Minister Shorten doorstop interview at Australian Parliament House in Canberra


SUBJECTS: Senator Pauline Hanson supports NDIS Amendments Bill

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: The best possible National Disability Insurance Scheme. And that is why I again ask the Liberal Party and the Greens in the Senate to stop wasting time and to pass, if not all, of the legislation, key parts of the legislation, which are a substantial start in getting the Scheme back on track. Specifically, the current Act says there are things you can spend money on in the Scheme. And it also says that if other government agencies provide supports, then you don't get to ask the Scheme for that. But there's been a category of claims matters which according to the operational guidance of the NDIA, money shouldn't be spent on. But there's been successive try-ons from a small number of people and a small number of providers who are really taking a lend of the Scheme. And through a series of court decisions, they're getting money spent on matters which was never the intended, pass that this week means that we can explicitly rule out money being spent on mortgages, rents, steam rooms, crystal therapy, cuddle therapy, somatic therapy, cryptocurrency. In the process of lobbying our Senators, I've been talking with Senator Pauline Hanson. She has always been pretty firm and clear with me that she thinks that things need to be straightened up. But I'm really pleased today that she's willing to add her voice about the need to move on parts of reforming the NDIS, because, as you can see from our out of touch cost-of-living, since the Coalition and their Green allies have delayed this Bill for another eight weeks, we now see the cost to the taxpayer is $137 million and climbing. But why don’t I now hand over to Senator Hanson and then we can take questions.

SENATOR PAULINE HANSON: Thank you very much. Since I was first informed about the NDIS in 2016, my first year in Parliament here, returned to Parliament, I should say. I was approached by mothers that brought their disabled children here. It was heartfelt and I knew their concerns. Their whole issue was who would be there to look after my children when I am no longer here to do it? So it's important for the Scheme, what it stands for and what it represents. Over the years I have seen the complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars. People that are on the Scheme, chronic fatigue, people who shouldn't be on the Scheme. It's just been it has completely blown out of proportion. And the number of people that we have on it now is approximately over 650,000 people. You're looking at $45 billion debt, you know, to the to the Commonwealth. Then on top of that, that's going to grow to over $90 billion in the 2030s. It is unsustainable. So, what this whole Scheme was structured for and set up for will not be able to provide for those people who desperately require it. Over the years, and especially since I've actually dealt with Roberts and Reynolds, I was not impressed with them at all and how this was handled. I worked with Bill Shorten over the years. He's been Minister of this portfolio, and I hounded him over this. That changes needed to be done and it needed to be cleaned up. And that's why I'm here talking today and I'm supporting Mr. Shorten on this legislation that's been put forward. It is going to clean up. And I've got a list here and I've got to show me, you know, you were talking about people out there are going through a crisis, cost-of-living crisis. And yet if you're on NDIS you can get your groceries paid for your gambling, you can get your alcohol, you can get, you know, petrol. It’s just unbelievable. You can get your bills paid for; your phones paid for. This is what they're saying. It is just unbelievable. That has to stop. And that's why I fully support this. Also, these people who get these packages paid out to them and then if they run out of money, well, then let's top it up. That's not good enough. There's not enough accountability where the money goes. There has never been a proper audit done of this, of where the moneys are going. That's why that many people are jumping on this whole Scheme. And that's why it needs cleaning up. This is a start and I'll tell you that for sure. This is a start. It has to go further than that. And I'm calling on the Coalition and the Greens. If you really care about the people out there, and making this a Scheme that we have to have the long term for those people who really need it. Put your put your complaint forward, put your amendments forward. And then if they're reasonable, I'm sure that.

We can support it because that's what we want. A sustainable, you know, Scheme that is going to be there for everyone. So, I'm saying to everyone, put your politics aside and do this for the Australian people. And we have to have accountability. I've always called for accountability of the taxpayers’ dollars. So, you have my full support with this. And it's also another big complaint that I have about this whole Scheme. That's the amount of money that people are getting paid per hour for a service that was given to those who are on NDIS, and yet they are the general populace, you know, weren't given that service. So, people were going professionals were going to service only NDIS customers because they were paid a higher rate per hour. That is not good enough. And that has been addressed also. Ah, nothing I will draw to your attention is I'm appalled that people getting out of prison are acting on the stage. And one prisoner $1.3 million, another one $802,000, another one $100,000. That has got to stop. And people should not be given these. And that's why the general public are appalled by this. There is a lot more to be done, but I hope that this is not the end of it. I hope that, you know, with the States to work together to rein this in, because this country cannot afford 90 billion plus a year for the Scheme. And I will not write in this space I will do everything. In my power to stop it before that. But you've got my full support. And this being the start. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Thanks for that. We are happy to take questions on this.

JOURNALIST: Minister Shorten what do you think of Senator Hanson's, you know, call for people who are in prison or in prison to be looked at when it comes to if they're receiving NDIS support or not.

SHORTEN: First of all, let me just make clear what we're doing with this list because we want to make it crystal clear. So, quartz car rollers that you can't spend money on this. Most people are doing the right thing. Most people on the Scheme were appalled when some people try it on in terms of our people who've been in jail and come out of jail. It is a fact that some people who are in jail, frankly, have cognitive impairment and mental illness. We've got to make sure, though, that when they're absorbed into the community that their packages are appropriate and that are also that when people come into the community that they're not being, fleeced, what happens quite often is you might get someone who's got a pretty low cognitive functioning, but because they have a package of support, they go and live in a, in a boarding house. And what we're seeing is some of the boarding houses, it's almost like the 19th century where the boarding house now realises that this person, who has a significant intellectual disability, now has a package of money and they're being literally mind or human trafficked. So, we do want to see more in terms of making sure that just because someone has a package of money doesn't turn them into a human ATM.

HANSON: Now say what was happening with one of these packages that, they were on a package of $650,000 a year. They only had, you know, large lymph nodes, you know, and obese. But the fact is they got that package. But on top of that, they were actually paid nearly $45,000 for corporate tickets to a footy game for a corporate box at a footy game. Also, bring family members out from another country and also, um, buying expensive bottles of alcohol for, as Christmas presents. This is what has it's been funding and that's what has been my complaint. No one was actually learning to play the drums. Another one learning how to cook. Just doing what people want to go fishing they are accompanied with that. These things have to stop. And I think this is what you're looking at as well, Minister, aren't you as well? And also, sex workers. Although it's true in the high courts about it in the not the High Court but in the court system. And this is what Minister Shorten's saying was that these people are actually against being overturned in the court system, that that's why we need decent legislation and sex workers. I don't believe that the public should be paying for sex workers, as sex toys are actually on this list that will be banned. So common sense prevails here. That is not a necessity of life as far as I'm concerned.

JOURNALIST: Senator Hanson, do you support the NDIS as a program?

HANSON: I do support it, but it needs to be reined in. As the Minister last year report came out, it shouldn't be on it because of medical procedure. It must be on a disability. That's what it is. It's a disability support scheme, not for everyone else just to make a living out of it. A jumping on the Scheme that providers need to be investigated. Who's providing these services needs to be a full audit investigation into the receipts that they put in this, this very slack under the former Government, the Coalition government, mistakes have been made, I think both sides. But if this can be a united effort that everyone, whether it's the Coalition or whether it be the Labor Party, win now, you won't get the common sense out of the Greens, I'll tell you that Senator Steele-John is off this planet when it comes to this, and I think what they're wanting is unsustainable.

JOURNALIST: Minister Shorten, just on the politics here, you need either the Greens and a few crossbenchers or you need the Coalition. You yourself have conceded the Greens aren't going to give you that support. The Coalition are likely to do. What's the significance of the symbolism of bringing Senator Hanson on board with this? And what kind of message do you think that sends to participants?

SHORTEN: The Greens are breaking the heart of the NDIS. Not because they're all bad people, but they think that nothing needs to change. The Greens think that everyone can have everything, and that's just not the real world. In terms of Senator Hanson, what you've heard here actually is we quite often perhaps not on the same page on everything. But Pauline never gives up her willingness to convince me. And I am an optimist, too. But seriously, you've heard different political spectrum say we believe in \then NDIS. We don't want to see wheelchairs raised by charity at country fairs. We don't want to see, you know, parents with kids with significant behaviours not being able to get a disability support worker in. We set this Scheme up for the people with the diagnosis of MND and Parkinson's. You know, fate intervenes in life. Disability hits any of us. But what we need to do is to recognise that there are some things, this Scheme has expanded and grown in ways which it was never intended. The Liberals know they need to change, and if you speak to them privately, most of them know that. What offends me, though, it's even gone up $3 million in the time we've been speaking. They know that having a proper list of what you can spend money on and not make sense. They know there shouldn't be automatic top up. They know we need to set the budgets differently. They know this. And I know that perhaps it's easy to get cynical in politics and say, well, they've had a 12-week committee, then they want another eight-week committee. The nation cannot afford $1 billion. But what's more is there's 60,000 kids on the Scheme whose annual packages are equal to $1 billion. There’re 54,000 taxpayers in Australia, pay the average tax of $20,000 net. This is a 54,000 people's annual tax. We shouldn't be wasting this money. There's going to be two public hearings and that's going to cost half $1 billion each. The Liberals could give me their amendments. Now the Senate does amendments pretty quick we want to work with them. So, I guess my answer is the Greens can dial themselves back into relevance whenever they want. The Liberals know what they're doing. Some of the Senators just please don't waste the money. It's too precious. Too many people count on a proper Scheme.

HANSON: You ask about my role. It's being here. I could ask the same about your relevance being here. Because there's not media here as well. Don't underestimate my importance in being in the Senate. Because the last parliament, I actually had the balance of power. So, it's important to I don't stand beside a Labor minister every day and back them on their policies, what they wanted to. I've been heavily involved with this for many years right from the very beginning, and I've always questioned with, even with the former two ministers with regard to the NDIS. And it's very important to me that taxpayer’s money be spent wisely and accountable. And I'm hoping that by standing here with the Minister and how important it is, that if the Coalition do have their amendments and their concerns, then put it forward, because you need to sit down with the Government and you need to sit down with whoever you want to. And I'm quite happy to be part of this, to actually sit down and come to some formal agreement and agreeing to work together with this, because it's important for the country and for those people out there who rely on the NDIS.

JOURNALIST: Senator Hanson.

SHORTEN: Perhaps two more questions.

JOURNALIST: Are you offering yourself as a.

JOURNALIST: You've been obviously negotiating, talking with Senator Hanson. You've also been talking with disability representative organisations on the amendments you want to put forward. One of those, one of the concerns that have been raised is around the needs-based assessment. Are you open to changing what's currently in the Bill and what are you looking at there.

SHORTEN: We've offered, first of all the Senate looked at this for 12 weeks. They made three recommendations for amendments which by the way the Liberals didn't dissent. We've been meeting with the disability groups. We've got an amendment which disability groups say they can live with.

JOUNRALIST: What's that amendment?

SHORTEN: Oh, well, I can give you the chapter and file on it. It's about the whole first assessment, the attribution model. But the point about it is, we are, this is fixed. The only thing not fixing it, frankly, is that the Liberals say they want more time. You know what? The country doesn't have $1 billion to waste. They say they want to do more consultation. Oh, my Lord. Like whatever the disability sector or the States think about me they don't think I'm invisible. This is, the fact that Pauline and I are talking together here is we want a National Disability Insurance Scheme for people with disability, but what we don't want is money being wasted. We want to see outcomes. We don't want to see rorts. Thanks, everybody.

JOURNALIST: Senator Hanson, you mentioned that, you know, it's your view that this should only be the beginning. Have you made any further promises about certification?

SHORTEN: I've made clear that we'll have it. I've been clear since we started the process of the review. There'll be a second tranche of measures which go to integrity. I think they'll be less controversial, to be honest. I understand, I get that for some people, disability, they'll be battling mums, there'll be people with disabilities who finally got a package of support, and it's changing their lives for the better. The NDIS is doing more good than harm. So, when they hear the word change, they think, oh, someone's going to come up. That's not what it's about. But tell you what, I'm sick and tired of? People turning up with a NDIS package and getting charged more money. I'm sick and tired of some plan managers ripping people off. I'm sick and tired of people trying it on to get stuff, which was never intended. And I'm sick and tired of the Libs and the. What the what? What are we doing wasting eight weeks? Okay, but thanks everyone. Thank you, Pauline.