Former leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, has been named as Australia’s next Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and for Government Services.
It was expected he would become the Minister after holding the Shadow Ministry before the Federal Election.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his new Cabinet last night, after it was confirmed Labor would form a majority Government with 77 seats, and the Ministers were sworn in this morning.
Minister Shorten has previously committed to NDIS reform to “return it to its original vision” and prior to the Election Labor launched a comprehensive plan, including changes to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
On social media last night, Minister Shorten thanked the PM for his appointment and said he would not let him down as Labor’s first Minister dedicated to the NDIS.
His role will also include work on a Robodebt Royal Commission, which he has been calling for since 2020.
“It is my great honour to serve people with disability, to defend the NDIS and oversee the Robodebt Royal Commission,” says Minister Shorten.
“Now the hard work begins.”
Minister Shorten attended his swearing in ceremony with an NDIS participant that he says has been “seriously mucked around by the agency”.
“I want to pay respect to people with disability by including them in everything I do,” says Minister Shorten.
Change to NDIS needed quickly, as appeals costs triple
Every Australian Counts, the movement that fought for the introduction of the NDIS, says the new Minister has some big challenges ahead.
The organisation wants Minister Shorten to bring “trust, pride and transparency back to the heart of the NDIA”.
It wants to see Minister Shorten use co-design when improving the NDIS, make sure people who are not eligible for the NDIS can still get support, improve NDIS planning processes, make NDIA processes fair and accessible, and fund advocacy and legal support for those who need it.
Disability advocate Elly Desmarchelier, who has been an outspoken representative of Every Australian Counts, took to social media after the Minister’s announcement to congratulate him.
“I can’t think of a better voice in Labor to take up the significant work and opportunity of restoring our NDIS,” Ms Desmarcheiler wrote.
“Looking forward to working with you to rebuild trust between people with disability and Government.”
She also reminded Minister Shorten of his promise to urgently review cases at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) from NDIS participants where the cost of the case was more than the cost of the support needed.
“For the stressed families still battling the NDIA, I hope that work begins tomorrow,” she wrote.
The NDIA’s spending on lawyers to fight participants over funding decisions has been a hot topic of the Election campaign for people with disability.
Figures released at the beginning of the week, in answer to Senate committee questions taken on notice before the Election campaign began, show legal costs incurred by the NDIA in relation to NDIS funding decisions are already three times more this financial year than in 2019-2020.
In the 2021-2022 financial year to 30 April, AAT legal costs were $41.48 million - putting the spending on track to reach $50 million by the end of the financial year.
In 2019-2020, the NDIA spent $13.46 million on AAT legal costs.
By contrast, the funding provided through the NDIS Appeals Program to support people with disability going to the AAT was just over $5.1 million up to April in the 2021-2022 year.
Minister Shorten has previously committed to looking into the legal costs and the appeals process which is part of the NDIS.
Sector welcomes new Ministers and calls for collaboration
The disability sector has welcomed Minister Shorten to his new role as well as other Ministers who have been sworn into Government today.
Other frontbench announcements of importance to the disability sector include:
- Mark Butler as Minister for Health and Aged Care
- Amanda Rishworth as Minister for Social Services
- Justine Elliot as Assistant Minister for Social Services
- Jason Clare as Minister for Education
- Katy Gallagher as Minister for Women
- Anne Aly as Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth
- Ged Kearney as Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care
- Senator Anthony Chisholm as Assistant Minister for Education
Minister Butler, incoming Minister for Health and Aged Care, has already confirmed he will fully match the commitment made by the previous Minister, Greg Hunt, to the End Deadly Disability Discrimination campaign run by the Council for Intellectual Disability and Inclusion Australia.
The commitment will see the National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability implemented and a Centre for Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health established.
Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) congratulated all the new Ministers and says advocates look forward to working collaboratively with the Ministers for Social Services, NDIS and Government Services, Women and Education to “advance the rights of people with disability, to advance gender equality and to stop violence against women”.
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) says it looks forward to working with the Government and Ministers to “progress equity for children and young people with disability spanning early childhood, education, advocacy, NDIS, Disability Royal Commission and more”.
PM Albanese has confirmed the new Parliament will sit for the first time on the last Tuesday of July.