NDIS Independent AssessmentsSpeech
I stand to support this motion because it gives voice to people with disability who have grave concerns about the introduction of independent assessments.
I thank the shadow minister for bringing in this motion. It exposes the gross failure of this government to properly engage with the disability community in making this change. The government is causing great fear and anxiety. The government must pause the rollout of independent assessments and engage in real consultation with NDIS participants and the workforce.
Now, it is important we recognise there are challenges to delivering the scheme fairly and consistently. Like cases should be treated alike. This is a fundamental principle of justice. The 2019 Tune review found that the NDIA was not making consistent decisions during planning. Some participants with similar disability needs reported they received very different plans—like the Weir brothers, who suffer the exact same genetic condition but receive drastically different levels of support—and this is unacceptable.
Inconsistency is a problem. The Labor Party stands ready to work collaboratively with the government to find a solution, but ramming through independent assessments with little community consultation is not the answer. The issue is that the government's chosen plan for solving this problem is more harmful than the problem.
So far we know surprisingly little about how independent assessments will work. We know they will take between only one and four hours, but what we don't know is how much the introduction of independent assessments will cost. And, even though there has been an incomplete voluntary pilot program, we don't know how participants experienced the pilot because requests for evaluation reporting have been denied by the government. This is unacceptable. The government must come clean. A lack of transparency is holding the NDIS back from being the scheme it needs to be. Despite serious concerns being raised by many, including the Australian association of psychiatrists, Every Australian Counts, People with Disability Australia, Women with Disabilities Australia, the Rights Information and Advocacy Centre and Synapse, the government has chosen regulation over legislation on independent assessments in order to avoid greater scrutiny.
It does not surprise me that organisations have expressed serious concern with the government's plan. Every day, I speak with people who have been mistreated as a result of the government's fixation on cutting the cost of disability support. And who can forget the $4.6 billion NDIS underspend? Rachael, a disability advocate in Geelong, told me it was shameful the NDIA had not consulted people with disabilities. If they had, they would hear what Rachael is hearing: 'Anxiety, fear and distrust. Participants turn to us, feeling traumatised about receiving a robotic letter stating they have only 28 days to provide more evidence on their disability or they will be removed from the scheme. Participants fear these independent assessments will not be about consistency but are about cost-cutting by stealth.' Rachael went on to say, 'The NDIS is supposed to be about choice and control, but this process is taking away the control. This is not the person-centred NDIA we fought for.'
In my electorate of Corangamite, I have formed an NDIS reference group to help me in my work on the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This group includes advocates, carers, members of the workforce and participants, and their message is clear: they fiercely oppose independent assessments.
The Morrison Government must immediately pause the rollout of independent assessments and engage in genuine, transparent consultation with the sector. We need to build a pathway to meeting the challenge of inconsistency that isn't more poison than antidote. Since 2013, the coalition has viewed this scheme primarily as an expenditure line. It is failing to run the NDIS because it is putting cash before care. Labor stands for choice and empowerment for NDIS participants and the workforce. The very first step in that commitment is an open conversation about how the system should work. They should withdraw the tender. This is a flawed process without compassion and care for those that the scheme should serve.