18 August 2015
E & OE
My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. Today we saw reports in the media that there may be opposition within the Government’s Expenditure Review Committee to continuing to roll out the NDIS in its current form and in fact to slow down the rollout. Is the Government planning to slow down the NDIS roll out? Where does the Minister stand on this particular issue? And where is the pressure to slow down the rollout coming from, if that is correct?
Thank you, Senator Siewert, for your question. Let me make absolutely clear that this Government is not looking for ways to slow down the rollout of the NDIS. We are looking for ways to deliver the NDIS to make sure that it is the best that it can be. To put beyond any doubt the intention and determination of this Government to roll out the NDIS in full, colleagues need look no further than the budget papers themselves, which see the full appropriation for the NDIS laid out over the forward estimates.
Negotiations for the full rollout of the NDIS are currently underway between me and various jurisdictions. I should make clear, however, that your home state of Western Australia, Senator Siewert, currently has a trial run by the NDIS agency and also a trial run by the Western Australian Government, and there will be a comparative assessment of that. So Western Australia at the moment is using that information to determine how it might proceed. The ACT, as the first jurisdiction-wide trial, is in effect already on the path to full transition.
I am working very hard, negotiating with the other six jurisdictions to roll out the NDIS beyond the existing seven trial sites, but it is important to make clear that this is a collective venture between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. This is not something that the Commonwealth can unilaterally declare, ‘We now have an end to negotiations.’ Negotiations end, obviously, when both parties agree, and I am working very hard on that front. Any suggestions, as there were, that I am looking to slow down negotiations with New South Wales, for instance, are completely wrong.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his answer and ask: does that mean that the Expenditure Review Committee is not considering any slowdown to the rollout of the NDIS or in fact any changes to the nature of the NDIS?
This Government is not looking for reasons, for ways to slow down the rollout of the NDIS. We are working with our partners in jurisdictions on plans to roll out the NDIS in full. That is-
Mr President, I raise a point of order. I specifically asked about the Expenditure Review Committee, and I would ask the Minister to address that specific question please.
Senator Siewert, I would have interpreted the answer as being that the Expenditure Review Committee is a part of Government. The Minister did answer that the Government was not going to slow down the rollout of the NDIS. I call the Minister. He is in order.
Thank you. Obviously, it would be inappropriate for me to comment directly on any discussions in Cabinet or the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet, but I took it that it would be self-evident that the ERC is a constituent part of Government. Let me again say that the Government is not looking for ways and means of slowing down the negotiations, or discussions, or rollout of the NDIS. What we want to do is to make sure that the NDIS is the very best that it can be. That is what I am working on, and that is what my state and territory counterparts are working on.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I seek an assurance from the Government that they intend to finalise the agreement with the New South Wales Government by the deadline it has agreed in August.
Obviously, I cannot announce the conclusion of agreements until that occurs. Any such announcements would be made jointly by the New South Wales and Australian Governments. But let me provide the reassurance to you, Senator Siewert, that discussions are going extremely well with New South Wales. In fact, a couple of months ago I signed with Minister Ajaka, in New South Wales, an agreement to see the NDIS roll out beyond the Hunter trial site in Western Sydney for young kids with disability. That will commence very shortly, and that will be the first rollout of the NDIS beyond the existing trial site. But, in relation to the broader issue of the bilateral agreement with New South Wales for transition to the full scheme, discussions are going very well; things should happen soon. Watch this space.
Vincent Tulley | 0409 244 865 | firstname.lastname@example.org