Crossbencher senator Stirling Griff won't let NDIS overhaul sail through

South Australian senator Stirling Griff. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
South Australian senator Stirling Griff. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Senate crossbenchers are concerned about sweeping proposed changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with one declaring there is "absolutely no way" he will allow them to sail through without the scrutiny of a fresh inquiry.

The mounting political pressure could force the government to delay the changes, with new NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds committing to further consultation before any legislation is introduced to parliament.

The government had originally hoped the laws would be passed by the middle of the year.

Senator Reynolds has also ruled out changes which would exclude people from the scheme based on their diagnosis, such as fetal alcohol disorder or acquired brain inquiry.

The Canberra Times last week reported that disability group Advocacy for Inclusion had written to key Senate crossbenchers to urge them to oppose any overhaul of the $22 billion scheme which would undermine participants' rights and dilute the influence of states and territories.

While the legislation to be brought before parliament has yet to be publicly released, a leaked set of draft laws showed the government was considering a number of significant changes beyond the highly contentious introduction of mandatory independent assessment for all participants.

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The draft laws, which were obtained and published online by Labor's NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten, flagged moves to expand the federal minister's power to make rules without agreement from states.

It also proposed new rules allowing items to be declared "ordinary living expenses", which participants are banned from paying for with their NDIS funding.

Former NDIS minister Stuart Robert had been pushing to block participants using their funding to access sex workers, after the federal court ruled that it was permitted.

New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Under the leaked legislation, which the government claimed was just one of close to 80 drafts, participants would have to repay NDIS funding spent on "ordinary living expenses".

Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff, who received a letter from Advocacy for Inclusion, said he had "great concerns" from what he knew and had seen reported about the Morrison government's plans for the NDIS.

Senator Griff said the legislation should be referred to an inquiry as soon as it was introduced to parliament.

Parliament's NDIS committee is already holding an inquiry into independent assessments, which has so far received dozens of submissions from participants' families, peak bodies, advocacy groups and academics sounding alarm about the proposal.

"There is absolutely no way I would allow it [the legislation] to get through without an inquiry taking place," Senator Griff told The Canberra Times.

"This is particularly important given from reports it seeks to limit, or possibly deny, funding to vulnerable cohorts, limits the influence of state and territory governments and expands the power of the minister.

"There are great concerns there and at the very least it has to go to off to a Senate inquiry. And this is an inquiry that is not going to be a one-week or two-week inquiry."

A spokeswoman for independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie said she had concerns with the proposal and had been meeting with disability advocacy groups and the crossbench.

She wanted to speak with Senator Reynolds before making further public comment, the spokeswoman said.

In response to questions from The Canberra Times, Senator Reynolds would not guarantee laws to implement the sweeping changes would be introduced to parliament in line with the government's original timeframe.

She committed to further consultation on the changes, including with state and territory ministers at a meeting in Adelaide on Thursday.

"I am listening carefully to the concerns raised by people with disabilities, their families and the organisations around the country that support them," she said.

"I am currently receiving comprehensive briefings and am consulting with all state and territory disability ministers, the disability sector and NDIS participants before any legislative changes are put before the Federal Parliament."

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This story 'Absolutely no way': Crossbencher won't let NDIS overhaul sail through first appeared on The Canberra Times.