TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS - National Disability Insurance Scheme

September 19, 2019

Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (15:13): What we saw in question time today was a real performance of hubris, callousness and disinterest. We saw that from a number of people who participated in question time and now as well. I think the hubris comes down to the way that they are trying to triumphantly declare their economic credentials. Those of us who spend time out on the ground know how tough people are really doing it; but, if you listen to the performance of this government today in question time and press conferences throughout the day as well, you hear that they are acting like Australia is going great guns and everyone should be so happy with their lot in life, because this government are saving the day. We know the reality is different. More importantly, the Australian people know the reality is different for them.

But there's also a callousness with this decision as well, because ultimately they made choices about this, and that's what this is all about. They made a choice to underspend in the NDIS. They made a choice for people to suffer longer than they need to so the government can try to claim some economic credibility. That is really disgusting behaviour, as Senator Watt outlined. I think we saw disinterest as well, particularly from Senator Ruston under questioning, where she was not prepared to actually answer the legitimate questions that we were putting to her around the underspending in the NDIS and what it actually means for those people. We were providing examples of what it means for people out there in the community who are suffering as a result of inaction from this government.

For there to be an underspend means that people are not getting the services that they deserve and that they need. We outlined that, on average, people are waiting 127 days to receive an NDIS plan after being deemed eligible. They've been deemed eligible and, on average, they are waiting 127 days. Some are waiting as long as 202 days, and I would be confident to say that a lot of those people who are waiting the longest for those plans to come through are in remote and regional areas.

I think it is disgusting that they want to try and blame the previous Labor government that started the NDIS. They have been in power for more than six years, yet, on this issue, they are still trying to blame the previous Labor government. Those families who need these plans, those kids and adults who need help, deserve so much better from this government than blaming the previous Labor government. That is absolutely disgusting.

I think it's also important to highlight just how devastating the economic conditions are for those people across Australia. If you listen to the hubris from the government in announcing their budget outcome today, they're saying that it's five minutes of sunshine, that everyone is doing so well and that Australians have never had it so good. We know the reality is different, and the Australian people know the reality is different.

Let's go through some of the facts that Labor have outlined today that are confronting the Australian people. We've got the slowest growth in this economy since the GFC 10 years ago. Wages are stagnant. Household debt is at record highs. Living standards and productivity are in decline. Today, we learned that unemployment is rising, and we've got the most Australians underemployed, looking for more hours of work, than we've ever had in the history of this country—that's more Australians underemployed than ever before in our history. That includes 228,000 underemployed people in Queensland.

As Senator Watt would know and as Senator Green would know—as we spend time travelling around Queensland—we come across these people all the time. I know that they would look at the performance of this government today and be appalled, because we know that the economic reality out there in regional Queensland is vastly different to the hubris and arrogance you get from this government.

Australians and Queenslanders are in a tough spot, but this government is continuing to try and bask in the glory of their election win. They're on a victory lap. All they are trying to do is say: 'How good are we? We won the election. Everything is going to be great.' Well, the Australian people need a plan. They know that the economy is struggling. What they want to see is more urgent investment in infrastructure. They know that is going to kickstart economies, particularly regional economies. In this part of the world in Queensland, we know that the unemployment rate is higher—be it along the coast or be it in western Queensland. So I'd say to this government: please have a look at the reality out there and take action for the good of the Australian people.