Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended government support for NDIS, after the minister responsible for the program said it was not intended for use as social assistance.
In an interview with the Australian newspaper, NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds called on states and territories to take more financial responsibility for the program.
However, Senator Reynolds came under attack from the opposition after she said the program was not set up to cover all Australians with disabilities.
âParticipants or their families increasingly see NDIS as what has been described as an ‘oasis in the desert’,â she said.
The prime minister said he did not believe NDIS was welfare and supported the project.
“I believe NDIS is provided to ensure that people with permanent disabilities have (…) the same opportunities as other Australians,” Mr Morrison told Parliament on Thursday.
âI have been a supporter of this initiative from the start.
It comes as the government tries to enact legislation that would allow the plan’s chief executive to change beneficiaries’ plans without needing their authorization.
Senator Reynolds said the new powers of the NDIS chief executive had been changed to ensure they could only be used in a crisis or if emergency funding was needed.
Mr Morrison said that although NDIS was a financially “demanding program”, the government aimed to manage it effectively.
“We have to make sure that it is not subject to any form of abuse,” he said.
“By protecting it from abuse, we are protecting the people it is meant to support.”
The Australian Council for Social Services has said it fears the long-term sustainability of NDIS may be at risk.
The council’s acting chief executive, Edwina MacDonald, said it was essential that NDIS not be subjected to cost cuts.
“All parties should strive to expand access to the program and at the very least ensure that people with disabilities can equitably and reliably access appropriate supports,” she said.
NDIS opposition spokesman Bill Shorten lambasted Senator Reynolds’ comments.
“I think the federal government, in the shadow of an election, has kind of bizarrely declared war on the national disability insurance plan,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“On the one hand (the government) says states are not doing enough, but on the other hand, in 2019 they signed funding agreements with states with existing funding mechanisms in place.”
Associated Australian Press