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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Bill Shorten’s around-the-world trip to discuss peace in Ukraine and NDIS reform

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Bill Shorten’s around-the-world trip to discuss peace in Ukraine and NDIS reform

Bill Shorten, the minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), is currently in New York at a United Nations conference on the rights of people with disabilities.

At the weekend, he’ll fly to Europe to represent Australia at a summit in Switzerland aimed at finding international consensus on a peace path for the Ukrainian conflict.

In this podcast, Shorten discusses these conferences, as well as the ongoing process of reforming the NDIS.

On what the Ukrainian peace conference hopes to achieve, given Russia will not be there, Shorten says

Well, at the absolute very least, it’s an expression of global solidarity for the Ukrainian struggle against the criminal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But I think more than that it […] lays down markers across a range of issues, I expect, which would be part of the basis for a peace process.

The work has to be done, eventually it has to obviously involve Russia, but there’s work which needs to start now.


Read more: With Russia not attending, what can this weekend's Ukraine peace summit achieve?


Australia has given substantial aid to Ukraine but refused its request for retired Taipan helicopters and a shipment of coal. Shorten says:

Well, Ukraine is entitled to ask for whatever it wants, but Australia is entitled to provide whatever it thinks it should.

When it comes to the coal shipment, it’s not correct to say that nothing has happened. What happened is that we’re interested in delivering the most effective and efficient support we can for the Ukrainian people. Shipment of coal from Australia carries shipping and insurance costs. Instead, we’ve given the equivalent amount of the coal in cash – $20 million to the Ukraine Energy Support Fund.

Shorten currently has legislation going through parliament to reform the NDIS. The UN disabilities conference has been an opportunity to share information with other countries.

It is quite an amazing experience. The governments of the world talk about what they’re doing for people with disability, but it’s a sort of kitchen of everything for disability.

The nations say what they’re doing, the non-government organisations talk. There are many Australian civil society disability advocates who are here. We see what good ideas we can hoover up from the rest of the world, and we talk a bit about the Australian journey for disability.

NDIS reform involves a battle against fraud and what have been exploding costs. Shorten says:

I must state this at the outset because sometimes NDIS media coverage tends to be just all doom and gloom. The NDIS, since its inception 11 years ago, has changed hundreds of thousands of lives for the better and it’s attracted people to work in the sector. But it is correct that it’s growing too fast. And what we’ve got a range of measures to get the scheme back on track. This legislation specifically goes to some of them.

We want to make sure that when a person’s annual budget or their two-yearly budget is expended far quicker than the annual or the bi-annual plan predicted, then we’re able to look and understand why that is the case. We want to make sure that the person with a disability isn’t being manipulated into burning up their resources with bad advice or inappropriate services.

Finally, there’s been speculation about whether Shorten would be interested in an oversees post. Will he be around for the long haul? Asked if he’ll contest the next election, he says,

My plans haven’t changed at all. I am very lucky to be able to serve in the parliament. I’ve been very fortunate […] I’ve been lucky to lead the Labor Party, I’ve been lucky to work in NDIS and government services and be part of the royal commission class action. I don’t want to waste a minute of my time here.

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