Government money. Some services are good, many are good, some are just full of BS. But, you know, if you give us the details. What we're doing is we want to register providers. We want to make sure that we've got enough investigators to follow up the complaints. We want to make sure that we're only funding supports, which are evidence based. We're trying to - we're not trying, we are, also putting in the back office systems to make sure that there's not providers who are having a lend of the system. We've just got to invest in that infrastructure. I know it's not as satisfying as sending the cars around to kick down a door by lunchtime, but I can tell you one thing. The fact that we're having this discussion is because for the last two years, all I've given a stuff about in politics is how do we fix up the NDIS and make a better deal?


SHORTEN: And that's what you're doing here.

HADLEY: Well, I hope so. Thanks for your time as always.

SHORTEN: Thank you. Bye.

HADLEY: Bill Shorten, NDIS Minister, I hope that answered a few questions.