This afternoon’s headlines at a glance
By Caroline Schelle
Thanks for reading our live coverage this morning.
If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know:
- Opposition Leader Peter Dutton reshuffled his shadow ministry, and promoted NT Country Liberal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to the Indigenous Affairs portfolio.
- Speaking in Adelaide, Dutton also announced South Australian Liberal MP Kerrynne Liddle – the party’s only Indigenous MP – would be shadow minister for child protection.
- Liberal MP Karen Andrews quit the opposition frontbench and will not recontest her seat at the next election.
- NDIS Minister Bill Shorten announced a new early intervention trial for autism in WA, during a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins in Brisbane this weekend.
- In overseas news, Fox Corp shareholders are demanding records that could show whether directors and executives oversaw Fox News’ coverage of former president Donald Trump’s election-rigging claims.
I’ll be back tomorrow, but my colleagues Anna Patty will keep you updated for the rest of the afternoon.
NDIS clients ‘valued clients not human ATMs’, Shorten says
By Caroline Schelle
Addressing spiralling costs, fraud and revamping the supported housing are among six policy directions the government want to implement to reform the NDIS.
Bill Shorten, who is the minister for the scheme, said the policy outcomes would deliver better outcomes for people with a disability.
Earlier, he told reporters the NDIS was not delivering outcomes for Australians with disabilities and needed a reboot.
The “systemic reforms” would improve the future of the scheme, he said.
The first was to increase the workforce for the National Disability Insurance Agency (which implements the scheme).
“The bottom line is to improve outcomes we need to nurture a better relationship between the staff of the scheme and participants. We need to have the capability and specialise identification to proactively intervene to fill service gaps in areas like Indigenous communities, regional, remote and rural Australia,” Shorten said today.
The second reform was to move to long-term planning, such as multi-year plans that offered more flexibility to participants.
He said this would mean participants wouldn’t have to prove their disability over and over again, and would reduce waste and stop causing grief to participants.
Addressing spiralling costs was the third reform he pointed to, and Shorten said he wanted to tackle providers who overcharged participants who were “valued clients not human ATMs”.
The fourth reform was to review supported-independent living which allows for people with higher needs to live in their home with “significant amount of help”.
But in its current form people could be split from their families, and they could end up in “institutional settings” that could be inappropriate, Shorten said.
The fifth reform was to target the misuse of NDIS funds, which included tackling unethical practices and the final one was for the NDIS be surrounded by increased community and mainstream supports, the minister said.
The last reform was “fundamental”, he said.
“Existing mainstream services and facilities like health and education, transport, they must be more accessible and supportive … We need to foster inclusion and not segregation.”
Shorten announces early intervention trial for autism in WA
By Caroline Schelle
Staying with NDIS and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who announced a pilot trial to run in Western Australia for children with autism.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, he said the National Disability Insurance Agency (which implements the scheme) would run the pilot in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute.
It will examine whether pre-emptive intervention for children showing early behavioural signs of autism reduces the levels of support needed later in life, Shorten said today.
“Some 700 families in Western Australia will be invited to be part of the pilot … [to find out if] intervening earlier can assist children to have improved outcomes as they develop,” he said.
He said parents of children on the NDIS want their children to be able to exit the scheme as soon as possible.
“I think it’s very exciting for future generations and for early intervention mainstream services outside the NDIS, so the NDIS is not the only lifeboat in the ocean,” Shorten said of the new scheme.
Shorten outlined six policy directions aimed at improving outcomes for people with disability and ensuring the future of the NDIS.
Shorten says NDIS was undermined by ‘disgraced Coalition ministers’
By Caroline Schelle
NDIS Minister Bill Shorten is addressing the National Press Club and has lashed “a revolving door of disgraced Coalition ministers” who, he says, undermined the program in government.
Speaking in Canberra, the Labor minister said the introduction of the NDIS was something Australians should be proud of, but it had been mismanaged for a decade.
“A decade of mismanagement means it’s in trouble. Fraud and inefficiencies have led to … cost overrides,” he said.
“During the last nine years, the NDIS has been undermined by constant attacks from a revolving door of disgraced Coalition ministers,” Shorten said.
He said the program had survived rather than thrived over the past decade, was not delivering the required outcomes for participants and was open to fraud.
“It’s one of my greatest regrets that that NDIS was at the mercy of administrative vandals for 90 per cent of its existence,” Shorten told reporters this morning.
He said participants told him there were “fundamental systemic flaws” in the system, there were too many barriers to access, the system was too complex, and it was traumatising for people to deal with.
“It is not delivering the outcomes Australians with disabilities need and the Australian public expects. For the NDIS to reach its potential, it needs a reboot,” he said.
Opposition’s new home affairs spokesman says cybersecurity a priority
By Lachlan Abbott
New shadow minister for home affairs James Paterson says improving Australian cybersecurity will be one of his priorities after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton appointed him to the role in a Coalition reshuffle today.
Paterson, in his first interview as the Coalition’s home affairs spokesperson, told Melbourne radio station 3AW, that recent hacks on Australian businesses showed the importance of online safety.
“There’s a lot of responsibilities around cybersecurity, which is unfortunately a very pressing concern for all Australians as we’ve seen in the Optus, Medibank and Latitude financial attacks,” Paterson said.
He said these attacks were a real threat to people’s privacy, financial security and safety.
“I’ll be holding the government to account for the big promises they’ve made to make Australia the safest cybersecurity country in the world by 2030. That’s a great commitment, but I want to see them follow through and make it happen.”
RBA considered interest rate rise before deciding to pause increases
By Shane Wright
The Reserve Bank considered an interest rate rise at its last meeting to head-off inflation pressures caused by soaring population growth and the risk of a blowout in wages, particularly for people in some of the nation’s lowest-paid public sectors.
Minutes of the bank’s April meeting, at which it decided to hold the official cash rate steady for the first time in almost a year, show the bank looked at another quarter percentage point increase but held off, in part because of uncertainty about the full impact of its aggressive tightening of monetary policy.
Financial markets expected the bank to hold the cash rate steady at 3.6 per cent at the April meeting but market economists were evenly split.
The minutes, released today, show the bank board considered another increase before deciding to pause.
Board members said the lift in population growth, which has accelerated sharply after effectively flat-lining during the depths of the COVID pandemic, could add more inflationary pressure to the economy.
“Members noted that this could put significant pressure on Australia’s existing capital stock, especially housing, which would in turn manifest in higher consumer prices,” the minutes showed.
Members noticed there were already signs the fall in housing prices could be smaller and more short-lived, the document showed.
“Although higher immigration might reduce wage pressures in industries that had been experiencing significant labour shortages, members noted that the net effect of a sudden surge in population growth could be somewhat inflationary for a period,” the document read.
Another cause for a further lift in the cash rate was a risk of larger-than-expected wage growth.
While wages are still lagging inflation, the minutes show the move by state governments – including the recently elected Minns government in NSW – to start providing a lift in wages to their employees could add to inflation pressures.
The federal government is backing a rise of the minimum wage in line with inflation while it is also due to finance an increase in pay for aged care workers.
“Members observed that the flow-through to inflation from wages in social and public sector industries is somewhat diffuse, given the prevalence of administered prices, but judged that it was nonetheless likely to have some impact,” the minutes showed.
“Overall, wages growth remained consistent with the inflation target, provided there was some pick-up in productivity growth.”
Despite the concerns, the bank held the cash rate steady.
The RBA board next meets on May 2. Ahead of that, the March quarter inflation report will be released as well as new figures based on the jobs market.
Stockpile of soft plastics found in Sydney’s north-west
By Sarah Keoghan
A major stockpile of soft plastics has been discovered in Sydney’s north-west, as secret bundles from the failed REDcycle scheme continue to be found across the country.
Footage from Nine News shows hundreds of bales of soft plastics in Marsden Park, marking one of 19 stockpile sites across NSW.
REDcycle, which collected soft plastics across Coles, Woolworths and some ALDI stores, paused its soft plastics collection program on November 9 after it became overwhelmed by the demand and has since abandoned responsibility for about 11,000 tonnes of leftover waste.
The Marsden Park footage follows a report from this masthead last week, which revealed secret stockpiles were still being found across Australia.
‘Significant announcements’ coming in wake of Porter Davis collapse: Andrews
By Broede Carmody
Returning to state news, and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has given his strongest indication yet that major reforms are coming to the housing construction sector after the Porter Davis collapse.
However, he has again refused to say when exactly customers left high and dry by the collapse can expect to receive government support.
As Annika Smethurst wrote this morning, Victoria’s housing minister Danny Pearson received advice about reducing risks for home building customers months before the Porter Davis collapse. However, no legislative changes were introduced following that advice.
Speaking to the media earlier today, Andrews accused the state opposition of playing politics on this issue.
He went on to say the following:
I’ll make announcements soon, and they will be meaningful.
My interest is in supporting these Porter Davis families who are going through a heartbreaking [and] deeply, deeply difficult time.
But rushing out to say something when [you haven’t] properly done the work, that’s not worth a lot. As soon as we can get this matter settled and have a package developed, we will make significant announcements.”
Liberal MP Karen Andrews won’t campaign for No vote on Voice
By Lisa Visentin
Asked about her position on the Voice to parliament, Liberal MP Karen Andrews said she did not support Labor’s proposed wording of the amendment to enshrine the body in the Constitution.
But she would not actively campaign for the No case, she told reporters this morning.
“I’m open, as my party is, to working with the government on a proper set of words for the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” Andrews said.
“But I think that the words that are proposed are not words that I can support, not words that I can advocate for.”
The MP for McPherson, a southern Gold Coast seat, wants her community to be informed about the Voice to parliament debate.
“I’ve always made it clear that in matters such as these, I want my community to be informed of the pros and the cons of what is being put forward,” she said.
“I won’t be out there wearing a shirt that says ‘vote No’. When people speak to me, I will go through what my concerns are, but I want to do that in a very neutral way so that people are in a position that they can make their own mind up.”
Liberal MP Karen Andrews ‘comfortable’ with decision to quit
By Caroline Schelle
Liberal MP Karen Andrews says she made the decision she was not going to recontest the next election several weeks ago.
“I spoke to Peter Dutton and I gave him my view that I would not be standing and seeking re-election at the next federal election,” the McPherson MP said this morning.
Speaking from the Gold Coast suburb of Elanora, Andrews said she offered to step down from her role at that point, but the Liberal leader declined.
“But when a reshuffle was happening today, the decision was made that I would step back to the backbench and continue my work from the backbench,” Andrews said this morning, expanding on her decision to quit the opposition frontbench.
“Given that I had made that decision, the right thing to do was to speak to Peter and let him know… It’s important that the Liberal National Party gets the right candidate quickly onto the ground here on the Gold Coast and the very important shadow portfolio of home affairs has someone into that role so that in the lead-up to the next election, Peter can have the right team in place to take forward beyond the election,” Andrews said.
“So whilst this is the end of an era for me, I’m very proud of the work I did here locally. I’m very proud of the opportunities that were given to me. It was way beyond anything I ever would have considered.”
Andrews said there was no single factor that led her decide to quit politics altogether at the next election.
“There’s probably a range of factors that contribute to that. I’m very comfortable with the decision that I made. I am standing back from the frontbench very comfortably. I’m very happy to do that,” she said.
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