Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (11:54): The NDIS, like every other arm of government, should be open to sunlight. It should be clear and transparent and we should understand what is going on within the NDIS. It’s interesting that this motion put forward by the member for Maribyrnong comes only a short while after the member for Indi put forward a motion about an integrity commission. It’s very important that all government agencies do exactly what they are funded and designed to do. The member for Maribyrnong knows that. In fact, he was one of the first champions of the NDIS in this place, and I congratulate him: well done.
The NDIS followed a Productivity Commission report in 2011 and, when it was legislated in 2013, I might say that it received bipartisan support. So both sides of parliament are responsible for the success of this program. At that time, the Productivity Commission estimated that the full scheme would cost $13.6 billion per annum to run. The states were contributing around $8 billion to disability support services around Australia, and a deal was done that the states were to transfer that $8 billion into the new fund, and then the Commonwealth would pick up the gap between that and, at that stage, the $13.6 billion. It’s very debatable whether the states have actually delivered on that full $8 billion. In fact, a lot of us think that they squirreled a bit away. One way or another, the Commonwealth is still making up the gap, but the full funding figure is now about $23 billion a year—so not double, but certainly getting right up there—an 80 per cent increase or thereabouts.
The NDIS has made a transformational difference on the ground. I have constituents that repeatedly come to me and say, ‘I just cannot believe what we can do now’ with young Freddie or Julia, or whatever their names are, ‘that we could not do before. The support has been fantastic.’ But it is absolutely right that the support should go to those who qualify and should not go to those who do not. The situation that exists is that people lobby the NDIS for extra funding. I would often argue that those that deal with the calamity of family on a day-to-day basis are not necessarily best placed to make the decisions about what kind of support should occur in that area. We are all conditioned by the person, by the personalities. That’s not to say there are not needs that should be met outside what the NDIS is supposed to meet, but it is right that it should, as I said, have integrity, and that is what the independent assessments are about. At the beginning of the NDIS I was a little perturbed by statements about travel agents organising holiday trips for people with disability on the strength of the NDIS. I don’t think anyone ever thought it was really for those arrangements, and some of the providers that were around in the early days—and I hope we’re slowly clamping down on them—are to be questioned.
The member for Maribyrnong says there’s been an outcry about the lack of consultation and information available about the independent assessments among people with disability and disability advocates. Has there really? I checked with my staff: we’ve had no-one contact the office concerned about those particular issues. And I might say that the contacts to our office about the NDIS in general have dropped not to zero but down to a very low number. I can tell you that is a big change. It’s because we’re actually getting the parameters right and we’re getting the delivery of services right. That’s not to say we still won’t have errors. That’s not to say people still won’t be disenfranchised. If they’re not getting served properly, they should come to their members, and we will stick up for them and make sure that justice is served. But, as I often say to people, it’s my job to make sure departments follow the guidelines and the rules. I cannot ask a public servant to break the rules on anybody’s behalf. If the rules are wrong, the rules should be changed, but they need to be properly administered. That’s what the independent assessment is about. For the record, there are 3,189 constituents in Grey receiving support under the NDIS, better than the pro rata for the nation, which is about 2,700.