Minister Bill Shorten Interview on Today


ALLISON LANGDON: Well, now the new cause for a taskforce to tackle the exploitation of the NDIS by criminals. A Nine investigation is warning Australia's most vulnerable are being extorted and threatened with violence by people looking to steal their payments.


MICHAEL PHELAN: This is fair dinkum serious and organised crime cooks that are otherwise involved in serious drug trafficking, extortion and other elements that are required of serious organised crime.

[End of Excerpt]

ALLISON LANGDON: Yep. Plenty of families are being told who rely on the NDIS, calling the exploitation disgusting.


MARK GREY: It is unconscionable to me that someone would seek to abuse such a system. It's presented as dollars, but it's not dollars. It's hours of support to do critical life functions. And every extra thousand dollars is a few more hours of support for- to do something really important.

[End of Excerpt]

ALLISON LANGDON: Joining us with his reaction, Minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten. Bill, I know that you watched the 60 Minutes' piece last night. To hear that up to 20 per cent of the scheme's 30 billion dollar a year costs are being misused - I mean, that is massive.

BILL SHORTEN: It is shocking. It's frustrating. And the thing is it's been going on for years. I remember warning the old government they had a major problem with fraud. Anyway, last night's 60 Minutes expose, I think strengthens the calls for multitask- multiagency criminal taskforce. I know that's absolutely on the table for the Albanese government. We want to stop the crooks and get them out of the NDIS. It is shocking and obscene.

ALLISON LANGDON: And what it means is you'll now have these resources go in to try and crackdown on the fraud. What do you think of the people responsible for this? I mean, because you're ripping off the nation's most vulnerable.

BILL SHORTEN: I think they're literally gutless cowards. They may think they're tough, some of these organised crime people, and they may boast amongst themselves how clever they are. The rest of Australia despises this. And what we're going to do is make sure that the NDIS is only for the people who need it and not for these crooks seeking to pursue their own means, their own benefit. It is shameful.

ALLISON LANGDON: Is that happening now? Because this is now on your watch.

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, I think it probably is happening now actually. I think there's different manifestations of this. One of the first things I did when I was minister was I've asked for all the briefings on criminal activity and fraud. I got very upset and concerned over the last three years. The old government knew money was going out of the scheme, but they were making it hard for legitimate people, kids who need- kids with autism who needed speech pathology, or Ken who we saw last night needed support to go to work. The government is cracking down on the wrong people. So for the record, I absolutely asked within hours and days of being sworn in as new minister. This is a priority of mine. There are people over servicing. There are people creating ghost identities. There are some operators- and it is the minority. Most service providers and carers do a brilliant job, but there is absolutely a minority who are over charging, under servicing, faking invoices. I'm also worried that in some cases, they're effectively capturing people who have an NDIS package and keeping them under the care but not actually delivering the care. So I think we need to absolutely throw the arsenal of response to this. Everything was-should be on the table, and we should do everything we can to protect the vulnerable.

ALLISON LANGDON: I tell you what, when you list it like that, I mean, it is kind of terrifying that it's reached a point where the system is this way. It's now your responsibility, you're expecting the NDIS to be costing like 60 billion by 2030. You have a big job on your hands.

BILL SHORTEN: It's an important job. I want to say that the NDIS is a great thing. It's a great scheme. It's a world leader. But there's been naivety in the last number of years in its administration. And it's- when I say naivety, when you got money going to people, crooks have always come around like flies around the barbecue, except much, much, much worse. And I do not understand for the life of me why we don't have tougher checking on invoices. Why - in the case of some operators - it's the Wild, Wild West and anything goes. We've got good people working in the disability agency, but we need to now sharpen up our response to this. This issue cannot be ignored or the money which gets taken out of people's accounts just being simply quietly replaced, with no proper investigation of the fraud.

ALLISON LANGDON: So when will we see a taskforce, Bill?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, it's a proposal for government. Very soon is my hope. Very, very soon. I think …

ALLISON LANGDON: [Interrupts] What does that mean? Does that mean weeks? Does that mean months?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh it means in weeks. Yes, it does. It means in weeks. Absolutely. I've got to go through my processes. But yeah, I've got no doubt that I'll- we'll get one set up, and I have no doubt that we'll be on to this. But also I have to say to you Ally, sometimes different elements of government don't talk to each other properly. The Tax Office is pretty good at knowing who some of the scallywags are. But other government agencies need to be able to compare notes with the Tax Office, who is who in the zoo. There used to be a lot of rorts around the family day care scheme where people basically making up imaginary services and then billing government. Some of the characters whose are involved in that have, I am concerned, have transferred their operations to the NDIS. So we just need more scrutiny. For people with disabilities, NDIS is life changing. But every dollar that's going to a crook is a dollar which isn't going to a person who deserves it. Taxpayers want to see their scarce resources going to the people who deserve it, not the people who are crooked.

ALLISON LANGDON: Yep, stealing from the most vulnerable.

BILL SHORTEN: So we're on to this Ally. Absolutely.

ALLISON LANGDON: Thanks for that, Bill. Appreciate your time.

BILL SHORTEN: It's shameful.