Labor has demanded the Coalition keep their hands off the National Disability Insurance Scheme, following reports the new government will consider abolishing or scaling back the agency set up to deliver the landmark reform.
In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Treasurer Joe Hockey said while the Coalition was committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, he did not want another "massive new bureaucracy" set up to run it.
Mr Hockey told the newspaper he wanted the Commission of Audit to consider handing the delivery of the scheme to Medibank Private as a way of improving the efficiency of government service delivery, but stressed this was "just an idea" at this stage.
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten attacked Mr Hockey's comments.
"People with disabilities don't deserve to have their lives disrupted by ill-thought-out Coalition thought bubbles," he said.
"The government needs to realise they're in government now, and when they have a thought bubble, this affects the security and wellbeing of thousands of Australians."
Mr Shorten said Labor would fight "tooth and nail" to protect the scheme.
Labor's spokeswoman on disability reform, Jenny Macklin, said carers and people with disability had campaigned for years for the scheme.
"Mr Hockey, keep your hands off the National Disability Insurance Scheme," she said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who on Thursday launched a scoping study into privatising the government-owned health insurer, said Medibank would be capable of administering the disability scheme regardless of whether it was in private or public hands, provided it won a competitive tender.
The Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, who has responsibility for the scheme, said the Coalition had no plans to privatise or unwind it, and accused Labor of scaremongering."The Coalition will deliver the NDIS,'' Senator Fifield said in a statement.
"The Coalition has enthusiastically supported the NDIS at every step."
Senator Fifield said the Coalition would deliver the announced funding for the scheme and would honour the agreements between the Commonwealth and states and territories for the full roll-out of the scheme.
Senator Fifield said the Productivity Commission's vision for the scheme was of service providers competing to offer services to scheme participants. He said it would be a matter for Medibank Private whether it chose to offer services.
"Separate to this, there may be some administrative functions of the National Disability Insurance Agency that the NDIA board may determine in the future, in the light of launch site experience, could be contracted out through a competitive process.
‘‘Businesses and not-for-profits could tender for such business if it was offered," Senator Fifield said.
He said the Commission of Audit would examine all areas of government activity and all departments and agencies should be "open to advice on best administrative practice to ensure services are delivered efficiently and well".
Senator Fifield said it was "unfortunate that Labor is not following the Coalition's example in opposition of elevating the NDIS beyond partisanship".