It was the speech that brought Julia Gillard to tears.
Introducing to parliament a bill to raise the Medicare levy to help fund the new National Disability Insurance Scheme, the former Prime Minister choked up as she described how the landmark reform would forever change the lives of disabled children.
"Over the past six years, the idea of a National Disability Insurance Scheme has found a place in our nation's hearts," she said.
"In March, we gave it a place in our nation's laws. Today, we inscribe it in our nation's finances."
There was, an emotional Ms Gillard said, no turning back.
Almost exactly eight years to the day since that memorable speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, the NDIS - a social reform now heralded as world-leading on all sides of politics - has reached a critical juncture.
In train are the most substantial set of reforms to the scheme since its inception, an agenda headlined by a highly contentious new model for assessing participants.
Interlinked is a fresh debate about the cost of the NDIS, which is now projected to surpass $31 billion by the middle of the decade.
The Morrison government insists change is needed to keep the scheme sustainable; to "protect" it for future generations.
But opponents fear the reforms place at risk the very vision which once moved a Prime Minister to tears.
An imperfect scheme
The current debate can be traced back to a simple truth.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme has not been perfect.
The program which has changed and improved the lives of so many Australians has proven a bureaucratic nightmare for others.
Decisions over participant funding, access to the scheme and plan reviews have been plagued by inconsistencies.
In an attempt to fix the apparent inequities the Morrison government has embarked on what's now referred to within the National Disability Insurance Agency as the "scheme reform program".
Announced by former NDIS Minister Stuart Robert in August 2020, the program's centrepiece was to be the introduction of mandatory independent assessments for all participants.
Under the new system, the government would pay contractors to use a "tool box" of standardised tests to assess a participant's disability, rather than allowing them to use reports from their own health professionals.
The argument went that the use of independent assessors would improve the consistency of decision-making. It would also be fairer for low-income families, who would no longer have to fund their own reports.
Mr Robert, the agency's boss Martin Hoffman and now the new minister Linda Reynolds have all repeatedly argued the system was the product of major reports which have informed the scheme's original and future design.
It is true that the Productivity Commission's 2011 review recommended the use of assessors who didn't have a "longstanding connection" with the participant. David Tune's review in 2018 also supported independent assessments in certain cases.
But neither of those reports recommended the model the government intends to rollout.
The Tune review, for example, recommended only that the NDIA be handed discretionary powers to subject individual participants to independent assessments. Doubt now surrounds whether Mr Tune even backed that measure at all, after secret documents uncovered earlier this year suggested the section of his review which advocated for the idea had been inserted by public servants.
The extent to which the Morrison government has departed from those recommendations has been among the many reasons the proposal has faced such fierce and widespread opposition.
Many of the disability groups, academics, peak bodes and medical professionals which have lodged submissions to a parliamentary inquiry examining the idea have asked the same question - where is the evidence to support this dramatic change?
Senator Reynolds paused the permanent rollout soon after her appointment to the role, but has made clear independent assessments will be introduced in "some form".
The credibility of the government's argument has been further questioned in the past week, after three of the "leading academics" who were said to have endorsed the proposal asked the NDIA to stop misrepresenting their views.
The band of critics, which include Labor and the Greens, has formed the view that the principal motivation has been to cut costs.
The government has long rejected that assertion. Only in passing has it publicly drawn direct links between the reforms and the scheme's cost to taxpayers.
That changed in the past fortnight.
'It will always be fully funded'
First it was Senator Reynolds then the Prime Minister himself, sounding the alarm over the NDIS' fast-rising cost as part of a sharpened defence of their controversial reform package.
The scheme was now expected to support about 530,000 people, Mr Morrison pointed out, some 55,000 more than had been anticipated in 2017. Average payments per participant had also risen almost 50 per cent in the three years to 2020.
"So this has got much larger than the early vision intended," Mr Morrison said.
Tuesday's federal budget put a dollar figure to that rhetoric.
In the seven months since October's budget, the cost projections for the scheme had been substantially revised. Participant cost were now expected to nudge $30.4 billion in 2023-24 - some $5 billion above the most recent forecast.
"The scale and cost per participant is now on a trajectory well ahead of what was anticipated by its original design," Senator Reynolds said immediately after the budget was handed down.
The Commonwealth's contribution to the scheme, which is jointly funded with the states and territories, is projected to increase to beyond 60 per cent in the coming years.
The insinuation that the scheme's cost was rising out of control was quickly and forcefully challenged, with critics including the Greens' Jordon Steele-John claiming the government was running a "scare campaign" to justify its controversial reforms.
He and others pointed to the Productivity Commission's 2017 report which predicted the scheme would cost $30.6 billion in 2024-25 - largely in line with estimates in Tuesday's budget.
But in the latest tit-for-tat, the agency has now published previously secret modelling to show the new forecasts are in fact billions of dollars above the commission's estimates.
A quarterly report on the scheme's performance, to be published in the coming weeks, is expected to shed some light on the sudden and sharp spike in cost projections.
Whatever that report shows, it's unlikely to satisfy critics convinced the government is casting the scheme as unstainable in an attempt to justify cuts.
At this stage, participants and their families will have to take Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at his word.
"As the scheme reaches maturity, our focus is on ensuring its sustainability and that it continues to deliver a high quality essential service for those who need it," he said on budget night.
"Under the Coalition, the NDIS will always be fully funded."
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