Bill Shorten has copped backlash for “disappointing” remarks where he labelled NDIS workers as “Oompa-Loompas” and “chimpanzees typing”.
Bill Shorten has copped backlash for “disappointing” remarks where he labelled NDIS workers as “Oompa-Loompas” and “chimpanzees typing”.

Backlash over Shorten’s ‘Oompa-Loompa’ rant

Bill Shorten has copped backlash for "disappointing" remarks where he labelled National Disability Insurance Agency workers as "Oompa-Loompas" and "chimpanzees typing".

The Labor frontbencher made the comparison to the little orange workers from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory at a community forum in Geelong on Wednesday, where he claimed "nuts" red tape was preventing people with a disability from accessing services.

"This is bureaucracy gone crazy. If you want to vary an item by a couple of hundred dollars, you've got a whole process," he said.

"I'm not exaggerating: there must be a whole army of Oompa-Loompas dreaming this stuff up, chimpanzees typing somewhere.

"It is nuts. It is not a sensible way to run an organisation."

 

Bill Shorten has attacked the bureaucrats running the NDIS. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Bill Shorten has attacked the bureaucrats running the NDIS. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

 

Oompa-Loompas are from the popular movie book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was turned into the 1971 musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Oompa-Loompas are from the popular movie book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was turned into the 1971 musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

People With Disability Australia president Samantha Connor said it was disappointing to hear public figures using ableist insults.

"Australia is better than that," she said.

"If you think about most of the words that have crept into our language, most of them involve making disabled people the go-to group for describing something that is bad or wrong."

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said 17 per cent of NDIA staff identified as having a disability, and had the a right to expect "open, respectful and collaborative" rhetoric around the NDIS.

"I've seen first-hand how our passionate and dedicated NDIA staff are delivering the scheme to 450,000 Australians right across our nation," she told NCA NewsWire.

Her predecessor Stuart Robert called for Mr Shorten apologise to the "hardworking public servants he's just vilified".

Mr Shorten said his comments were directed at the bureaucrats running the service.

"The full speech - which was critical of bureaucratic stupidity in the highest ranks - is on my Facebook so people should watch it and judge for themselves," Mr Shorten said.

"This is a storm in a chocolate factory and a deliberate distraction by Liberals who should know better.

"Australians with disability want these Liberal critics to focus their energy on fixing the NDIS they have been neglecting for nearly eight years."

While unhappy with Mr Shorten's comments, Ms Connor said the "far bigger issue" was the government undermining services for National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.

"I imagine most Australians with and without disability would be more offended by the idea that disabled kids might not be able to get wheelchairs, and that disabled people might not be able to get the support they need through the NDIS," she said.

Mr Shorten made the comments as he joined disability advocates in the Victorian seat of Corangamite, alongside Labor MP Libby Coker, where he discussed the federal government's plan to rollout independent assessments (IAs) for NDIS participants.

Bill Shorten has likened NDIA bureaucrats to ‘Oompa-Loompas’ and ‘chimpanzees’ in a withering attack on red tape. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Bill Shorten has likened NDIA bureaucrats to ‘Oompa-Loompas’ and ‘chimpanzees’ in a withering attack on red tape. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

Ms Reynolds said in April the plans would be paused until after trials and nationwide consultation, but insisted at senate estimates the scheme would continue in "some form".

Participants were required to provide reports from multiple health providers, but the government last year announced plans to reduce costs by having NDIS-appointed workers assess eligibility via IAs.

Mr Shorten has argued the scheme would effectively force NDIS participants to be reinterviewed for their payments.

"That's very frustrating if you're blind, if you're deaf, if you're quadriplegic, if you've been diagnosed with quite severe autism and you have to prove it again," he said.

NDIS head Martin Hoffman said this week the ongoing trials were providing clarity on how to conduct IAs "sensitively", after revelations participants were asked questions about their sex life.

"We're looking at the way and extent to which … those questions are optional, and may not be raised at all," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday independent assessments were "designed to make the NDIS fairer" and warned the scheme faced a cost blowout without intervention.

"Reasonable and necessary supports obviously come with some boundaries … to ensure the scheme is affordable," he said.

"But more importantly so it's fair for all participants, the ones who need it now and the ones who need to know it's going to be there in the future."

OOMPA-LOOMPA BACKLASH

• Oompa-Loompas were created by fiction writer Roald Dahl for his iconic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

• They were hired by the mysterious Willy Wonka to work in his chocolate factory

• They're a mischievous bunch, playing tricks and bursting into song to mock others' misfortune

• The all look exactly alike and are knee-high

Originally published as Backlash over Shorten's 'Oompa-Loompa' rant



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