Doorstop - Parliament House, Canberra

09 Nov 2022
Prime Minister, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Minister for Government Services
The Field; National Disability Insurance Scheme; Medibank hack; International Summits

DYLAN ALCOTT, AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR: Hey everyone, thanks for coming here to talk about something that we're really passionate about. It's so awesome to launch The Field today, as you just saw this is not me, it’s we. So many people with disability created this, worked on this for over 18 months. And we want to thank the Prime Minister, Minister Rishworth and Minister Shorten for backing us, for supporting us, and to get this platform out there. We really, really, really appreciate it. The Field is a job site where people with disability can match with inclusive employers and get involved in the employment exchange, potentially for the first time. Our big difference compared to traditional job sites is that we are built with accessibility and inclusion to the core, every step of the way, from the development to the design, to the implementation, that is what we care about, first and foremost, to make sure people feel included, and they can find meaningful employment, if they feel that they want to or need to. Not everyone with a disability can work. And that's okay. Your worth is not tied to having a job. It really isn't. But a lot of people with disability, they want to work and they won't have that choice to work. But they often get that taken away from them. The participation rate in this country hasn't changed in 28 years, half a million people actively looking for work with a disability right now. And there's a worker shortage, and we want to try and support any way that we can. The things I'm most proud of is those accessibility features, flexible resumes, and flexible ways of getting interviewed depending on what you like, whether you might not be able to speak, you'd prefer a video interview, whatever it is, you can choose that, you get the power of it out. And also there's a bit of an AI tool that's built into it where a person with disability can write their accessibility preferences or what they need. Someone like the government is looking for someone working with disability, they can write their accessibility features they have. And there's an AI tool that someone much smarter than me made, that connects you. So one is probably the right fit for you on your disability or accessibility needs. More importantly, when you do the job interview, you just talk about yourself, your purpose, your passion, what you love, and things like that. And anyone watching this, small, medium, big business, if you want to hire people with a disability, put your job on there, please. And anyone who's looking for work. Get on there. We're only new. If you've got any recommendations, please let us know because we want to work with our community.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Thanks so much, Dylan. And it is an honour for me to be here with you and your team, as Prime Minister, with Minister Shorten and Minister Rishworth. This is exciting, this is an exciting program and a great business, and the team that Dylan has put together, is I think, this is world's best practice. Because what it's doing is, people with disabilities, working through programs, and working out a system that works best, not just for them, but for the national economy as well. We have skill shortages in this country. And at the same time, we have half a million people with disabilities who are looking for work.
People with skills and capacities that benefit not just them in achieving work for both who can work and are able to work, but also benefit our national economy as well. And inclusiveness needs to be something that it's not just a slogan, it needs to be a practice. Businesses will benefit from engaging with this platform, because they will be able to access the skills and labour that they need. And the fact that it's able to match up together in such a coherent way, is an exciting prospect going forward. The Jobs and Skills Summit exceeded all of our expectations. And one of the things that came out of that was businesses saying to me, how important some of the contributions that were made at that Summit, not from the politicians, not from the business leaders, not from the union leaders, but from people. Ordinary Australians contributing their life stories, talking about the skills that they are able to offer the life changing opportunities that had occurred as a result of them being able to gain employment. So this is a really important program. And I would encourage the media outlets here to run big on this. This is about your social obligations as well. And so, promote this. It will be good for the country, it will be good for individuals as well. One of the things that strikes me about this bloke is he never asks for anything special, not even on a pool table. He is a proud Australian, and we should be very proud of the work that he's doing as Australian of the Year. It was a big plus, travelling to London, with Dylan recently for the Queen’s funeral. And he's someone who's doing an incredible job as the Australian of the Year. What this is about, though, is a legacy that's not about a year, it's about changing people's lives permanently, changing people's lives, but also changing the capacity of businesses to operate as well. And I say, give people a go, give people a chance. Because they’re not online as part of this exercise, for the sake of it. They're there because they want to work, they want to contribute. And we all know that one of the major factors in people's contribution to any workplaces is the level of enthusiasm that they bring. I assure you, give people a crack here, and they will more than give back. So congratulations Dylan to you and your team.

ALCOTT: Beautiful words.

PRIME MINISTER: The Field is officially live.

ALCOTT: We’re live!

PRIME MINISTER: I think we're happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Victory Lawyers is preparing a class action on behalf of older Australians who were excluded from the NDIS because of their age. Do you agree with Minister Shorten? Minister Shorten’s already addressed this and said that disability services have fallen behind, that seniors have fallen behind in the NDIS, is that something that you want to fix and do you agree with Minister Shorten?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think the answer is obvious. I always agree with Minister Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS: I can't top that answer.  Just for the information of the Gallery, there is a debate in Australia about should the NDIS be extended to people over the age of 65. When the legislation was introduced in 2013, it was the clear intent of the Parliament that the NDIS would look after people with disability up to the age of 65. Thereafter they will be looked after by the aged care system. Labor has been very clear, the government's been very clear, we think we need to improve aged care. We want to make sure that people with disability who are over 65 get proper care. But the Parliaments intent from the major parties was very clear when we founded the scheme. The gap at that time was for people under 65. That's what the NDIS was covering. And it was explicitly the intent of the Parliament. So in short, you know, I get the class action and we'll see where that goes. But for the substance of the issue, NDIS is for people under 65, aged care for people over 65.

JOURNALIST: On the workforce of the NDIS, there is the concern that there isn't enough workers there because there’s always wait times and so on is that isn't that workforce, it's actually something that we can achieve, obviously, there are lots of pressures…

MINISTER SHORTEN: Do you mean the NDIS workforce?


MINISTER SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I think the National Disability Insurance Agency should employ more people with disability, but it's already one of the highest employers of people with disability, well north of 10 per cent of its workforce are people with disability. What I like about The Field is that the problem for disability employment has been in the last 30 years, it's not people with disability. The problem has been that whatever has been done by successive governments hasn't really moved the dial. And one of the reasons why that is, is that employers are not really sure, if they don't have experience with people with disability, they're not really sure how to find people with disability, they're not sure people with disability can do the job. What's so clever about The Field is that you can see a video like that. The reality is that sometimes we don't know what we don't know. The Field is going to break down the ignorance amongst potential employers, it's a lot easier to employ a person with a disability, than the employer thinks and what this initiative supported by the government proposed by Dylan is going to demystify employing people.

JOURNALIST: So you’ve got nothing to work with the NDIS though…

MINISTER SHORTEN: We want to lift the number. I think the challenge and we're really one of the better employers when it comes to that in public sector. I think one of the challenges is how do we make sure that people with disabilities not just the NDIS, but generally in Australia, aren't just given entry level jobs? How do we train the future leaders. That's why we've appointed Kurt Fearnley as chair of the NDIS. Because we want to show that people disability aren't just entry level employees, that should be at every level.

JOURNALIST: Given the acknowledged blowout in the cost of the NDIS in the forecasted rollout, will the Government consider changing the types of expenses that will be allowed as part of the programs? And as a part of that, would you consider amending the NDIS legislation so taxpayers don't pay for services? For example, one of the ones that's raised in the media a lot is sex work.

MINISTER SHORTEN: Okay. First of all, when it comes to services there's a pretty clear, defined operational guidelines which was put in by the agency. When reviewing the whole scheme, no doubt, the process of what services are assessed to be reasonable and necessary will be part of the review. But you shouldn't say that there's going to be a wholesale review and that a lot of commonplace services people are getting to be scrapped. They’re simply not. There is this one question, I understand that I'm aware that there's one person who's been able to access sexual therapies as part of the system. Can I just ask the media, I should say on that, I'm not sure that does, whatever the medical reasons for it may be, and the full court of the Federal Court’s deemed acceptable, by the way. I'm not sure that ultimately taxpayers would say that was the appropriate use of the fund. But can I also just say before we all somehow say that people with disability are getting all sorts of benefits they're not entitled to, that is not true. I think we owe it to people with disability on the scheme, and there’s 549,000, 550,000 people on the scheme. They're not all getting exotic services or special things which people would see as unusual. The 99.99999 per cent of the scheme is going to things which I think people think the scheme was set up for. Wheelchairs, early intervention therapies, assistance animals, home mods. So when we talk about the scheme, it is important that we don't just blame people with disability for the cost increases. Our first priority is to tackle fraud and waste, and we think that'll go, and administrative red tape.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, I think there's roughly 60 people employed in the Prime Minister's Office, do you know the number of those people who have a disability? And I guess second to that question, do you think political leaders such as yourself and other politicians here need to do a job of taking a leadership role in ensuring that people with a disability not only are supported to get jobs in cafes and restaurants but also put at the centre of government and decision making?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I think they do. And I've always, including in my Marrickville office, had relationships with disability employment providers that have had people come through the office and then go on to other skills. We have people in the office, for privacy reasons frankly I'm not about to go into those issues of employment in my office, but it's something that my office is very conscious of. And I think that all businesses, all the public sector, we can all do much better on those issues. But one of the things that this is about with The Field is showing that there are people out there who will have skills, who want employment, and matching that up with employers.

ALCOTT: Can I add something to that? Just with disclosing people with disability, especially, there are probably people with disability right here and you don't know. Because not all disabilities are physical, a lot of them are invisible. And it's not up to them to have to disclose to anybody about their disability. They can be themselves, right. But we want to create cultures in this country, where everybody feels like they can be their authentic self when they go to work. And I think it's really exciting to frame it that way. When people go, you know what, I saw that today, I might apply for that job, and then they see someone like them, they might be neurodiverse, someone might say they are, someone who isn't might say they’re not. But being together and creating a community is really important. So yeah, we want to have targets, we want to have quotas, we want that employment rate to go up. We don't want anyone with disability to feel pressure to go out there and advocate for any disability or whatever they want to do. I mean, they just want to be themselves. And I think you'd be surprised even in this building, the amount of people that actually do have some form of disability or mental health struggle. And I think it's great that more and more people are feeling more included to come and talk about it.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to those that have been rorting the NDIS? And you talk today about lawyers, a lot of money going in, in legal fees. But there are clear instances of people abusing the scheme.

ALCOTT: Yeah, they can go and get stuffed. Like, first and foremost, we’ve had four questions about the NDIS of all the negative things about it. I'm starting by saying the NDIS is bloody awesome. We commissioned the NDIS report a few months ago, the first, almost half as bad for the NDIS is, you know, we talked about early intervention before, one of the things we found out about this report, the kids with early intervention on the NDIS, who were under the age of six, had double the amount of friends to the kids who weren’t. I had no friends when I was five. I like, I got goose bumps, I love that about the NDIS, did you know that? Not really. You don't really read stories about that, you don't talk about the economic growth of being involved and things like that. So first and foremost, it's awesome, right? And we need to hear more stories about the good things that are happening. But secondly, you know, there are some dodgy people, out there doing dodgy things. And we're going to find, the Government have already commissioned the, it's a really funny, good word, the fraud fusion taskforce. And they're going to find people that are doing the wrong thing. And if you are watching this, and you're doing the wrong thing, you are literally taking away from a neurodiverse kid getting care. You're taking away someone with a high level disability having a shower, you're not taking away us having fast cars and stuff like that. That is not what it's about. So remind yourself that you are doing that, hey, you know what, I'm not going do that anymore.

JOURNALIST: Mr Alcott, just if I could extend on Dan's question. I mean, on that question of people with disability in the decision making process of government, obviously, you don't want to see individuals necessarily required to come forward. But would you like to see some kind of aggregated anonymised reporting of, for example, how many political staffers might have disability or how many offices in an anonymised aggregate way so that you can actually get an idea about how many people with disability are in those functions of government decision making?

ALCOTT: Sure. But if you're anonymously asking people to disclose, you're asking them to disclose. So I think it's up to the person with disability, you don’t want to put pressure on anybody to disclose anything. But what I will say is, we need as a society to have greater representation of people with disability everywhere. Mainstream schools, sporting fields, parliaments, on our screens, but in our workplaces, and on our boards in our workplaces, as well, right? Because you cannot be what you cannot see. And I think as a result of that, once we all start lifting our expectation and what we think people with a disability can do, because we've been hanging out for 30 years to get going. I think that's why we're so pumped about The Field because the number two question I get asked people is, employers go, Dylan, I want to hire a barista, a lawyer or whatever with a disability where I find them? People with a disability say to me, I've got four degrees, never had a job. Where are these inclusive employers? We've got a home for that now. And if you are watching this, and you do a great job, tell people. Tell people about how good  your staff are with a disability because I think that is so important to know. Whenever you're the news with a disability, something bad has happened. It's like nah, we need to celebrate all of us as normal people, doing normal things, all the time. And I think that's the way that we're heading and you can hear it in my voice I'm bloody pumped about it, I’m excited, I’m buoyant, like I really am and I think it's the tide is turning which is cool.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, about a million Australians woke up today and found out that their private medical data and personal information could end up on the dark web. What can you tell us about the Government's response to that development? What work’s being done to prevent that information reach open, you know, social media, public internet, places like that? And what should those Australians do?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're working with the security agencies as a Government. We've also made sure we've been clear about the risks that is there. And this is really tough to people. I'm a Medibank Private customer as well. And it will be of concern that some of this information has been put out there. Can I say this though, that the company has followed the guidelines effectively, the advice which is to not engage in a ransom payment. If you go down this road, then you end up with more difficulties potentially across a wider range. But we will, through Clare O’Neil, will be responding extensively about this. We are concerned. And we'll continue to monitor what is occurring, we need to keep people's information as safe as possible. There has been a real wake up call for corporate Australia with both this breach and also the Optus breach that have occurred.

JOURNALIST: PM, on your trip next week and in relation to Penny Wong’s phone call last night, do you anticipate a meeting with either Chinese leaders Li Keqiang or Xi Jinping at either of the summits? Something you're seeking actively? And if so, what do you want to occur?

PRIME MINISTER: I will depart on Friday for the East Asia Summit and then go straight to the G20 and then straight to APEC. It will be an extensive nine days and a very busy nine days. We're still finalising the program. And included in the program will not just be an address to the B20 as well as attending those forums. So, B20 is a business gathering prior to the G20 where President Widodo, Prime Minister Modi and myself will be the three international leaders addressing that gathering. And I met with leaders in the Australian business community. Yesterday, the heads of ACCI, the BCA and AIG will all be traveling to Bali to participate in that program. So this isn't just a government program. I've made it very clear that dialogue is a good thing. And so if a meeting is arranged with Xi, then that would be a positive thing. We look forward to, we are organising a range of meetings, but they haven't been finalised and locked in at this point in time. We'll make an announcement, if and when meetings with various leaders are locked in.