Media Release by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

NDIS Board Appointment Process

It is important to correct the record on issues related to the Board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) covered in today’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) and on today’s Jon Faine program.

It is untrue, as asserted by the Federal Opposition, that the Government is seeking to spill the positions on the Board of the NDIS and has commenced a board selection process that is not known to the Chair of the Board or to the States and Territories.

The facts are:

  • The Federal Minister does not have the power to dismiss Board members or to unilaterally appoint Board members. Appointments are made through agreement with jurisdictions
  • The terms of all current Board members were set by the previous government and expire on 30 June 2016
  • If the Government did not establish a process regarding appointments there would be no Board from the middle of next year
  • The previous Government did not follow best corporate governance practice when it failed to stagger the dates of Board Member expiry

Contrary to the AFR report, it has always been the intention of the Government in the next iteration of the Board to stagger term expiry. I indicated this in Senate Estimates on 26 February 2015 and on the Jon Faine program on the same day and wrote to all State and Territory Treasurers and Disability Ministers on 7 July 2015 confirming this.

The States and Territories and the Board Chair were aware of the background and process for appointment of Board members for 1 July 2016.

Consultations with jurisdictions commenced with agreement by First Ministers at COAG on 17 April 2015 that there should be a process to ensure the next iteration of the board had the best skill set for the transition phase of the Scheme. This agreement was discussed at the 24 April 2015 COAG Disability Reform Council (DRC) Ministerial Meeting. On 7 July 2015 I wrote to all Ministerial members of the DRC seeking their agreement to an appointments process that would include the engagement of a search firm. By 29 July 2015 all jurisdictions had written to confirm their agreement to the process. On 2 September 2015 I wrote to DRC Ministerial members confirming the search firm had been engaged and advising that advertisements calling for expressions of interest would soon appear.

On 9 July 2015 the Department of Social Services, at my direction, outlined the proposed Board selection process to the Chair of the Board which included providing a copy of the 7 July 2015 correspondence to my ministerial counterparts. I wrote to the Chair on 17 July 2015 providing further details of the Board selection process. On 3 September 2015, Board members were contacted by the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Department of Social Services and advised that expression of interest advertisements would appear in the press from the following day and that further advice on the process would be provided. Early on 4 September 2015 my Department emailed a letter from me inviting interested Board members to take part in the process.

As I have indicated publicly, including on the Jon Faine program on 26 February 2015, it is the intention of governments that the new Board will ensure continuity through the continuation of some existing board members, combined with new members, to oversee the transition phase the NDIS is entering. The new Board will include some members with experience on the boards of large listed companies or Government Business Enterprises, the requirements detailed in the NDIS Act and people with relevant skill sets and lived experience of disability.

A public process that is advertised and commences nine months before the expiry of board terms is the opposite of the stealth approach alleged by the Federal Opposition. The Commonwealth and all jurisdictions are focussed on ensuring the Scheme in all its elements is the best it can be.