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Critics speak out against ‘concerning expansion’ of NDIA CEO’s powers


16 November 2021 at 4:55 pm
Luke Michael
“Participants are being asked to support the rushed introduction of a bill which would fundamentally change the NDIS” 


Luke Michael | 16 November 2021 at 4:55 pm


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Critics speak out against ‘concerning expansion’ of NDIA CEO’s powers
16 November 2021 at 4:55 pm

“Participants are being asked to support the rushed introduction of a bill which would fundamentally change the NDIS” 

Disability advocates fear proposed changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme will place unconstrained power in the hands of the National Disability Insurance Agency CEO to change a participant’s plan without their consent.

The federal government’s Participant Service Guarantee legislation sets clear standards and timeframes for how long key NDIS processes, including plan approvals and plan reviews, should take.

But also embedded in the bill are other changes that would give the NDIA boss the ability to vary an NDIS plan – and potentially cut a person’s funding – on their own initiative.

The government has dismissed the concerns, stating these powers would only be used in a small number of specific situations, such as emergencies when a participant quickly needs equipment repaired.

Officials have also noted that the bill states “each variation must be prepared with the participant”, however there is no guarantee provided in the legislation that a person must consent to a change.

During a Senate committee hearing into the bill last Friday, former NDIA chair Professor Bruce Bonyhady spoke out against the changes.

“Participants are being asked to support the rushed introduction of a bill which would fundamentally change the NDIS. This simply does not stack up,” Bonyhady said.

“I can see very few positive benefits from this legislation and enormous risks to the vision of the NDIS.

“The proposed changes in this bill are the most significant since the NDIS commenced.”

Blanca Ramirez, a National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) senior research and policy officer, also expressed concerns during the hearing.

“We are deeply concerned about the proposed power of the CEO to vary a participant’s plan,” Ramirez said. 

“The act itself does not set out limitations to the CEO’s power.”

NEDA’s submission to the Senate inquiry said one way to limit this power and clear up ambiguity around the changes would be to state in the bill that “each variation must be prepared with the participant’s consent”. 

Grassroots disability campaign group Every Australian Counts also said the proposal gives the NDIA CEO “way too much discretionary power”. The group said the limited circumstances in which plan changes can be made must be consulted on first.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said the NDIA should not have the discretion to vary an NDIS plan without the consent of participants. 

National president Graham Droppert SC said there was no need to provide such unconstrained power to the NDIA CEO.  

“In the rare cases of emergency where an individual cannot be consulted in time or declines to have their plan varied, the CEO already has the authority to conduct a full reassessment,” Droppert said. 

“Therefore, the discretion given to the CEO… is an unnecessary and concerning expansion of the CEO’s powers. 

“At a minimum, the use of these powers must be constrained by set criteria and be subject to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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