Matters of Urgency – National Disability Insurance Scheme

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (16:57): I rise here in support of Senator McKim’s urgency motion. Senator McKim and I obviously have vastly different political views, but there is one thing that we can always agree on, and that is transparency. Why is that? It’s because transparency—what does it do?—builds trust. All the Australians that are suffering disability desperately need support via the NDIS. I am not doubting that. But, unfortunately, the Albanese government’s inability to constrain the cost and restrict the rorts surrounding this scheme is threatening its viability. This is bad news. It’s obviously bad news for Australians, but it’s bad news for those that are reliant on the scheme as well. There’s obviously one other group that it’s bad news for—it’s bad news for everyone who is paying their taxes. Why is that? Because it’s a massive cost.

The NDIS minister, Mr Bill Shorten, in April said that the NDIS had ‘lost its way’. Minister Shorten, that is nothing short of mastery. He is a master of understatement. That’s what he is. The NDIS is estimated to cost taxpayers a staggering $41.9 billion this financial year. Astonishingly, though, that number is tipped to skyrocket to $89.4 billion a year within the next decade. What does this scheme do? I’ll tell you what it does: it puts pink batts to shame. It is an uncapped, demand-driven program that, if left unchecked, will drive our nation into the ground financially. Obviously, $89 billion is not a small sum.

In my office I have been contacted—inundated, actually—by whistleblowers calling out dangerous and unqualified providers who every single day are milking the cash cow that is the NDIS. Where are the checks and balances? Where are they? It is estimated that unscrupulous providers are defrauding the scheme to the tune of $300 million a year. You know what? That’s probably an underestimation.

With so many people reliant on the NDIS and with so much taxpayer money involved—it’s going to be close to a hundred billion dollars this decade—it is essential that the recommendations of the independent review be made public. Mr Shorten must not keep the review secret and only drip-feed his favourite recommendations. That’s not the way to do it. He must not bury the things he deems to be just too hard. If the NDIS has lost its way, as the minister has said before—and I agree with him; I think clearly it has lost its way—then obviously $41.9 billion of public funding has also lost its way. The NDIS review, along with all of its recommendations, do not belong to the government. I’ll tell you who it belongs to, Mr Deputy President: it belongs to the Australian taxpayer.

I keep calling for transparency in this place, but we’re yet to receive it. With transparency we can ensure the long-term viability of the NDIS. This issue is too important for the government to deal with it in the dark. It’s just too important. People need this service. This service needs to be here long into the future, and we need to make sure that it’s sustainable. That’s what we need: sustainability. I probably won’t say this often but I’m going to say it today: I thank Senator McKim for this motion. There is one thing that he and the Greens and I will always agree on, and that thing is transparency. It is a question of holding the government to account and of making sure Australian taxpayers get looked after and get what they are paying for.