People With Disability Australia President Samantha Connor speaking to the media at Parliament this week. Photo: PWDA
The biggest changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) since its inception are being considered in a Bill in the last days of the 46th Parliament, and disability advocates say the process is being rushed without adequate consideration of the Bill’s impacts.
Despite the risk of travel during the pandemic, disability advocates came to Canberra this week to try to influence deliberations.
The Bill was drafted in response to the 2019 Independent Review of the NDIS Act by David Tune and will see amendments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Act 2013 including changes to some existing NDIS rules.
People with Disability Australia President Samantha Connor led the delegation. She said it was important to visit the Parliament even though travel during COVID is confronting.
Ms Connor says the Bill is a lengthy technical document and its impacts are not understood.
During a break in her campaigning efforts this week, Ms Connor spoke to ability.news.
“The Bill really needs to have eyes on it. The implications for people with disability aren’t clear until you actually go through and unpack that legislation,” Ms Connor said.
People with Disability Australia President Samantha Connor, photo courtesy PWDA
Ms Connor said she and the delegation met with Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston but they still are not clear on what the changes could mean.
“The last lot of amendments were sent through at 6 o’clock last night. It is really not acceptable to land this on community representatives rather than have the entire disability community and legal teams go through this to see what impact it will have.”
“Anything that impacts on the lives of people with disability we actually need to see that legislation to have an opportunity to understand what it is going to mean to us in practise.”
Along with Government discussions, the PWDA met the Opposition Spokesperson on the NDIS, Bill Shorten and cross-bench MP Helen Haines and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts.
Ms Connor said there has been considerable media interest in their advocacy this week.
“We have really been put under pressure to advocate directly to Government for our rights.”
In earlier submissions, PWDA raised concerns about a number of issues with the legislation that related to the power of the NDIA Chief Executive Officer.
PWDA has also argued that NDIS board members should more adequately represent people with disability, not merely people with ‘lived experience’ of disability. PWDA says ‘lived experienced’ can be broadly interpreted and does not necessarily mean that an individual is a person with a disability.
Ms Connor says board representation is essential.
“Unless you have people with disabilities in charge of our lives, what does this look like if we have the current chairperson is a person who came from the insurance sector.”
The acting NDIS Chair is Jim Minto. Mr Minto was Group CEO and Managing Director of life insurer TAL and is the Chair of Swiss Re Life and Health Australia Ltd.
“Coming from the insurance world isn’t really what the NDIS is about. The fact that it has insurance in the word doesn’t mean the same thing.”
Ms Connor insists the makeup of the board is an important issue.
Acting NDIS Chair Jim Minto. Mr Minto was Group CEO and Managing Director of life insurer TAL and is the Chair of Swiss Re Life and Health Australia Ltd. Photo courtesy NDIA
“We don’t know these people. While I am sure they have very expert skills outside of disability not all of them come from the disability world”, Ms Connor says.
“We need people who have solid skills in terms of legal, accounting etc. There is not really any reason that we can’t have an advisory group of people with those skills where the traditional advisory group sits, then have people who have decision making power who have a very solid understanding of human rights alongside the principles of the NDIS who can advise them on things like financial sustainability.”
“That is the model we use in a lot of our disabled persons’ organisations.”
The NDIS board has 2 members who are people with disability.
“It should be people with disability who are in charge of the scheme that is supporting us,” says Ms Connor.
She is hopeful this week’s lobbying efforts will have an impact. Samantha Connor will head to Sydney for more advocacy work before returning to her home in Western Australia for 7-days isolation.
PWDA’s submission and comments on the NDIS Bill can be found at: Peak Disability Org Calls For Clarity On Proposed NDIS Reforms – People with Disability Australia (pwd.org.au).