News National Kurt Fearnley slams Government for using NDIS as a ‘political football’

Kurt Fearnley slams Government for using NDIS as a ‘political football’

Kurt Fearnley NDIS
Kurt Fearnley has competed at five Paralympics and will race at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next year. Photo: Getty
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Five-time Paralympian Kurt Fearnley has accused the Government of using the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as a “political football”, criticising the decision to fund it through cuts to other social services.

On Monday, Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the Government would redirect $3 billion to the NDIS if the Senate crossbench supported the omnibus saving measures — which includes changes to paid parental leave and welfare.

Fearnley, a former member of the NDIS advisory council, criticised the Government for taking funding from services that benefit vulnerable members of the community as opposed to re-evaluating its negative gearing program or big business tax policies.

“To sit there and draw a direct line between funding for people with disabilities and the cuts to other vulnerable members of our community — to those on welfare, to those on pensions — you could draw that line across a thousand different parts of the budget,” Fearnley said.

“I wish the Government would fight for it with as much vigour as fighting for its $50 billion business tax cut, because they believe both are benefits for our community.

“To say that the NDIS isn’t important and that we need to directly grab money from X to pay for it … it hurts our community and the country as a whole.”

The Government has rolled nearly $4 billion in saving measures into the one bill, including changes to child care, welfare and paid parental leave.

The package includes $1.6 billion in extra funding for child care and more than $3 billion in increased payments — along with almost $8 billion in welfare spending cuts.

Fearnley accused the Government of using the NDIS as a “political football”, saying it was blatant “political opportunism.”

“You are watching Collingwood versus the Bombers. They are a group of people that will just naturally defend each of those teams and the NDIS was thrown in to one of the murkiest dirtiest parts of that game,” Fearnley said.

It is mischief … it is political opportunism and it is just wrong.

“I am confused and just disheartened they would continue this argument.”

Fearnley is a passionate disability advocate and Australian wheelchair racing legend.

He has a congenital disorder called sacral agenesis which affected the development of certain parts of his lower spine.

“How we speak about this, how community speaks about this, that’s important for my community of people with disabilities so that we no longer feel as if we are a burden,” he said.

“There have been very few times in our community over the last few years where you could sit with pride and say that our leaders had truly made a massive investment to make people’s lives better.”

‘Sledgehammer negotiation tactic’: Xenophon

Labor and the Greens stand opposed to many aspects of the bill and South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who controls three votes in the Upper House, will not support the bill in its current form.

Senator Xenophon said the attempt to link the bill’s passage to NDIS funding was a “sledgehammer” negotiation tactic.

Disability People Organisation Australia chief executive Therese Sands said she did not support funding the NDIS through cuts to other social services.

“We are shocked and troubled about this announcement from Treasurer Scott Morrison that once again links cuts to social security with funding for the NDIS,” she said.

“We have stated clearly, including in our pre-budget submission, that we reject any ties to funding the NDIS by cutting social security.

– ABC, with Rebeka Powell

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