In a period of welfare state retrenchment, Australia's neo-liberal government is continuing to implement an expensive National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Australia is among the pioneers of welfare measures funded from general revenue. Until recently, however, attempts to establish national schemes of social insurance have failed. The paper reviews this history through the lenses of path dependence accounts. It then presents contrasting descriptions of the NDIS by its Chair, the politician who inspired him, and two feminist policy analysts from a carers’ organisation. Path dependence, these accounts illustrate, has been broken in some respects but consolidated in others. In particular, the dynamics of ‘managed’ capitalist markets, gendered notions of abstract individuals and organisations, and the related difficulties in accounting for unpaid labour are constraining the transformative potential of the NDIS.