The Labor states have fired the first shot ahead of a crunch meeting on the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with one declaring outright opposition to the planned introduction of independent assessments.
NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds is set to face stiff resistance from some of her state and territory colleagues when she attempts to win their endorsement for the Morrison government's shakeup of the scheme at a meeting on Friday.
Senator Reynolds is also under pressure to be more transparent about the financial state of the scheme, after her agency published a new report flagging cost blowouts tens of billions of dollars larger than anything previously forecast.
Although Senator Reynolds doesn't need the states and territories' approval, their support would be a significant boost for her bid to secure public and political support for reforms she believes are essential to making the NDIS fairer and simpler for participants and affordable for Australian taxpayers.
Equally, their opposition would represent a serious blow for Senator Reynolds and a shot in the arm for the disability sector's campaign to sink the planned changes before they reach federal parliament.
The Canberra Times surveyed all state and territory disability ministers ahead of Friday's meeting on whether they were prepared to provide "in principle" support to the changes.
The most contentious change would see government-contracted medical professionals brought in to conduct "independent" functional assessments on participants, rather than allowing them to source reports from their own doctors.
Senator Reynolds believes the current system is "inherently unfair" because it favours participants who have the means to pay for reports.
Disability groups, medical experts, participant families and academics oppose the proposed new system, believing it threatens to undermine the "choice and control" principle at the heart of the scheme.
People with disabilities don't want strangers coming into their homes and making decisions about their lives- ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson
As well as introducing compulsory independent assessments, the federal government has flagged new rules which would ban participants from using their NDIS funds to purchase certain items.
Three Labor states - Victoria, Queensland and the ACT - have expressed serious concerns about the government's plan ahead of Friday's meeting.
Queensland Minister for Disability Services Craig Crawford said his state opposed changes which would "unreasonably limit access for people with disability or undermine the principles of the scheme including choice and control and reasonable and necessary supports".
"This includes the implementation of mandatory functional capacity independent assessments and their use as part of NDIS access and planning processes," Mr Crawford said.
Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Luke Donnellan said he remained "very concerned" about independent assessments.
"This 'robo-planning" approach attacks the very principles on which the NDIS was built, forcing people to re-prove their disability and jump through hoops to get the support they deserve," Mr Donnellan said.
ACT Minister for Disability Emma Davidson, who is part of the Labor-Greens government, said Canberra's disability community had made clear its opposition to independent assessments.
"People with disabilities don't want strangers coming into their homes and making decisions about their lives," she said.
"Any changes to the NDIS need to come from people with disabilities, not behind the closed doors of parliament."
Ms Davidson has also accused the government of a lack of transparency, saying it was "amazing" that states and territories - which co-fund the scheme with the Commonwealth - were being asked to back legislative changes which they hadn't even seen.
NT Minister for Disabilities Kate Worden, who has previously expressed concerns about the lack of consultation on the changes, said she would put forward her views at Friday's meeting.
WA Disability Services Minister Don Punch, who has been among the most strident critics, was unavailable to comment.
The three Liberal states - SA, Tasmania and NSW - did not respond to The Canberra Times' request for comment.
Ahead of the meeting, the National Disability Insurance Agency published an 84-page summary of its secret annual financial sustainability report, which showed the scheme's cost could balloon $22 billion over budget in the next four years.
The agency said it was releasing report - which has previously only been provided to the board - as part of its new commitment to transparency.
But the states aren't satisfied. Mr Crawford has written to Senator Reynolds seeking the full release of the report, saying his government needed transparency around scheme finances, cost projections and risks to make proper decisions.
Labor's NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten accused the Morrison government of "changing its story" on the scheme's costs whenever the its numbers were interrogated.
The government's projections about the scheme's costs have shot up dramatically in recent months, with the latest report showing it could cost $40 billion by 2024-25. The May federal budget allocated $31 billion for participant supports in that financial year.
"It's like the weapons of mass destruction, they want to go to war on the NDIS, but they are basing it on faulty research," he told The Canberra Times.
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