Martin Hoffman: Photo Credit Canberra Times

He didn’t have to go but, as Shakespeare might have said, if he was going to be out “’tis well it were done quickly”.

The clash between the head of the National Disability Insurance Agency and incoming Minister Bill Shorten gave every appearance of being highly personal. It was not simply a disagreement over how to get things done – its origins seemed to errupt from a difference in the very essence of what the NDIS was meant to achieve, and not simply how it would construct the scheme.

Regardless of payouts or questions over the termination package it is clear that Martin Hoffman’s decision to resign is the correct one. Any prospect the two men could work collaboratively together appeared unlikely if not impossible. The only other alternative, Hoffman hanging on, perhaps for months, with his position continually eroding around him would have risked stasis.

Disability advocates will not cry.

The point of this post is, however, not to join anyone in dancing in triumph over Hoffman’s departure.

Better Times: as NDIA CEO

His departure sets three clear markers for the future. The first is most crucial. It is that Shorten intends to make good on his pre-election promises. He is the Minister and he will ensure the NDIA achieves its mission. He will do all this very appropriately, of course, and while respecting its status as an independent statutory authority, but the point is that it is Shorten who is in control. He will re-shape the scheme in his image.

The second point is that this will inevitably leave the authority somewhat directionless for a period. While change is coming to the NDIA (and the full parameters of this shift are not yet clear) it is obvious that the Authority will enter a period of stasis for months as the ramifications of getting new people in the top management jobs are worked through and a new direction is established.

The third – and key – issue relates to what this means for policy.

One of the major problems that observers identified with the NDIA under Hoffman’s leadership was that the rhetoric no longer aligned with the organisation’s actions. It seemed quite clear that decisions were being made with the underlying purpose being to save money, rather than support people with disability.

The new CEO will establish a new direction.

Many will be relieved.


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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