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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1426 ..

Now, in 2021, there has been a shift in dialogue and a shift in values from the federal government, where the cost and financial “sustainability” of the scheme are highlighted. It dominates discussion between states, territories and the commonwealth. It is the focus of reviews and razor gang task forces.

The 2017 Productivity Commission estimate of costs by 2024-25 was $30.6 billion. While the federal government have been throwing some big talk around about $13.2 billion of extra funding in the federal budget, they have in fact committed only to an additional $1.3 billion in 2024-25 over the Productivity Commission estimates for that year, to a total of $31.9 billion in funding for supports by then.

This is not unexpected, particularly as the system matures and we develop a better understanding of what is needed. I am not fooled by the federal government’s smoke and mirrors. Federal minister Linda Reynolds’s language is focused on the costs of the system, not the value of everyone being able to participate in our community and live an ordinary life. This is not the NDIS that we Australians signed up for; it is not the NDIS that this ACT government signed up for on behalf of our community.

In fact, the federal budget is underpinned by a $4.6 billion structural underspend on the NDIS that brought the budget back into surplus in 2018-19, prior to the pandemic. As a former community sector advocate who struggled to persuade federal governments to adequately resource social services programs, I know that an underspend in the delivery of social services such as this usually means that there are people in need of support who are not receiving it. That is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that having people with disabilities not receiving support is the reason we had a surplus as we went into the pandemic in 2020 and that that is the reason that the budget is not in an even worse deficit today. It is a travesty, and the federal government should be ashamed.

Significant reforms are being considered for the legislation for the first time. I echo the sentiments of the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency himself, who said in a Senate committee last week:

I deeply regret that our genuine attempts at communication and consultation have evidently not to date been sufficient or appropriate.

Members of the Assembly, I reiterate that this communication and consultation has not been sufficient or appropriate. Public policy is occurring on the run and playing out in the media and social media. This is no substitute for collaboration and codesign.

I want to comment on one aspect of these reforms which has caused people with disability and others in the community great distress. That issue is independent assessments. The implementation of independent assessments under the NDIS is of grave and serious concern. As Minister for Disability, I am deeply disturbed that there has been a lack of consultation with people who have disability. I am deeply disturbed that—as many people with disability have said—these changes undermine the fundamental premise of choice and control that the NDIS was meant to be built upon.

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