Services Australia and new minister Linda Reynolds fronting the community affairs committee for spillover #estimates now.
How many robodebt refunds made to date? $724m, 96.4% of eligible customers.
Reynolds says she is "very familiar" with and "passionate" about the NDIS. Was asked if she asked for these specific portfolios.
She won't reveal private conversations with the PM. But she thanks him for staying in regular contact with her while she was in hospital and on leave
Labor's Nita Green trying to ask questions re Brittany Higgins. Chair Wendy Askew says they're not relevant to today's hearings
Green asked Reynolds if she wants to apologise to Higgins in public (as opposed to a written statement). "I'm disappointed but not surprised you've raised this matter," Reynolds says.
"I am working with the AFP, I'm assisting with their investigation into this matter." "Highly inappropriate", to comment further, Reynolds says.
Answering questions on this would "potentially compromise" the AFP investigation, says Reynolds.
Why did you call Ms Higgins a "lying cow"? Reynolds say the issues go to the "heart of the AFP investigation". "That is where it rightly should sit."
Linda Reynolds has made a very long opening statement. Says she has been hearing themes of "fairness, consistency, transparency" and "most of all respect" during her first month.
Reynolds notes funding is not "capped" like a grants program, but "instead limited by the principle of reasonable and necessary".
But she says no one has the same definition of "reasonable and necessary", and that's something that must be adressed. Notes the scheme needs be and flexible but also "remain sustainable". 🚨
Reynolds: "How do we stop the drift" from "social insurance" to, as its been described to her, a "welfare scheme" which was "never the intent of the original scheme".
Reynolds: Costs increasingly far "more significantly" year on year than was expected.
This is one of the longer opening statements I've ever seen at Senate estimates...
Reynolds says there is a 12.5% per annum increase in participant packages. "That is unsustainable over the longer term," says Reynolds,
"People who are already on plans, their plans are more than doubling," says Reynolds.
She says data clearly demonstrates participant outcomes are improving the longer people are in the NDIS, but a drop in people who are "high functioning" and increase in people who are "low functioning". Says that is alarming.
"Is the NDIS making people less functional over time?" Reynolds asks, apparently seriously.
Reynolds says it's put to her that "planners, being human, don't like to say no". "This is why the NDIA commenced this reform agenda" some time ago.
Reynolds says "reasonable and necessary" supports should come with some boundaries.
Catching up, so going to skip a section on questions put to Linda Reynolds and Martin Hoffman by Nita Green.…
See here for more details. The CEO basically has taken everything on notice, citing privacy.
Jordon Steele-John thanks Reynolds for her "detailed statement". He says there was previously a "combative" relationship between former minister Stuart Robert and the disability community. And still a "very low level of trust" with the NDIA. "It's never been this bad."
Reynolds notes the budget is in a week and, "I will certainly be releasing more information" in relation to scheme costs etc.
Reynolds acknowledges independent assessments have caused "angst".
Nita Green asking about the sustainability action taskforce. When was it established? Not a specific date, says Martin Hoffman, but set up "over a period of weeks" at start of the year.
We have started to increase "focus" on sustainability. How many staff? "Small team" of "half a dozen or so", Hoffman says. Green wants a specific answer. Hoffman: "half a dozen". The taskforce's work is funding within existing resources.
Hoffman seems absolutely delighted to be answering questions about this. (He does not.)
Hoffman not really answering questions about whether the taskforce has KPIs to make savings. He says its aim is to meet the portfolio statement spending allocations.
Hoffman says the agency is taking "appropriate" steps through the taskforce to act within its funding
Of the Sustainability Action Taskforce, Linda Reynolds says "this is business as usual".
Green asks how is the taskforce going to slow growth in spending per participant? Reynolds just keeps ignoring the question.
There we go. Hoffman on the SAT's actions on scheme spend. Primary focus is "clarification of reasonable and necessary". "It's that sort of discipline and clarity" across reasonable and necessary.
Hoffman notes the agency recently released about 80 pages of documents, the "Would We Fund It?" page…
Green: When were you planning on telling NDIS participants you were setting up a sustainability taskforce? Hoffman doesn't really answer. Green asks if they were going to tell the public?
Hoffman: "I think participants well understand the scheme needs to be sustainable". Doesn't answer whether they were going to tell people about the taskforce.
Jordon Steele-John: Can you provide a copy of the latest NDIA sustainability report? Hoffman takes it on notice. Same goes for the actuarial data that informs that.
A little puzzled there have not been many questions on independent assessments so far. Senators waiting for the upcoming joint standing committee hearings, perhaps
Steele-John asks Hoffman why the NDIA has published statements suggesting independent assessments are a given, despite Reynolds saying it is a "pause". Hoffman denies the statement undermined minister
🚨🚨🚨 Linda Reynolds: "I have at no time said that we won't proceed with independent assessments in some form."

And then: "most of the feedback I've heard to date is not actually about the need to have them at all because that is something that has been long known."
Reynolds: "I've been very, very clear ... that it is imperative for all of the reasons we have said that we go ahead with some form of functional independent assessment."
Basically, independent assessments are happening. They have just been delayed: Reynolds says "What form they take is very much the subject of consultation."

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More from @lukehgomes

3 May
New: Linda Reynolds says NDIS independent assessments are coming. “Pause” for consultation is just to figure out how they will work.…
For what it's worth, Reynolds' opening statement is here. Outlines where she wants to go as minister and it is very, very notable that there is so much emphasis on scheme sustainability.…
Linda Reynolds' rhetorical question from her opening statement – "Is the NDIS actually making people less functional over time?" – has raised some eyebrows. It was not in her prepared remarks, which were tabled in parliament.
Read 5 tweets
29 Mar
First up – as the schedule shows – is the AAT.
About 43% of Centrelink decision the AAT's first tier has been asked to review in 2019-20 were related to Centrelink debts, the inquiry has been told
Read 42 tweets
9 Mar
Caton says when Scott Morrison doubled welfare benefits last year, he admitted that the payments were "not enough for people live on". Caton notes the high levels of unemployment in NT, and cost of living is higher in remote areas.
Caton says the coronavirus supplement gave people in remote communities "breathing space".
Apont says the boost helped with things like cultural activities (hunting for example), as well as getting children involved in sport.
Read 10 tweets
8 Mar
Will be live tweeting today's Senate inquiry hearing on the #jobseeker bill. #auspol
First witnesses are Acoss, welfare recipient Julie Stephen, and the Council of the Ageing.
Acoss's Cass Goldie says the org has serious concerns about the decision to "cut" the level of jobseeker to $44 a day.
Read 29 tweets
17 Nov 20
My analysis today: #Robodebt is the story of a government pulling all stops to dodge public scrutiny – right to the bitter end.

From day one, it was spin, legal manoeuvres and vicious attacks on critics who dared to speak out.… #auspol
I'm going to create a thread here pulling together some other events that I couldn't fit into the story
Here is Kathryn Campbell, then head of DHS, now DSS, blaming welfare recipients and the media (which means, mostly my colleague @knausc) for problems with the #robodebt program…
Read 11 tweets
16 Nov 20
And there it is: the parties have reached a settlement. No details were given.
Bernie Quinn, for Gordon Legal, said he was "delighted" to tell the court the matter had been "resolved". There are agreed terms and a settlement deed will be executed in the next few days
Justice Bernard Murphy congratulates the parties on resolving a "large" and "complex" case. He says they've saved a lot of "time and expense".
Read 6 tweets

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