The Australian Labor Party recognises the intent of the bill in seeking to improve the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (NDIS Act) by amending Schedule 1 of the Act to introduce new requirements for the appointment of Agency Board and Independent Advisory Council (IAC) members, and establish a 28 day consultation period with states and territories with provision for an extension of 90 days; and the re-categorisation of certain section 209 Rules to convert the states and territories agreement from unanimous to majority.
The Australian Labor Party is notionally supportive of any changes to the NDIS Act which would increase consultation with states and territories, the proposed arrangements have already been followed since November 2017 in accordance with an existing COAG Reform Council agreement to a 28 day consultation period.
The Australian Labor Party opposes the amendments to decision making that convert the rules requiring unanimous agreement of the Commonwealth, States and Territories (Category A) and the rules requiring agreement of the Commonwealth and the majority of States and Territories (Category C), to rules made after consultation with States and Territories (Category D).
The Australian Labor Party opposes the introduction of the term 'host jurisdiction' in reference to states and territories participating in the Scheme.
Although the majority committee report highlights that the department suggested that the proposed changes would not change the requirement for states and territories to actively participate in decision making under the NDIS Act, the Australian Labor party is concerned that these changes will cumulatively reduce the level of participation by states and territories in governance decision making including Board and Advisory Council appointments.
The Australian Labor Party is broadly concerned with timing of the Bill in relation to the NDIS Act review to be undertaken by David Tune AO PSM (the Tune review).
The majority committee report acknowledges the concerns present in the timing of the bill and the Tune review, given that the review has scope to consider governance arrangements.
The Australian Labor Party does not agree with the majority recommendation by the committee to proceed with the Bill in advance of the finalisation of the Tune Review findings, and instead recommends that any changes to governance be considered as part a comprehensive assessment of the Scheme and development of a Participant Guarantee.
‘Host jurisdiction’ wording
The Australian Labor Party opposes the changes to the wording from 'States and Territories' to 'Host Jurisdictions'.
Given that all Australian states and territories are party to intergovernmental agreements with the Commonwealth in the scheme, there is no need to create a new label which alludes to a distinction between host and non-host jurisdictions.
The connotations of this new language are dismissive of the critical role that states and territories have in service delivery, financial contributions and client-facing aspects of the scheme.
The Australian Labor Party does not support the following proposed amendments:
The proposed amendment to section 127(4D) granting the Commonwealth Minister the power to appoint board members without a majority agreement from the states and territories.
The proposed change to section 147 (2) to (3A) which seeks to change the requirements of the Minister when seeking agreement on the appointment of a member to the IAC from unanimous agreement to consultation only.
The proposed amendment to section 155(3) and (4) which seeks to change the requirements of the Minister when seeking agreement on the termination of a member from the IAC from unanimous agreement to consultation only.
The Australian Labor Party recommends that this bill not proceed at this time.
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy