Thousands of Aussies across the country are trying to stave off the dreaded winter flu. Despite our best efforts over the past two years trying to stay healthy, it seems it’s not hard to catch the flu or COVID at the moment.
If only catching crooks was as straightforward. Crooks of the lowest kind, too, ones ripping off the National Disability Insurance Scheme, fleecing people with disability of money that helps them shower in the morning or get out to see family and friends.
I think there are very few things more despicable in life than crooks taking money due to go to disabled people. Not to mention ripping off you, the taxpayer.
Since the Federal Election, I’ve read disturbing reports from criminal intelligence analysts that as a government payment scheme, the same people in organised crime who were taking money out of the Family Day Care Scheme are now moving across into NDIS, obtaining people’s personal information, false invoices, overpaying of bills, ghost payments.
For a decade, we watched successive Liberal governments ignore crooks ripping off the NDIS and instead they blamed people with disability for being too expensive. I will fight for an individual person in a wheelchair or a family seeking therapy services. What I am concerned about is that where you have government payment systems, it will attract crooks like flies to a honeypot.
The stupid priority for the old government was that they basically put a padlock on the front door of the scheme and then they’d argue with a person about their wheelchair or their white cane or their hours of speech pathology and turn that into an administrative nightmare. But they left the welcome mat at the back door for crooks.
In early June, a syndicate with links to Middle Eastern organised crime entities were charged for allegedly defrauding the NDIS of more than $2 million. Those arrested are also alleged to have threatened violence towards NDIS participants.
A week later a man was arrested and charged at Brisbane International Airport on suspicion of defrauding the National Disability Insurance Agency of more than $300,000. That’s millions of dollars allegedly taken from people with disability, and the taxpayers. Imagine targeting Australians living with disability? That’s the lowest of lows.
The Albanese Government will do whatever is necessary to stop this despicable behaviour. We will cancel the old government’s tactics for making life hard for genuine NDIS participants and instead I’ve pledged to end the wastage in the scheme, including reducing fraud.
It’s time these crooks are held accountable.
I want to put organised crime goons on notice that ripping off taxpayers and disabled people won’t be tolerated.
I want taxpayer support to get to the people who need it, and not be siphoned off by opportunistic people who are just engaging in fraudulent activity. The wider provider sector are hardworking and brilliant, but there are a few not doing the right thing by overcharging NDIS participants at higher rates than others.
It doesn’t matter if someone is attempting to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars, or $2. Protecting NDIS funding, and ensuring participants can access the funding intended for their support, is paramount.
In recent times, more than 38,000 incorrect or non-compliant payments have been cancelled or recovered. And tens of millions dollars have been returned to Australians living with disability.
We know that sometimes people make mistakes, and the overwhelming majority of NDIS providers do the right thing, but it’s really critical that taxpayers funding is being used to support those it was intended for.
A few bad eggs — whose goal is a bigger bottom line rather than a better life for the people they are supporting — should not give the wider provider sector a bad name.
We need to work together — NDIS participants, providers, the NDIA, the NDIS Commission and the wider disability sector — to report the crooks in order to ensure people with disability receive their support.
Report any suspect billing or provider behaviour to the NDIA by emailing [email protected] or contact the NDIS Commission with any concerns about the way in which NDIS supports and services are being provided.
Doing so might ensure someone isn’t being scammed of money by some crooked hoon. Cracking down on the crooks is a sure-fire way of getting scarce taxpayer dollars to our most deserving citizens.
This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 20 July 2022.