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706 NDIS立法考驗聯邦工黨

NDIS legislation testing Labor federal government

2013年立法成立的國家殘疾保險計劃(NDIS), 被部長索頓視為個人成就。不過NDIS推行

至今, 受到各方質疑, 大家都知道這是一個燙生芋, 而索頓在工黨2022年上台後, 被委為NDIS部長, 要把NDIS在聯盟黨執政下變成不倫不類的項目, 撥亂反正, 作出改革。改革要是成功的話, 將在黨內大大提升對索頓的支持, 索頓很有機會在阿爾巴尼斯失勢時, 藉此重新成為領袖, 有可能擔任總理。可以說, NDIS改革成功, 將決定索頓的政治前途。

去年底的NDIS檢討報告, 確是提出了不少NDIS的問題, 也提出了改革路向, 但最大的問題, 是改革後的NDIS是否是澳洲社會的經濟能力, 是否支持得到。今年三月索頓已向聯邦議會提交草案, 要為部份的改革立法執行, 卻遭受各州政府的反對, 表示在沒有更多具體執行細節下, 很有可能使州政府在殘疾人仕服務的承擔, 變為無法應付。 州政府更對立法把決定NDIS計劃及服務的權力, 全歸到聯邦機構之中, 自己只變成執行聯邦政策而又要為此而買單, 表示不滿。

其實, 連最初在2013年提出NDIS方案的生產力委員會主席Gary Banks最近也表示, 委員會當年對 NDIS的推算, 在執行時因為沒有限制參加者人數而大失預算, 並且政府沒有對支援金額設訂上限, 計劃已變得社會無法承擔。他呼籲政府要正視這問題, 避免澳洲經濟在這個為改善殘疾人仕生活而又變了質的政策中, 受到損害。 連國際經濟研究機構OECD也發表報告, 表示澳洲這一個失控的殘疾人仕福利計劃, 已成為澳洲經濟發展的大患。

不過索頓卻沒有正視這些批評, 基本上對這些批評拒絕回應, 只要求社會看到計劃受惠者得到的幫助而支持。但不少人已指出, NDIS制造了不少對社會資源的濫用及欺騙, 並且在其它接受社會援助人仕之間, 已制造了極大的不公平。例如65歲前NDIS住宿服務參加者, 平均每人每年可獲超過50 萬元支援, 而65歲的長者卻只能取得10多萬元, 對那些一生貢獻澳洲的長者, 絕不公平。

還有主流社會不願意面對的, 佔人口超過一半的移民社群, 卻只佔NDIS計劃參加者不到9%, 實際上是對少數族裔的歧視, 索頓卻從不正視。當然這些問題, 也不會受到主流媒體及社會有興趣去討論。

索頓極急切要求立法進行改革, 是要以快刀斬亂麻的手法, 做成既定事實, 為自己增加政治本錢。看起來, 工黨內不少人也樂於見到索頓在黨內取得更多支持。因此NDIS立法的走向, 相信是對工黨的一個考驗, 也是澳洲社會發展的分界線。

周偉文 社長

The enactment of NDIS in 2013 was seen by then Shorten as his personal achievement. The running of this hot scheme since then has been subject to criticism and after Shorten was appointed as the Minister for NDIS when Labor took over power in 2022 he aimed for a restoration from its ruined state in the hand of the Liberal government. If he could succeed in this reformation, he might also regain his party leader position as when Albanese falls over. NDIS reform count for his political future.

The NDIS review report published end of last year indeed raised a number of issues and the uncertainty of whether the nation could still sustain this scheme. In March Shorten pushed his proposal of NDIS enactment in the Parliament but was objected by the State governments on the ground of resources. They were not happy with his idea of vesting the authority of the scheme with the federal government while leaving the state governments just to execute and to bear the financial consequence.

In fact, even the former Productivity Commissioner Gary Bank who initiated NDIS in 2013 has admitted that the uncontrolled explosion of demand thus in the absence of a funding cap the burden on our society is now over the top. He reminds the government has to tackle this systematic problem in the interest of the national economy. Even the international economic research organization OEDC reported on the drain of Australia’s economy by this disability welfare system spiraling out of control. 

But Shorten has been indifferent to these comments while insisting for the public consensus on the benefits the scheme could offer to the disabled. Obviously though are the misuse and fraud arising from NDIS as well as the unfair disparity it creates among other underprivileged groups competing for government aids. For instance, NDIS residents under the age of 65 are getting subsidy of about $500,000 per year whereas pensioners over 65 with their past contribution to the society are only getting $100,000+.

Another phenomenon not interested to the mainstream society is the unproportionately low 9% of NDIS participants belong to the migrant community who actually form more than half of our total population. This is discrimination and is unfair to minor ethnical population both Shorten and the mainstream media do not want to cover.

Shorten has been hard selling the reform legislation aiming to get it done quick for his own political gain. It seems many in the Labor Party are also keen to have this to happen for their own sake. So the future of NDIS is a test on the Labor Party and also will form a dividing line on our national future.

Mr. Raymond Chow, Publisher