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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 8998

National Disability Insurance Scheme

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (14:49): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. We've done some sums and worked out that $180 million could fund nearly 1,000 full-time carers for five years for people with disabilities. That's the amount of NDIS money that your government has spent on a dozen different consultants and contractors over the past 16 months—nearly $200 million. Why? What the hell was it spent on, who authorised it and why did the Public Service need such expensive outside advice anyway?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (14:50): I think colleagues would appreciate that the NDIS is a multibillion-dollar project—at full rollout it will be a $22 billion-a-year scheme. One of the things that the NDIS does not do is directly employ people who are engaged in the work of providing care and support. That is something which is funded through the individual packages that NDIS participants have. They direct that funding to the support staff of their choice. The NDIS is also aiming to not have a terribly large direct workforce of its own. As Senator Hinch would appreciate, they undertake planning activities and other functions to make the scheme work, so there has been a need to engage consultants across a range of activities—and recognising that the NDIS is, in effect, a start-up, that it is bringing together responsibilities which have rested with the states and with the Commonwealth. It is a massive venture. It is a massive exercise. Given this is something, as I say, that is a start-up, there has been the need to engage consultancy services across a range of areas of the organisation's activity.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hinch, on a supplementary question?

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (14:51): Senator Fifield, despite all that money being poured into fixing the rollout issues—$180 million; a thousand carers for five years—complaints about the NDIS are up 700 per cent in the past 12 months. Is this another NBN? When can the Australian public expect your government to get the NDIS rollout right?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (14:52): I thank Senator Hinch for his supplementary question. In terms of complaints about the NDIS, as the NDIS is rolling out progressively throughout the nation, as the NDIS assumes responsibility from state jurisdictions and as the number of NDIS participants increases over time, starting a couple of years ago at zero and rising ultimately to about 460,000 people, you will see a commensurate increase in the number of complaints. The NDIS—or I should say the federal government, on behalf of all jurisdictions—is going to be putting in place a quality safeguards framework, which will cover complaints. But obviously, in this area, we would not want to see any complaints.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hinch, do you have a final supplementary question?

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (14:53): Mr President, as I told your predecessor, unlike in the other place, we have these time-wasting supplementary questions, especially stupid government PR dorothy dixers, and I forfeit that time in protest.

The PRESIDENT: You have made that point to me as well, Senator Hinch.