Is the NDIS really unaffordable?

by | Feb 26, 2024 | The Big Story, Wire

Increasing costs are behind the move to change the NDIS, but that still leaves the problem of how to fund the new model.

"Sometimes I get the crazy feeling that he blames us for the budget overrun."

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In 2022, NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds attempted to dramatically change the NDIS. This was necessary she said, “to ensure its sustainability”. Well-briefed journalists helpfully published a number of graphs to show how, by 2026, the scheme would blow out to the unthinkable sum of $50bn. 

The scheme hit that target a year early. 

It’s still growing at a rate of just over ten percent. That’s faster than spending on hospitals (6.3), defence (6.2), medical benefits (5.9), and aged care (5.8). What’s really concerning the government, though, is that it can’t stop the cost soaring higher. If someone’s eligible for a package, they receive it. The PM can cancel Navy frigates, but he can’t cancel someone’s NDIS plan.   

This is really the only background you need to understand what’s going on behind the scenes in Canberra today. Yes, it’s a Labor government and yes, NDIS Minister Bill Shorten remains committed to the scheme. But the politicians need to find another way of achieving the objective. 

The question is how.  

And changes will require sign-off from National Cabinet. The two non-Labor faces there were ACT Greens Emma Davidson and Tasmanian Liberal Jo Palmer. 

Davidson opposed weakening the scheme, but she’s shifted to the ACT Corrections portfolio. Palmer’s now embroiled in her state’s election campaign but expert Kevin Bonham believes the conservatives will probably loose. Labor parliamentarians may soon occupy all the seats around the cabinet table: but that doesn’t mean change will be easy. 

Somebody will still have to pay for the reforms.