Bill Shorten ‘horrified’ after Coalition and Greens team up and propose delay to NDIS bill

<span>The NDIS minister, Bill Shorten, says ‘there is no reason’ to delay the bill, which he wanted passed before parliament’s winter break.</span><span>Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian</span>
The NDIS minister, Bill Shorten, says ‘there is no reason’ to delay the bill, which he wanted passed before parliament’s winter break.Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Bill Shorten has accused the Coalition of a “disingenuous” and “lazy” decision on NDIS reforms, after the opposition proposed to team up with the Greens to delay a bill set to save at least $15m a day.

But the minister for government services’ plea to pass the bill before parliament’s winter break has been rebuffed by the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, who said it was “appalling” Labor wanted to make “cuts to services” to disabled people.

In the May budget the Albanese government announced a plan to cut $14.4bn from the projected funding trajectory of the national disability insurance scheme, limiting its growth to $1.5bn over four years.

The NDIS bill will allow the government to tweak rules to target plan inflation – where participants request more funds for supports than originally budgeted for – along with clarifying the two pathways for entry to the scheme, and what items and supports can be funded by participants. Participants have warned they fear the changes will give them less choice and control.

Despite the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, offering in March 2023 to give bipartisanship for “tough decisions” to keep the NDIS sustainable, the Coalition has proposed an amendment to delay the bill for at least two months and send it back for a second inquiry.

Shorten has claimed the delay alone could cost $1.1bn, $330m for changes to tackle intra-plan inflation and $733m for the plan to develop a new budget model for supports.

On Tuesday, Shorten told ABC Radio he was “horrified” at the delay “after 12 months of reviewing the NDIS and then another six months of discussing the review including [in] the last three a Senate committee having public hearings calling for submissions”.

Shorten said it was “remarkable” that the Coalition was calling for a further eight weeks to allow “co-design” of the scheme by people with disability, claiming this was a word they had “never ever said before”.

“There’s no good reason on God’s green Earth to have another eight weeks of review … there won’t be a whole lot of new submissions come in, there won’t be some brand new arguments not considered.”

Shorten said the opposition was “disingenuously saying they want more time for consultation” despite the fact the first Senate inquiry resulted in them agreeing that the bill “could be passed and they did not ask for any amendments”.

“It’s just a lazy delay … I’ve got a responsibility to all those hundreds of thousands of people on the scheme, the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the sector, and their families and the people who love them to make sure this scheme is there for the future.”

“And the reality is the people saying delay and vote no, they don’t have a plan to rescue the scheme. And they’re the ones who are going to scream the loudest if this scheme goes belly up, because people just gave up on the program of trying to restrain the growth rate.”

Bandt defended the delay, telling ABC Radio National that what is “appalling is Labor getting to budget surplus on the back of cuts to services for disabled people”.

“The NDIS [has] been life-changing for disabled people around the country,” he said.

“If there are changes that need to be made, those changes should be co-designed with disabled people and savings reinvested instead of what Labor is attempting to do, which is to take money out of the system.”

Bandt noted that the state premiers oppose the changes “because implicit in the federal government’s argument is that states will somehow take up the slack to provide services to people with disabilities”.

“And they’re saying ‘well look we just haven’t got the money to do it’.”

The NDIS review, released in December, looked at the fast-rising dollar figure, recommending those with less severe disabilities transition from the NDIS scheme to state and territory disability services, referred to as “foundational supports”.