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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Bill Shorten on NDIS reform and the Optus fallout

Michelle & Bill Shorten

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a landmark reform of the last decade. But while delivering much benefit, it has operational problems and its cost has escalated dramatically – currently around $30 billion annually, there have been suggestions it could reach $60 billion. The scheme looms as one of the major pressures on the Albanese government’s budgets in coming years.

In this podcast, Michelle Grattan talks with Bill Shorten, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services about the issues around the scheme and the reforms needed to improve its operation and contain its cost.

Registered providers have been warned they’ll be reined in to prevent “price gouging”.

“We have to tackle this issue of double pricing. That is the phenomena that you turn up with little Johnny for a service, and if you don’t have an NDIS package, the therapy or the treatment you get, you know, is $100. But if you say to them that you’ve got an NDIS package, magically that same service goes up in price, and the scheme shouldn’t be treated that way.”

Shorten wants to clear the legacy load of disputed cases. “When we were elected four months ago, there was four and a half thousand matters tied up in the courts. Now, whilst that’s a small percentage of half a million people [in the NDIS], for those four and a half thousand people, their families, service providers, etc, it’s traumatic, drags on. So we made a resolution to review the matter. What are we really arguing about? Make offers to resolve it”.

In his role as government services minister, Shorten has been vocal in demanding Optus provide the government with full information about those affected by the exposure of Medicare cards and the like.

“I get that Optus is under a lot of pressure and it must be very tough for their executives. But the real victims here are the customers of Optus […] I think communication is getting better now. The reason why we wanted the data is that apparently there’s 36,900 people’s Medicare numbers that have been breached.”

“Where Optus has required government information – passports, driver’s licence, Medicare, etc – we want to have a line of sight. [To know] who are these individuals who are affected so that if we do detect anyone trying to breach the first wall of our defences, we can red flag it straight away.”

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