NDIA chair Denis Napthine resigns after just three months

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency has resigned just three months into his three-year appointment, leaving agency that oversees the $29 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme without any permanent senior leader.

Disability minister Bill Shorten announced on Monday that Dr Denis Napthine had resigned as chairman of the NDIA. It comes just weeks after NDIA chief executive Martin Hoffman also resigned from the agency.

NDIA board member Jim Minto will act as NDIA chair pending the appointment of a new chair as soon as possible.

Dr Napthine, a former Liberal Premier of Victoria, was appointed by former Coalition Disability minister Linda Reynolds in March, and was expected to serve a three-year term.

His early departure under the new Labor government was announced on the same day new research revealed a spike in “jobs for mates” under the previous government.

Dr Denis Napthine has resigned from the NDIA three months into a three-year term. Image: Denis Napthine/Facebook

Mr Shorten thanked Dr Napthine, whose son has severe autism, for his service and earlier work with the Gillard Government, during his time as Victorian Premier between 2013 and 2014.

“Dr Napthine is a committed advocate for the NDIS and as a carer and somebody who has worked in the disability area, he has a great deal of passion for NDIS participants and their families,” Mr Shorten said.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Dr Napthine in the future to ensure the best outcomes for NDIS participants, their families and carers.”

Last month, Martin Hoffman resigned as chief executive of the NDIA after a three year stint that saw him and the agency criticised, particularly during the attempted rollout of controversial independent assessments, which were dubbed “robo-planning”.

Dr Napthine was handpicked by former Disability Services Minister Linda Reynolds for the role earlier this year after having served briefly on the agency’s board. The appointment was one of more than 30 for former Liberal or National ministers, MPs, staffers and donors, who got taxpayer-funded jobs in the final months of the Morrison government.

At the time, Mr Shorten labelled the appointment of Dr Napthine a “disgrace” and urged him not to accept the role.

On Monday, progressive thinktank The Grattan Institute released a report on a growing “jobs for mates” culture in Australian politics.

The report, which did not single out the NDIA, found political appointees occupy 21 per cent of federal government board positions that are well-paid, powerful, and/or prestigious, and recommended transparent, merit-based selection process for all public appointments, overseen by a new commissioner.

Asked about the report on ABC Radio, Employment minister Tony Burke said cronyism under the previous government was “off the charts”.

“I think for the previous government, the Liberal party membership was the only skill they were after. I’ve got a situation, the National Museum … here in Canberra doesn’t have a single historian on the board,” he said.

“The National Portrait Gallery has no one who is First Nations on its board. You need to say, what’s the mixture of people you need on these boards to make sure that you’re filling the gaps appropriately.”

New independent MP Sophie Scamps said the Grattan findings are “disturbing” and promised to introduce a private members bill that would establish an “independent, merit-based” selection process for government appointments.

“After a decade of political appointments made by former Coalition governments, my proposed legislation is a chance for the Albanese government to end the ‘jobs for mates’ culture in Canberra once and for all,” Ms Scamps said in a statement.

She said the legislation would be ready by the end of the year.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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