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20 April 2022

A momentous occasion happened in Melbourne on Tuesday.

After two years, more than 150 people with disability, advocates and sector experts were able to get together to hear about a better future for the NDIS.

The stress and strain of the past two years of the COVID pandemic has weighed heavily on every Australian, but for people with disability there was the heavy weight of being left behind by their government in Canberra. Unfortunately, this was not anything new.

For almost a decade the Morrison Government has treated people with disability and the NDIS as an afterthought. Too little. Too late.

The litany of management errors included botching the rollout of the NDIS to all States and Territories, with seven ministers appointed in eight years, and Liberal mates - like former Victorian premier Denis Napthine - stacked into a senior leadership at the National Disability Insurance Agency just days before the election was called.

They have slashed plans of disabled children by up to 90 per cent, leaving people with disability without the supports they need for daily life and cut funding for autistic children, stopping them from accessing the scheme.

Some families have been forced to relinquish their children because they can't get the support they need to care for them at home.

And tragically the Morrison Government's mismanagement has seen at least five people on the NDIS die, including Adelaide woman Ann Marie Smith. At the same time Morrison and his crew know up to 10 per cent of the scheme is wasted due to fraudulent service providers, while other disability workers are underpaid.

There is a shortage of 83,000 workers in the sector, and almost one-third say they want to leave their job within the next 12 months.

Rather than helping people with disability Scott Morrison has wasted $28 million in just six months on legal fees to fight people with disability appealing for support at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The NDIS is Australia's disability safety net - a great Labor idea like Medicare or superannuation - that has been damaged by almost a decade of Liberal cuts, maladministration, and chaos.

On Tuesday I launched Labor's plan to fix the NDIS and return it to the original vision promised to Aussies.

An Albanese Labor government will defend the NDIS and get it back on track, so it works for people with disability and their families, carers, disability service providers and workers.

Importantly, Labor will stop the unfair cuts to NDIS participants' plans with an expert review mechanism.

We are committed to ensuring that no Australian with a disability is left behind - from pandemic and emergency responses to the millions of Australians living with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS, but are often lacking support.

Disability will no longer be an afterthought, and policies will be informed by evidence and co-designed with the people they impact. An Albanese Labor government can use the existing Budget to fund and fix the NDIS for the 504,000 participants who rely on the scheme to live a better life.

Labor will revitalise the National Disability Insurance Agency: Labor will lift the staffing cap at the NDIA, commit to urgently reducing insecure labour hire arrangements, adding 380 permanent staff at the agency and improving the culture. Labor will also review NDIS design, operation and sustainability.

We will stop the waste: Labor will halt the ridiculous lawyers' picnic, crack down on criminal activity and fraud, and review the value for money of lucrative consultancy contracts.

We will boost efficiency: Streamline the planning process for better initial plans.

Fix the planning pathway and appeals to make NDIS decision-making more efficient, fair and investment-focused.

We will stop the unfair cuts: Labor will guarantee plans will not be arbitrarily cut. We will fix regional access: Labor will appoint a senior officer within the NDIA to tackle the concerning barriers to service delivery in regional areas of Australia.

We will put people back into the NDIS: Labor commits to co-designing changes to the scheme with people with disability and the sector and we will boost the number of people with disability on the board of the NDIA.

These are just some of the key measures we have committed to if we win government in May.

Our policy is the result of thousands of conversations with people with disability, NDIS participants, carers, families, advocates and providers.

Dealing with the NDIS should not be like having a second full-time job. We will put things right in the NDIS because at the moment, even if you get a good plan, there's a constant fear it will be cut when it gets reviewed.

Labor will bulldoze the maze of reviews, appeals and legal action.

The Morrison Government's mishandling of the NDIS does not just jeopardise the safety of Australians with disability, it puts at risk a major contributor to the Australian economy, with NDIS-supported industry valued at $52 billion per year, approximately double the cost of the scheme.

Labor will work closely with people with disability, stakeholders and State governments to ensure people with disability are given the choice and control they were promised when the scheme was designed.

Bill Shorten is shadow minister for the NDIS and government services, Federal Member for Maribyrnong and former leader of the Australian Labor Party Labor will bulldoze the maze of reviews, appeals and legal action.


This article was first published in the West Australian newspaper on Wednesday, 20th April 2022