Transcript by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Senate Questions Without Notice


My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. Can the Minister provide an update to the Senate on the operation of the four trial sites of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?


Colleagues may be aware that late last year I released the key elements of the First Quarter results of the NDIS trial sites, which found that plan completions were taking longer than expected, with about 921 people in the scheme – around half the target number. The First Quarter results also found that package costs were running at $46,290 — 30% higher than the modelled average cost of $34,969.

Today, in the interests of transparency, with my colleagues on the Ministerial COAG Disability Reform Council, we are releasing the Second Quarter results, that show:

  • Firstly, that average package costs have fallen from the First Quarter figures, down to $40,466. While this trend is positive, I should inform the Senate that these figures remain 15% above the budgeted average cost. Plan completions are now at 2,586, which is half the target for this stage of 4,340.
  • Secondly, the Report indicates that it’s likely that the budget by the previous government for the trial sites underestimated cost to the tune of nearly $400 million. This was due to errors in the bilateral agreements negotiated by the previous government. The difference between the expected annual cost in 2013/14 to 2015/16 and the actuarial baseline model is $392.1 million to be precise. Those bilateral agreements negotiated by the previous government provide that the Commonwealth is liable for all cost over-runs.

Errors of this sort are far more likely when a political timetable to achieve launch prior to an election is pursued, rather than the more prudent timetable recommended by the Productivity Commission.


Can the Minister inform the Senate of the implication of these figures and the Government’s response to them?


This isn’t just an issue for the Commonwealth. The NDIS is a shared venture of all Australian governments. That is why, at the last COAG meeting on December 13, First Ministers – State and Federal, Liberal and Labor — asked disability ministers to report back in March 2014 on progress with the trials, including options to improve the implementation of the scheme and ensure that it operates on insurance principles to deliver for people with disability in a fiscally sustainable way.

At the same COAG meeting, First Ministers decided to describe the launch sites as trial sites. This decision was taken to emphasise the need to carefully study and learn the lessons from the trial sites, as was the intention of the Productivity Commission.

All governments, I know Mr President, share with the Australian Government the intention to learn those lessons to make sure they are implemented before full roll out.


Can the Minister inform the Senate of the Government’s approach to the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?


The Coalition is committed to delivering the NDIS in full.

The priority of the Government is to ensure the scheme is as effective and efficient as it can be. And that’s to ensure that the support gets to the people who need it.

We are determined to ensure that the NDIS is here to stay, and that its foundations are strong and financially sustainable.

It’s important that we ensure that Australians with disability aren’t left wondering whether a reform of this magnitude is able to stand the test of time. We need to give them certainty that the services provided to them under the NDIS are here to stay.

That is what everything the Government does in relation to the NDIS is about.

And I would hope that those opposite will participate in the Parliamentary NDIS Committee, in the way it was intended – to put partisanship aside, to help identify issues, to help identify solutions and to see that the NDIS is the best that it can be.