Opinion Madonna King: Reducing funds that support the NDIS is selfish, self-serving and retrograde
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Madonna King: Reducing funds that support the NDIS is selfish, self-serving and retrograde

Madonna King NDIS
A government should be judged on how it deals with the nation’s most vulnerable, writes Madonna King. Photo: TND
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It was a simple plea from a father on Twitter this week that throws a spotlight on the daily fight those with a disability still are forced to wage.

Hello @Ticketek_AU, he wrote, you have yet again made it impossible to easily book wheelchair accessible seating for upcoming @HeatBBL games. When will you fix this?

It happened every year, he said. “Why make it so hard for people with a disability to interact with you when everyone else can do it easily?’’

A simple question that should never have to be asked.

Yet those with a disability, living out each day, still have to navigate uneven footpaths, narrow doorways, inhospitable – and even downright rude – commentary.

Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme has been the silver lining in the lives of many, who have been reduced to spending hours navigating challenges.

The scheme, where the government funds costs associated with the disability, will go into the annals of political history as one of the nation’s true triumphs in transforming the lives of its people.

Yes, the challenges for those living with a disability continue to be real.

Some people’s attitudes to those less fortunate need to be upended. And the inefficiencies in the scheme need to be targeted and stopped.

The NDIS is not a panacea for all problems relating to disability, but it’s a damn good start.

And to tinker, reduce, wind back or play with the funds that support it should be seen as selfish, self-serving and retrograde.

Of course, the Morrison government hasn’t specifically said the funds now put towards the NDIS will be curtailed.

But it has hinted at it, in a roundabout way.

It’s called political dog-whistling and it happens when specific words are used to conjure a picture, with the aim of garnering support without really provoking opposition. It’s a bit like saying something, without saying something.

Just take the federal government’s budget update, and the assessment around that.

We’ve heard about a blowout in the cost of delivering the NDIS. We’ve heard that the NDIS might soon not be sustainable, that the spend will soon rival that of the health system. We’ve heard of its inefficiencies, the bureaucracy that covers it and the waste that’s associated with it.

Why don’t we hear more of that, in relation to the government’s JobSeeker program? Or its submarine plans? Or its marginal seat pork barrelling?

Presumably, there’s not a plan to cut them, and it’s a logical assumption that the government might be warming up for a cut to the NDIS, which was introduced by the Gillard government in 2013.

Of course, the word ‘cut’ is harsh – and part of the budget process is about testing the waters.

Euphemisms do that better; words and phrases like efficiency audits or waste management or reform or better oversight or competition for funds are more likely to be dished out, to curry favour with voters looking for disciplined spending.

But what we haven’t heard is how more than four million Australians have a disability and the NDIS, within five years, will be providing support and services for more than 500,000.

Or how it is helping those with significant disabilities break into the jobs market, get work experience, obtain a driving licence, live independently, cook for themselves, buy a new wheelchair, to move out of hospital into independent accommodation.

The list of how it has changed lives is long and proud.

And it probably is soaked in inefficiencies.

People who deserve it are missing out, and some who have it, shouldn’t. All of that should be stopped, but that’s different to flagging blurry cuts.

This pandemic has produced a million challenges, and fewer opportunities.

But a government should be judged on how it deals with the nation’s most vulnerable. The aged. The bloating number – particularly teenagers – struggling with mental health challenges.

And those who simply want to go – like their friends – and watch a game of cricket.