ABC Radio AM Program with James Glenday
The federal Minister responsible for the NDIS is Mitch Fifield. He told AM’s James Glenday the Government isn’t trying to slow down the rollout of the scheme, but it does want to make sure that it’ll work as planned.
We’re not looking at the NDIS as a source of savings. We’re looking at the NDIS as one of the most important social programmes to ever be rolled out in Australia. And we’re looking to see that rolled out in full. We want to see it rolled out as quickly as possible, but we’re equally committed to ensuring that the foundations of the scheme are strong.
The Commission of Audit into federal finances found the 2019 timeline for rolling out the scheme was too ambitious, and could either lead to a blowout in cost or reduce the quality of the scheme. Are you worried that it could?
The Commission of Audit, I don’t think, were approaching their advice from the point of view of seeking savings in the NDIS. I think their approach was looking to see how the best foundations possible can be laid.
There have been several reports that the Government is looking at slowing down the rollout of the scheme. Will it be too difficult to renegotiate all those deals with the states given their recent comments on this?
The Commonwealth isn’t looking to delay the scheme. We’re not seeking to slow it down. And the Board of the Agency are of the same view, which is why they commissioned KPMG to provide advice as to what the optimal timetable is for a smooth and successful rollout. And I think we’ve got to be focussed, laser-like, on ensuring that nothing gets in the way of ensuring that the rollout is smooth and successful.
If the scheme isn’t slowed down, could it be capped or cut to ensure that costs don’t blow out?
There is a funding envelope of $22 billion at full rollout. That is about half Commonwealth money, half state money. And we are determined to work within that funding envelope.
OK, so is that a yes?
We are determined to work within that funding envelope. There is very significant investment in the scheme from all Australian governments. And we intend to deliver the scheme according to those agreements and according to that funding envelope.
Promises like the National Disability Insurance Scheme are very expensive. Do you support breaking another promise and introducing a debt tax to raise extra income?
Without commenting on any particular budget speculation, there may well be the need for some temporary measures to effect a permanent improvement in the budget.
That’s the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, speaking there with AM’s James Glenday in Canberra.