The minister in charge of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has suggested "all participants will be worse off" if the Morrison government's contentious reforms aren't introduced.
Linda Reynolds made the comments in senate estimates on Friday, as she was peppered with questions about a leaked internal document which revealed plans to introduce legislation to usher in the new regime in September.
The internal "communications and engagement" strategy paper stepped through how the minister and her agency planned to overcome fierce community opposition to push through their controversial reform package.
The 21-page paper noted the disability sector's "strong, orchestrated" opposition to the proposed changes and described how the agency must be "seen" to be making changes in response to their concerns.
Labor's Bill Shorten claimed the document exposed Senator Reynolds' commitment to genuine consultation as a "sham", while his colleague Kimberley Kitching described the language used in the strategy as cynical.
Senator Reynolds dismissed alarm about the leaked document, saying it was standard practice for government agencies to produce communications strategies.
She said the document was a response to the "perception and probably the reality" the agency needed to improve how it communicated with the public about the major overhaul.
Senator Reynolds did not confirm or deny plans to introduce legislation parliament in September, but said it was her "fervent hope" she could build enough political and public support to pass the changes.
She confirmed she had tasked the agency with mapping a path to introducing legislation.
In a warning to opponents of the proposed changes, Senator Reynolds declared she "firmly believes that every participant will be worse off" if reforms she argues are essential to making the scheme fairer and better don't go ahead.
Hey @NDIS this is not appropriate - to be “seen” to listen. The Agency & it’s leadership have a look at yourselves and decide if this for you. Stop treating participants like idiots - we’re not & we won’t put up with patronising rubbish that a genius ‘consultant’ came up with. https://t.co/Qv9VFroN5V— Senator Hollie Hughes (@hollieahughes) June 4, 2021
"I want to work with all colleagues in this parliament, state and territory and with the sector to get legislation through this parliament that will make it [the NDIS] a better experience for participants," she said.
"It will make it a fairer scheme for all participants, no matter where they are born or how they are educated and to make sure this brilliant scheme ... can endure.
"But collectively, if we do nothing, I think we will have all let this nation down."
Mr Shorten had earlier seized on the leaked strategy paper, publishing it online just hours before Senator Reynolds and National Disability Insurance Agency boss Martin Hoffman fronted Senate estimates on Friday.
"Minister Reynolds has made up her mind what changes she wants to push through despite telling participants and the sector she will listen to their concerns," Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten repeated his calls for the government to scrap independent assessments and apologise to the disability community for misleading them.
Coalition Senator Hollie Hughes, a vocal critic of the independent assessments plan, said on social media the agency should "stop treating [NDIS] participants like idiots".
"The agency and its leadership have a look at yourselves and decide if this for you," she said in a Twitter post on Friday.
"We're not [idiots] we won't put up with patronising rubbish that a genius 'consultant' came up with."
The leaked strategy, first reported by Nine newspapers on Friday, revealed Senator Reynolds planned to publish the results of the second independent assessments trial in July.
A series of stakeholder workshops would be held through June and July, ahead of the launch of a new marketing campaign - titled "We Did" - to promote what changes had been made in response to the concerns.
Senator Reynolds this week ruled out introducing the exact model of independent assessments used in the trial, but has yet to decide what tweaks could be made.
Agency officials confirmed at the hearing that the strategy had been developed internally, rather than outsourced to a consultant.
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