I want to thank the member for Cunningham for moving this motion. Like her and like so many of my colleagues, the NDIS is a critical issue for me and for members of my community. I know that, in terms of representations to my office in Jagajaga, this would be one of the top five issues that people bring to me—the challenges they are having with the NDIS, looking for my support for their interactions with the NDIA, and understanding interventions in outcomes that they just don’t understand. This tells us something which I think we all know—that the NDIS, while a great scheme, is not working as it should for some participants.
Many people do have excellent experiences as part of the NDIS. I’m so pleased when I come across a parent who tells me that the NDIS has literally been life changing for their children. There are a lot of those parents, and that is something to absolutely be acknowledged and celebrated. The NDIS is a great Labor reform. It is a great Labor legacy, and now, it seems, it is up to a new Labor government to make sure that we fix the NDIS and that it is working as it should for all participants.
We do want to ensure that those people who had experiences that they just shouldn’t have had, during the last nine years of the coalition government, don’t have those experiences into the future. I don’t want it to be a continuing situation that I have parents coming into my office, saying: ‘I just don’t understand how this decision was made. I can’t get them to explain. What’s behind this? Why are we at the AAT? Why are lawyers involved?’ This isn’t how the scheme was meant to operate. It is meant to give people with disability choice and control. At the moment, for some people, that is absolutely working, but it’s not working for enough people. Our government wants to restore trust in the scheme. We want to see improved outcomes for participants and for the people who support them, and I absolutely know that my community wants to see this too.
At the beginning of this year, I wrote to households across my community about the NDIS because I had been hearing from so many people about problems they had encountered. I asked them to share their stories and their experiences so I could better advocate on their behalf. Across the feedback I received was a clear indication that our community wants the NDIS to be at its best. People saw the potential that’s there for the NDIS to be as good as it can be, delivering supports and services to people in our community who need them. I continue to highlight that local desire, as well as the local experiences of NDIS participants and their families, with our minister. I am pleased to see that in the first six months of our government there are some very important steps that have been taken by our government to get the NDIS back on track.
It’s not a small thing to say this includes the new leadership at the National Disability Insurance Agency, the NDIA. This is an important step. We know that those at the top of an organisation, any organisation, help set the standard. They’re not the only people there, but they are important people there, and they do help to set the tone, set the standard and reinforce values. In the last couple of months, Kurt Fearnley has been appointed chairperson of the NDIA board, and he is joined by new board members Dr Graeme Innes and Maryanne Diamond. What these appointments bring is lived experience, which is so crucial to the scheme. They bring corporate and public sector experience and a great understanding and knowledge of the issues being experienced by so many people on the scheme. There is also a new CEO to help show to participants that this is a new chapter for the NDIA under our government.
The government has also sought to address some of the challenges that advocates have been highlighting with me and others as key issues. We are working to reduce the backlog of time-consuming, expensive AAT appeals that I know have caused so much stress and anxiety for too many people. In just five months, 2,000 inherited legacy cases have been resolved, slashing the backlog in half. This is really important. Again, I can’t tell you how many families I’ve had come to me stressed about ending up at the tribunal. Our government is also reducing the number of people with disability unnecessarily stuck in hospitals despite being medically fit for discharge. We’ve reduced this to about 1,100 people and reduced the average wait time. We are funding 380 new positions in the NDIA to deliver better and faster planning decisions for participants, as well as their families, carers and providers, to give them that certainty so that they know what their pathway is, so that they understand what to expect and so that, in what can be a really stressful time, people feel supported—not like they are being told what they can’t have, but like they are being supported with rules they can understand. These are all important changes.