‘Oompa-Loompas’: Shorten hits out

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    Bill Shorten has blasted National Disability Insurance Agency bureaucrats in a withering attack, comparing them to “Oompa-Loompas” and “chimpanzees typing”. The Labor frontbencher commented at a community forum in Geelong on Wednesday, where he claimed “nuts” red tape was preventing people with a disability from accessing services.

    “This is bureaucracy gone crazy. If you want to vary an item by a couple of hundred dollars, you’ve got a whole process,” he said. “I’m not exaggerating. There must be a whole army of Oompa-Loompas dreaming this stuff up, chimpanzees typing somewhere. “It is nuts. It is not a sensible way to run an organization.”

    Mr. Shorten joined disability advocates in the Victorian seat of Corangamite, alongside Labor MP Libby Coker. He discussed the federal government’s plan to rollout independent assessments (IAs) for National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.

    New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said in April the plans would be paused until after trials and nationwide consultation but insisted at senate estimates the scheme would continue in “some form”. “I have been very, very clear today and previously that in some form we must have independent functional assessments. What form they take is very much the subject of consultation,” she said.

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    NDIS head Martin Hoffman said this week the ongoing trials provided clarity on how to conduct IAs “sensitively” after revelations, participants were asked questions about their sex life. “We’re looking at the way and extent to which those questions are optional and may not be raised at all,” he said.

    Participants were required to provide reports from multiple health providers, but the government last year announced plans to reduce costs by having NDIS-appointed workers assess eligibility via IAs. Mr. Shorten has argued the scheme would effectively force 430,000 NDIS participants to be reinterviewed for their payments.

    “That’s very frustrating if you’re blind, if you’re deaf, if you’re quadriplegic, if you’ve been diagnosed with quite severe autism, and you have to prove it again,” he said. On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that independent assessments were “designed to make the NDIS fairer” and warned the scheme faced a cost blowout without intervention.

    “Reasonable and necessary supports obviously come with some boundaries and boundaries to ensure the scheme is affordable,” he said. “But more importantly, so it’s fair for all participants, the ones who need it now and the ones who need to know it’s going to be there in the future.”

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