with Naomi Woodley
4 September 2015
E & OE
Subject: National Disability Insurance Scheme Board
The Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was the Minister responsible for setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme while Labor was in government. He says today’s advertisement for new Board members nine months out from the end of the current Board’s term sends a worrying signal about the future of the scheme.
This has been a great Board. What they’ve done-this is the leaders of the National Disability Insurance Scheme-was they’ve made sure, that the new National Disability Insurance Scheme gets the best start in life. And they’ve now been repaid for their hard work by a midnight ambush.
Labor’s disability spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, is just as worried.
Now it takes a lot to make me angry, but I am angry. The idea that the Board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme would wake up this morning and see an advertisement for all of their positions on the Board of the National Disability Insurance Agency advertised, with no warning whatsoever, is a direct threat to the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
But the Disabilities Minister Mitch Fifield says the Board members were told about the impending advertisement yesterday, and the process is nothing unusual. He says it will take longer because State and Territory Governments also need to approve the new Board members.
The current Board have done a very good job. This is a massive venture. It’s very complex. And they’ve presided over the trial sites extremely well. We’re moving to a new phase, with the rollout of the scheme from the current 18,000 people to about 460,000 people in the space of three years. It’s a complex task, and we want to take the opportunity to make sure that we have a Board that, in combination, have the best possible set of skills. And current Board members were advised yesterday that ads would be appearing today. And that they were welcome, if they wished, to continue to express an interest and to be considered. But, as I say, there will be a mix of current Board members, to ensure continuity, and new Board members.
And to that point, will the new Board still have members who have explicit and longstanding experience in the disability sector on it?
Absolutely. And that is enshrined in the NDIS Act.
But the Opposition is also concerned that the Government has not met the deadline to conclude negotiations with the States and Territories about the next stage of the scheme. They were to have been concluded by the end of August.
This was the week that Mr Abbott was meant to announce the rollout agreements for the further expansion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme with all the States and Territories. It was due to be done at the end of August. Mr Abbott has not concluded any agreements with any States. So we have grave concerns about the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And therefore, the best chance in life for people with disabilities because of Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government’s lack of commitment to it.
The Minister, Mitch Fifield, says that was a target, rather than a legislated deadline, and he’s working to conclude the agreements as soon as possible.
Negotiations are progressing extremely well. These are complex and detailed negotiations, which involve, in effect, the transfer of disability services from eight State and Territory jurisdictions to a new national body. We want to make sure that we get that right. We want to make sure that we get the details of how the scheme is rolled out beyond the current trial sites right.
The full National Disability Insurance Scheme is due to be up and running by 2018/19. And Senator Fifield says all negotiations are being carried out with that deadline in mind.
Vincent Tulley | 0409 244 865 | email@example.com