The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (14:27): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Human Services regarding the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Hon. E.S. BOURKE: In 2013, the NDIS was on track to deliver real, meaningful change to the lives of South Australians living with disability. Since this time, the NDIS has been treated as an afterthought of the federal government, riven by chaos, cuts and dysfunction. Over the last six years, South Australians have been forced to endure mismanagement from a revolving door of ministers, including Kevin Andrews, Scott Morrison and now Paul Fletcher. My question to the minister is: does the minister support the federal government's decision to rip $1.6 billion out of the NDIS services and supports to prop up Scott Morrison's budget?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:28): I am delighted to receive this question. In the preceding four weeks I read an excellent opinion piece published in The Australian, to which I would like to refer:
Labor has claimed the 2019 budget is built on spending cuts to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This claim is factually wrong, deeply cynical and conveniently overlooks the NDIS mess that the Liberal National government inherited from Labor in 2013—which we have worked with considerable success to fix.
In the dying days of the Labor government, a desperate Julia Gillard ordered that the NDIS should start from July 1, 2013—a year earlier than the Productivity Commission had recommended.
This rash decision, as the Productivity Commission later pointed out, meant the NDIS was like an aeroplane being designed while already in flight.
A key task was to move people across from existing commonwealth and state and territory disability programs.
During 2012-13 the commonwealth agreed bilaterally with each state and territory the estimated number of people to be moved across—as well as the number of people to get support for the first time. Adding these up produced a bilateral estimates figure of 460,000 people across Australia to be covered by the NDIS.
After completing the trial phase in 2016—by which point there were 30,000 participants—the full rollout began.
Since that time the scheme has expanded by more than 700 per cent. There are now more than 250,000 participants.
Participant growth is reflected in strong spending growth. In 2017-18, spending on the NDIS was $6.4 billion; in 2018-19 it will be $13.3bn; next year it will be $17.9bn; and by 2020-21 it will be $22.2bn.
With the budget showing a $4.5bn increase in NDIS spending next financial year, how can Labor claim that there is a $1.6bn cut?
Only by cynically mischaracterising a highly technical budgeting issue known as estimates variation.
These occur at every budget to deal with changes in the number of people being served by what are called demand-driven programs.
For example, in this year's budget, we announced an upwards estimates variation of $1.9bn across four years for public hospitals because more people will use public hospitals than was previously estimated.
Labor's claim that this is because we have under-resourced the NDIS is completely wrong. The biggest single reason is that the number of people available to move across from existing commonwealth and state and territory disability programs has been significantly lower than originally estimated, to the tune of 90,000 people.
For example, 74,000 people were expected to transfer into the NDIS from Victoria's disability services, but the Victorian government has provided only 53,000 'actionable records'; that is, files giving sufficient information so that the person could be contacted to become an NDIS participant.
The story is the same for Queensland, which is supposed to transfer across 47,000 people but so far has produced only 31,000 actionable records.
The fact is, under the old block-funded system—where service providers were given a set level of funding to look after a certain number of people—the records kept about the people being looked after simply were not very good.
Some people were recorded—
The PRESIDENT: Minister, are you going to go on very much longer with this?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It goes to the question that I was asked.
The PRESIDENT: It may well go to the question, but it's not necessarily under Erskine May appropriate to read into Hansard matters—
The Hon. K.J. Maher: If you've got no opinion of your own, you shouldn't steal others'.
The PRESIDENT: Leader of the Opposition, I am speaking to a minister. I don't require your assistance or commentary. It's not necessarily appropriate to read into Hansard those matters which are otherwise available on the public record. This is a matter that is more strictly enforced in the other chamber, but you have a benign and compassionate President—
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: And we are ever grateful, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: —most of the time. I have allowed you to go a reasonable distance, but it's not appropriate to answer questions by just reading in an article from The Australian.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: If you are happy, I will just finish on this.
The PRESIDENT: If it's one more paragraph, I will allow it, but if it's more than that, I am going to sit you down.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: One more sentence:
As the Prime Minister, the Treasurer—
The PRESIDENT: I don't require assistance from the opposition benches, all of whom failed to make the appropriate point of order. I am disappointed in you, the Hon. Mr Hunter; I am disappointed in you. Minister.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: One more sentence:
As the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and I have stated, the NDIS is fully funded. It is a demand-driven scheme and, if demand exceeds our estimates, the funding will be there.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Bourke, a supplementary.
The PRESIDENT: Order on the opposition benches! Show respect for your own member.