Bill Shorten in his Canberra office. Picture credit: Elesa Kurtz/Canberra Times

Yesterday’s column ended on the point of posing a critical question: what is behind Bill Shorten’s incredible passion to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Does it emanate from a genuine commitment to improving conditions for people with disability? Or, to take the most cynical view possible, was it nothing more than a tool used by an ambitious politician to gain attention and position himself for the leadership?

If there was ever any doubt of Shorten’s motivation, it has vanished over the past three years.

It’s impossible to imagine what it could be like to lose an election after the polls had predicted victory for so long. The sheer personal cost of remaining and working, day after day, in a building where once you had expected to walk as Prime Minister, must have been incredible. Nevertheless, and ever since Labor’s former leader lost the 2019 election, he has seemingly single-mindedly devoted himself to one cause: getting the NDIS to work effectively.

A genuine commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme; Minister Bill Shorten at Parliament House. Picture Credit: courtesy of Elesa Kurtz/Canberra Times

As a (sometimes cynical) journalist I had wondered if Shorten might try to escape responsibility for implementing change once the party found itself in government. Pointing out problems is much easier than fixing them and, particularly after levelling such devastating criticism at the implementation of the scheme for so long, the new Minister made a rod for his own back.

Shorten will now be judged by his actions measured against his own aspirations – a difficult standard for anybody to pass and certainly not one to which I would want to be held accountable. 

But if there was ever any doubt about Shorten’s motivations it has vanished since he was announced as Minister for the NDIS. Rather than seek to downplay expectations, Shorten has been pushing the envelope and insisting he will attempt to get the scheme to work as intended.

In a barrage of interviews to mainstream media outlets over the past week, Shorten has attempted to reassure participants and those who depend on the scheme that even though he’s now in government, he remains utterly committed to his earlier commitments.

It’s a display of remarkable dedication.


Nic Stuart

Nicholas Stuart is an author (Kevin Rudd, an unauthorised political biography; What Goes Up, behind the 2007 election; Kevin Rudd, 2007 - 2011) and columnist with the Canberra Times. He was the ABC's Indochina Correspondent when he suffered a significant head injury in a car crash in Bangkok.

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