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30 March 2022

Amazingly, the biggest story going around on Tuesday wasn't the Federal Budget, it was the Oscars smackdown between actor Will Smith and comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards.
My regular spot on the Today Show on the Nine Network was dominated by the smack heard across the world, followed by a shorter chat about what the Morrison Government would deliver in the Budget come Tuesday night.
I completely got the uproar around the Oscars. It was a bizarre moment in our celebrity-saturated culture.
And, frankly, it was far more exciting than what I was expecting from Messrs Morrison and Frydenberg on Tuesday night.
They've spent the past three years trying to dig themselves out of self-dug holes.
I just couldn't see how the Coalition was going to have a plan for fixing the cost of living pressures Australians are under or the National Disability Insurance Scheme it has been negligent in protecting.
A few hours before the 2022 Budget was handed down, Labor leader Anthony Albanese and I met with a group of people with disability and leaders from the sector.
In this group was a remarkable young disabled woman, Elly Demarchelier, a 29-year-old with cerebral palsy, and veteran NDIS campaigner Dougie Herd, who together visited Parliament House to ask Australia's leaders to pledge to defend the NDIS.
Both Elly and Dougie are NDIS participants.
They wanted Australian leaders to think about people with disability and the NDIS on Budget day.
Not just the bottom line but what it contributes to Australians with disability who take part in the scheme and the workforce.
They were speaking on behalf of the 500,000 Australians on the NDIS.
The Morrison Government has spent the past three years dogmatically telling Australia there are too many people with disability and it costs too much to care for them.
While Elly and Dougie spoke passionately about the dignity and freedom being on the NDIS had given Australians with disability, research shows it is also a massive boon to our economy.
Expert research released in late 2021 shows the NDIS delivers $2.25 for every dollar spent in the scheme. This equates to more than $52 billion every year.
New Per Capita research released on Tuesday broke down the economic impact of the NDIS for every Australian electorate.
The analysis shows the NDIS employs more than 270,000 people in over 20 different occupations and contributes to the employment of tens of thousands more workers indirectly.
In WA there are 33,238 people directly employed by the NDIS, with a further 16,619 employed indirectly.
In 2021 the NDIS contributed $4,664,244,060 to the economy in WA that's $4 billion plus! In my own electorate of Maribyrnong, the NDIS contributed $287.7 million to the economy, with 2054 people directly employed and a further 1027 indirectly employed.
These are numbers too big to be ignored, but it is not the reason the NDIS is so important.
The NDIS was created to give people with disability choice and control.
For too long people with disability were relegated to the back of every queue and were essentially treated as second-class citizens.
The Morrison Government has overseen a reign of terror on the NDIS, where participants must take extreme measures to get access to the most important care.
Elly told of how she felt dehumanised when she was told to re-use catheter bags to compensate for the Government cutting her support in half.
The catheter bags are sterile to ensure people who need them do not get serious infection.
This kind of story is counter to what the scheme was created for. An Albanese Labor government will ensure a better future for the NDIS and all its participants.
We want a NDIS that meets people where they are and gives them the support they need to do the things they want to do.
That's the vision Labor had for the NDIS and it's what we will deliver when we are next in government.
Not this cut-price, cookie-cutter scheme that NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds falsely equates to welfare.
Labor is interested in investing in people with disability, not making them beg for support.
I want to end this column with some words from Elly: "I think, on Budget Day, it's particularly important to remember that the issues with the NDIS are not simply about money, it's actually about respect.
"It transformed my life when I got my first NDIS plan at the age of 27.
"It was the first dollar of disability support funding I had ever received. And it was freedom to me.
"It gave me hope that my future didn't mean relying on my parents for the rest of my life.
"But sadly, what I have seen over the last couple of years is the NDIS has moved away from its promise to Australians with disability, its promise that we can choose the life we want to live with the supports we want to choose." While we didn't expect much from the Budget for NDIS participants, we know every Australian deserves to be treated with fairness and dignity.
That's not what the Morrison Government offers.
We want a NDIS that meets people where they are and gives them the support they need to do the things they want to do.
Bill Shorten is shadow minister for the NDIS and government services, Federal member for Maribyrnong and former leader of the Australian Labor Party.
This opinion piece was first published in publication The West Australian on Wednesday, 30 March 2022.