On February 1st, 2017 – 6 weeks out from yesterday’s State election, Federal Minister Christian Porter along with then WA Premier Colin Barnett and then Minister for Planning, Social Services Donna Faragher announced that WA would manage its own delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. WA had run trials of its own alternative to NDIS concurrent to the Federal government’s NDIS trials in the State. Barnett, Faragher and the State’s Liberal government had backed the WANDIS alternative.
Many saw WANDIS as a withdrawal from a full and fair NDIS rollout. While the State government looked to talk down fears of a diminished NDIS that limited choice and control for people with disability, the lack of transparency on the report comparing the two systems left the community uncertain. Groups like NoDISadvantage were formed seeking to guarantee that those in the West would not be left behind under the localised scheme, actively lobbying and protesting for the rights of West Australians to a full and fair NDIS.
Less than two weeks out from the election, the WA government released the report it had used to justify backing its State-based model in negotiations with the Commonwealth. The report was quickly and widely discredited, most notably by Minister Porter, a former WA treasurer. With State and Federal Liberals at odds, Porter called out the decision as a bad outcome for West Australians, with WA taxpayers hit with an extra $106m in administration costs to keep control in State hands.
With Labor’s election win, the question now turns to what will newly elected Premier Mark McGowan do to resolve the NDIS mess? For the most part, McGowan has played the politicians hand and expressed sympathy for the plight of people with disability under the WANDIS system while refraining from committing to a position. The firmest position the Premier-elect would give was a commitment to review the decision.
However, what power the newly minted Premier will have to actually reverse the decision is questionable. With the ink dry on the bilateral agreement between Barnett and Canberra, any change would require new negotiations to extract WA from its State-based disability service delivery model. An agreement unlikely to be made easier by a Prime Minister and Minister with an interest in withholding early wins from their opposing party State counter parts.
West Australians were given a choice between one major party that promised a State-based system and a major party that wouldn’t commit either way. That certainty of hope was enough to get Labor across the line. However, in government Premier McGowan won’t have the luxury of taking the position of no position. Instead, the newly elected Labor party will have to decide if it is going to expend its political capital on returning WA to the full, nationally consistent NDIS, or resign the State to the legacy of Colin Barnett’s WA NDIS.