According to documents obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, National Disability Insurance Agency officials inserted a chapter in former public servant David Tune’s influential, “independent” review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme as well as making “substantial changes to almost every part of the document”. The SMH reports that “the review was used by the Morrison government to introduce independent assessments for NDIS participants … Disability advocates have labelled the measure a cost-cutting measure to reduce the number of people in the program.”
Labor NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten has since labelled the report a “sham” and argued the changes appear to have been made to support the government’s plan, which would see contracted health professionals assess recipients’ eligibility and funding in sessions the NDIA says will take “around three hours”. Dozens of disability groups last month called on the government to pause the scheme over fears it will reduce eligibility and funding.
The news follows revelations the Morrison government is considering other major reforms — i.e. denying funding to Australians with acquired brain inquiries and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; slashing avenues of appeal; concentrating more power in the hands of the federal minister — while a separate ABC investigation found some organisations contracted to provide the assessments have the same parent company as NDIS service providers.
IT’S A SCANDAL, IT’S AN OUTWAGE
The Morrison government has called on the Fair Work Commission to take “a cautious approach” in its annual minimum wage review, arguing in a submission that “higher labour costs” during the recovery period could “present a major constraint to small business recovery” and hurt employment in the sector.
In response, the Australian Council of Trade Unions alleges the government is tacitly supporting a wage freeze, with The Australian ($) noting that ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly claims the submission is hypocritical after the government ended JobKeeper and that while “profits are soaring over 8% and the Reserve Bank is calling for wage growth above 3% … the federal government still wants the minimum wage to go backwards in real terms”.
The ACTU called for a rise of 3.5% in its submission, while, on the other end of the spectrum, the National Farmers Federation called for a freeze in minimum and award wages throughout the recovery period.
PS: For more check out Crikey’s Bernard Keane on how the Morrison government frames the issue of wages around business costs while, for example, Australia’s average wage growth of 2% has cost workers around $51 billion relative to 3% since the Coalition took power in 2014.
Finally, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Morrison government will announce its response to the Respect@Work report this week, almost a year and a half since it was handed over by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
The announcement, which is due tomorrow, after the new cabinet women’s taskforce meets to discuss the report today, comes after Guardian Australia reported that former Morrison government staffer Josie Coles will allege in the forthcoming parliamentary culture review that she was “bullied” by a senior colleague while working for Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt in 2018. Wyatt “strenuously denies the assertions”.
Elsewhere, Amanda Stoker has taken part in an extremely cosy interview at The Daily Telegraph ($) defending her promotion as Australia’s anti-abortion, anti-trans assistant minister for women.
PS: In the wake of Australian politics’ sexual assault crisis, the latest quarterly analysis of four Newspolls ($) suggests the Coalition has lost significant electoral ground across Western Australia and Queensland, two of its traditionally strongest states, and is facing collapse in South Australia.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
Since when did the Australian of the Year honour come with a licence to personally attack our nation’s leader?
The associate editor of The Courier-Mail ($), whose News Corp stablemates have called on Australians to “KICK THIS [LABOR] MOB OUT” and illustrated Annastacia Palaszczuk in the crosshairs of a rifle, is simply aghast that Grace Tame would criticise Scott Morrison’s cabinet reshuffle.
The government’s number one priority is the vaccine rollout, so why does it just feel like more political management?
“It feels like a broken record, but the lesson continues to apply: the Morrison government is only capable of political management of complex issues, and as the last few weeks have shown, its talent for political management is proving no match for what it’s up against.
“Now that lesson applies to what, by the government’s own assessment, is the only political and policy game in town: the vaccine rollout.”
As the nation waits, big consulting firms are making millions from Australia’s botched vaccine rollout
“Are private consultants to blame for Australia’s botched vaccine rollout? As a feud erupts over delays about the vaccine, private contractors have so far avoided scrutiny.
“Big multinational consulting firms like McKinsey, PwC and Accenture have all made millions in lucrative contracts to assist the government’s rollout.”
Once upon a time an opposition party’s national conference would get media attention. What happened?
“When Labor was in a doldrums period in the mid-2000s (before brief success and then a return to the doldrums), there was intense debate about what Labor needed to do. Bill Shorten added his take: what Labor needed to succeed was more success. He was laughed at for that, but he was sorta right.
“Once you’re on the upswing, your words acquire weight and force. But getting back to that point relies on your words having meaning and force. And round it goes.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Domestic violence shock waves reach way beyond the home — Ruth Weatherall, Mihajla Gavin and Natalie Thorburn (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Gary* has been supporting his employee, Sara, who is being subjected to domestic violence. Gary is very supportive of Sara’s plans to leave her partner and ensures access to her entitled support such as paid leave and flexible working arrangements to make this happen. A few weeks later, however, Gary finds out that Sara returned to her abusive partner. Feeling frustrated that Sara did not follow through, he asks Sara to leave the organisation. This true story of one domestic violence victim’s experience with a workplace highlights an important, yet complex, issue: access to workplace support for domestic violence is vital, but misunderstandings about such violence hinder effective implementation, potentially hurting victims further.”
Amping up rooftop solar with batteries for burbs ($) — Anthony Albanese (The Australian): “Anyone who thinks Australians don’t want to act on climate change should look no further than the rooftops on their street. Over the past two decades, people have embraced solar power in their millions, with one in five homes now generating its own power through solar panels. But of these households, only one in 13 has taken the next step and installed batteries in the home to store power generated during the day for use at night. That is unfortunate but understandable, because home battery systems can cost between $8000 and $15,000.
Financial Review responds to criticism ($) — Michael Stutchbury (The Australian Financial Review): “Nevertheless, it is by no means automatic that calling some journalism crusading or activist in any way undermines its professionalism. The first official history of the Australian Journalists Association was called ‘Crusade for Journalism’. As award-winning journalist and activist Gloria Steinem told SBS in 2017: ‘For journalists specifically, as important as facts are, people are more likely to be moved by stories.’”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Former Labor MP Kate Ellis will discuss her new book, Sex, Lies and Question Time, with the Victorian Women’s Trust’s executive director Mary Crooks in an online Readings event.
Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce a start date for a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia.