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Speech on Labor's cruel proposed cuts to the NDIS

On Thursday 30 May 2024, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about Labor's proposed cuts to the NDIS. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


This bill, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Getting the NDIS Back on Track No. 1) Bill 2024, proposes the most significant changes to the NDIS since it started more than a decade ago. Quite understandably, the disability community and NDIS participants, along with families, carers and NDIS workers, are concerned about the changes proposed. I know from conversations within my own community that this feels like an utter betrayal from the Labor government. A Labor government that has just announced a budget that prioritises handouts to fossil fuel companies, weapons manufacturers and wealthy property investors in turn has ripped funding out of the NDIS. Fourteen point four billion dollars—that's how much the Labor government has chosen to remove from the NDIS.

I think we need to be really clear about what this bill does. This bill threatens the future of the NDIS and the rights of disabled people. Labor had the gall to create it behind closed doors. It bullied representatives from the disability community to sign nondisclosure agreements. That's not genuine co-design. The previous speaker, the member for Blair, talked about co-design, but what has happened here is actually not that; it's a betrayal. Not only have the government ripped the funding out of the NDIS; they're going to make it harder for anyone to access the NDIS. If you're already on a plan, well, guess what? This bill forces every NDIS participant to transition from an old framework plan to a new plan over the next five years. What this means is that every current NDIS participant's future on the scheme is up for question. That is over 600,000 participants needing review. We already know that the NDIS cannot handle the current workload, even with its current funding. It doesn't take a genius to realise that a $14.4 billion funding shortfall and an increase in workload for staff means that people are going to fall through the cracks and suffer. It's so very clear that this is a thinly veiled attempt to remove support for people or just kick them off the NDIS altogether. They are going to restrict what supports are available through the scheme, they are going to remove provisions for individualising plans and they are going to try to standardise assessments. Disability is not standardised and should never be treated as such.

When the Gillard Labor government introduced the NDIS over a decade ago, there were great intentions. At the heart of the NDIS, it was meant to enable each individual disabled person to achieve their goals and aspirations, as the previous speaker, the member for Blair, laid out. But anyone who has tried to get on the NDIS or work with it knows how utterly frustrating it is. The NDIS is run on a bureaucracy-heavy business model, with endless hurdles and hoops for people to jump through. Just when you think you have cleared a hurdle or figured it out, they move the goalposts. This isn't me saying this; this is my constituents telling me about this. People are spending years of their lives crushed and exhausted by trying to navigate the NDIS. This bill's going to make it worse. That's a fact.

I've heard from people in my electorate that they've been kicked out of supported living and are homeless because the NDIS failed to pay their rent in time. Parents have to take time off work because the NDIS refuses to offer any more support for their children. I work with people who have spent thousands of dollars and hours gathering supporting evidence of their condition just for the NDIS to tell them it's not enough. These funds and services are absolutely critical to keeping people well and, in many cases, keeping them alive and allowing them to have a meaningful life.

The government is boasting a $9.6 billion surplus at the moment, but it's taken over $14 billion out of the NDIS. That is a funding black hole now. Essential services will now be completely wiped off the map. Yet Labor has $50 billion for weapons, $174.5 billion for property investors and another $50 billion for fossil fuel subsidies. This is our taxpayer money. All our taxpayer dollars are going to things that destroy, things that make things actually worse for Australians, and yet they cry poor when it comes to funding the very services that offer fundamental, life-saving programs to people. It's devastating to say this, but, on the evidence of the stories that my constituents have told me, the government just doesn't seem to care about these everyday Australians. What is also clear is that they haven't listened to a single story from NDIS participants, because, if they had, they wouldn't be summarily slashing $14 billion from this really important scheme.

I am going to tell you some stories. Here are stories from my electorate. I want them to be on the record because, if these stories are heard by the government and they don't act on them, they have been ignored. Recently I was contacted by a support worker who was working for free because all of the other supports had left the NDIS participant, a person who needed round-the-clock care and had just run out of funds. The support worker had made a number of accelerated emergency action requests with absolutely no response—zilch. This participant, not through any fault of their own, had run out of funds because of a change in circumstance which, according to the service guarantee, had not been processed. Instead of the system flagging that this participant who needs round-the-clock care, as I said, would run out of funds, the NDIS simply let it lapse. For them, it's a number in the system. For this participant, it is quite literally their life.

The NDIS is already failing people, and Labor has chosen to further gut it. I will tell you another story, one about a lovely gentleman from my electorate who unfortunately has been diagnosed with early onset dementia and is cared for by his wife. Finally she was able to go on respite leave to spend some time overseas with family. Despite submitting the funding request, it wasn't processed correctly. Again, this meant the participant was left without funds, meaning there was no money to pay for the respite accommodation. If my office had not intervened, he would have been dropped off at home without any support at all, completely alone.

Finally, I will tell you another sad story I hear far too often—that is, of the sheer mental toll of waiting for approval, jumping through the hoops, being forced to make unnecessary appointments because of an unnecessary plan change. For many this toll is just too much to bear. A young person recently contacted my office from the hospital after they'd attempted to take their own life because of unbearable trauma caused by the outrageous wait times. They had attempted multiple times to access their supports, to access their funds, and the NDIS either did not deem it necessary to reply or outright refused. This bright, amazing young person has been beaten down by a system that was already broken and has now been gutted further, and it has broken them.

The government are saying with this bill, with this budget, that they do not care about you even if you need the NDIS. They don't think you're capable of managing your own life or managing your own plan of funding. It's needlessly and indescribably cruel. Many people on the NDIS already knew the government didn't seem to care about them. This rubs salt in that painful wound. With this budget and the bill, Labor have sent a pretty clear message to disabled people: they do not care about you, about your goals, about your aspirations or about your own agency. That's not good enough for me, it's certainly not good enough for those who need the NDIS and it's not good enough for the Greens. We will not support this bill in its current form.

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