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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 899

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (13:09): I know the member for Ballarat has a good heart and I know her heart is in the right place, but I have just a word of caution for those opposite who seek to politicise this debate. This is above politics. This is needed. Not only is this good for those with disabilities and their families but it is the right thing to do now. The first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme will have a cost to the Commonwealth of $1 billion over four years from 2012-13. This was in the 2012-13 budget and was supported by the coalition. The Labor government has sought to claim the NDIS as its own, rejecting bipartisanship on several occasions, including the Leader of the Opposition's proposal for a cross-party parliamentary committee to be chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. The sector has recognised publicly the support of the federal coalition and conservative states for the scheme. The NDIS is the property of all Australian governments. The introduction of an NDIS has cross-party support at both federal and state levels. So I have a word of caution for the Labor government: try to not politicise this. This is above politics, as I said. Any criticism of the coalition in this regard is unfair, not nice and totally unwarranted.

Australia is a world leader when it comes to health care, yet there is a serious failure, and we recognise that, in the delivery of services for people with disabilities. These people, along with their families and carers, struggle to receive the support and services they need and know that an NDIS will help to fill the cracks in the present system. I needed no convincing that an NDIS would be a good thing not just for those with disabilities but, indeed, for the nation. I was the first New South Wales federal parliamentarian to sign up to the Every Australian Counts campaign, which describes an NDIS as being revolutionary and says that it will change the lives of those living with a disability. The implementation of the scheme is a once-in-a-generation reform which will unfold over the life of several parliaments. It is vital that both sides of the parliament, Labor and the coalition, work together to get this right.

The Productivity Commission released the final report into disability care and support on 10 August 2011 and confirmed that the current system of support for people with disabilities is not functioning as it should. Indeed, it said it was broken. This legislation provides for the establishment of an NDIS. It is not about politics. As I said, it is not about getting credit; it is about doing what is right, proper and just for disabled persons—adults and children alike. The coalition believes the full implementation of an NDIS would be nothing short of a new deal for people with disabilities and their carers. As the Productivity Commission recognised, this will require a high level of consultation, bipartisan consultation, including with stakeholders, in its design.

The coalition has welcomed the agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments for a full state-wide roll-out of the NDIS and congratulates Queensland for its persistence in seeking a deal on the NDIS with the Commonwealth in the face of constant misrepresentation by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Disability Reform. An NDIS is an investment in Australia's future and especially in the lives of those who will depend on the scheme. However, without a funding agreement from the government, the current implementation plan is just an empty gesture. The only mention of the NDIS in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook last year was to say it was a government priority over the medium term. This must be a government priority over the long term and the government must say whether it is committed to achieving a full NDIS by the Productivity Commission's target date of 2018-19. It must rein in its spending and stop the borrowing to ensure that the NDIS gets the full support that it needs to start and secure its longevity. The coalition believes the Productivity Commission's timetable is achievable with prudent government and good economic management. We have supported the initial work of the Productivity Commission, the five launch sites and the introduction of legislation into this parliament. The introduction of an NDIS will mean so much to those living with disabilities and those who love or care for a disabled person. In my electorate I have met with many people and families who have highlighted their desperate desire to see an NDIS implemented.

The bill before us establishes the framework for the NDIS and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency. This will enable the scheme to be launched and the agency to operate the launch at five sites across Australia from July 2013.

This stage will benefit more than 20,000 people with a disability, their families and carers living in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, the Hunter in New South Wales and the Barwon area of Victoria. The legislation sets out how the NDIS will run, with eligibility provisions described as 'becoming a participant' in the scheme requiring a person's impairment results in 'substantially reduced functional capacity' affecting their communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care or self-management. Eligibility will include early intervention to mitigate, alleviate or prevent the deterioration of person's functional capacity.

However, people aged over 65 years at the time they request NDIS support will not be eligible, but future participants can choose to continue with the NDIS once they turn 65. Personal planning provisions will place emphasis on a person-centred and self-directed approach. A plan must include a statement of participant goals and aspirations prepared by the participant and a statement of participant supports to be approved by the agency. The plans will specify general support, not purchases with individualised funding; reasonable and necessary support; funding by the scheme; a review date; and how funds and other aspects of the plan will be managed.

It is important that support under the plan represents value for money in that costs are reasonably relative both to the benefit and alternative support. The plan must have regard for current good practice and take family and informal networks into account. It should not include support which is more appropriately funded or provided elsewhere.

The funding for supports can be managed by a registered plan management provider, nominees, the agency or the participants themselves. Plan management will involve purchasing supports; and receiving, managing and acquitting funds.

In regard to compensation, the agency may compel prospective participants to take action for it to obtain compensation for personal injury, and the agency is entitled to recover relevant portions of any compensation awarded to participants. These provisions have been designed to protect the NDIS from cost-shifting.

The review process information will be required to be given to participants when reviewable decisions are made. Reviewable decisions will cover eligibility, support plans, provider registration and nominee determinations. The legislation also provides a further avenue of review to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The agency will be governed by a board consisting of a chair and eight members who will collectively possess an appropriate balance of skills, experience or knowledge in the following fields: provision or use of disability services, operation of insurance, compensation or long-term liability schemes, financial management or corporate governance.

The chair will be appointed by the Commonwealth minister and must obtain the approval of the majority of jurisdictions before appointing members. The legislation also establishes an independent advisory council which will include at least four people with disabilities; at least two carers; at least one person with skills, experience or knowledge in the supply of equipment or provision of services; and up to five more members. There is also a provision in the legislation which provides for an independent review of the act after two years. The bill is currently being inquired into by the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which is due to report back on 13 March 2013.

A recurrent theme presented to date by witnesses is that it is hard to offer advice or pose questions or plan for the launch sites in the absence of the rules. These need to the released quickly and well before the passage of this bill before the parliament. The coalition is committed to the NDIS and we have called for the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to be chaired by both sides of politics. This was reiterated by the Leader of the Opposition at his National Press Club speech on 31 January, where he said:

The Coalition is so committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for instance, that we've offered to co-chair a bi-partisan parliamentary committee so that support for it doesn't flag across the three terms of parliament and among the nine different governments needed to make it work.

The government is yet to accept the offer but it should. The coalition will continue to place this issue above politics and we are prepared to work with state and Commonwealth governments towards a better deal for people with a disability.

There are some NDIS champions in my electorate of the Riverina, where the scheme has widespread support. Councillor Anne Napoli, of Griffith City Council, is a vocal supporter of NDIS. Mrs Napoli and her husband, Angelo, support their son Patrick, aged 37, who has cerebral palsy. Patrick is a gifted artist, but he suffers from this condition. Mrs Napoli is a wonderful and tireless worker on behalf of all disabled people in the Griffith community.

I attended the DisibiliTEA arranged by Anne at the Griffith City Library on 26 October last year to raise awareness of an NDIS.

I refer to the annual report of Kurrajong Waratah, a disability service provider in the Riverina-Murray area. The Chief Executive Officer, Steve Jaques, had some compelling remarks to make in his report last year:

Ahead I see exciting possibilities for all people with a disability and their families from the reforms and service opportunities that the NDIS will deliver.

   …   …   …

The NDIS reform is set to redress years of underfunding and neglect, and correct major weaknesses in our current disability service system in Australia to give all people with a disability the opportunity to be active and participating citizens in their communities regardless of their circumstances or geographic location.

You need to look no further than Kurrajong Waratah to realise the extent of the underfunding, neglect and unmet needs in our communities. Our five year old InterLink service which supports older parent carers who still have their son or daughter living at home with them is currently working with 382 eligible older parent carers across the Riverina Murray Regions.

So you can see how much this is absolutely needed. He went on:

Our Kurrajong Early Childhood Intervention Service works with babies and children under school age and is doing a mammoth job in managing extreme case loads due to demand. The Griffith arm of our service that is working in the Griffith and western Shires of the Riverina Region is at breaking point. … Our Wagga Wagga service is in a similar situation, funded to service 100 families it provides services to over 140 families each and every year.

   …   …   …

The trial sites for the NDIS were recently announced with the Hunter Region of NSW included. The commencement of the Scheme in the trial sites across Australia will help to ensure that the new NDIS system that is developed to support people with a lifelong disability and their parents/carers, is both sustainable over the longer term and is flexible.

Not since the International Year of People with a Disability in 1981 has the future looked so promising. The challenge for all stakeholders in the disability sector and our supporters in the community is to help ensure that the reforms deliver the dream.

The chairman, Michael Kennedy OAM, is also a life member of Kurrajong Waratah, and he had this to say in his report:

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which will now commence with trial sites in 2013 is a positive investment towards a fairer, more equitable and caring Australian society. The scheme will function in a similar way to Medicare with the costs of disability in our communities shared by all Australians through the Commonwealth Government's consolidated revenue.

   …   …   …

The reform path ahead with the NDIS is exciting for people with a disability and their family and carers, but at the same time it will be full of change. Major change of this type will inevitably bring uncertainty, challenges and opportunities.

The proposed disability reform agenda from the NDIS has put a focus on the large exposure many disability service providers have to government funding and government decisions. Many of our colleague organisations are upwards of 80% plus and some 100% reliant on government funding for their service revenue. At Kurrajong Waratah we have always sought to establish as much independence from government funding as possible through our financially viable business models and strong community support. For Kurrajong Waratah our government business revenue is generally between 50% to 65% of our total revenue.

The ‘new world’ we are entering under an NDIS will be very person centred and customer driven. Such a move towards a market driven service approach, determined by the choices that people with a disability as customers will make, will challenge and confront many disability organisations.

Kurrajong Waratah in preparing for this reform will be consulting extensively with our current clients and their families and carers over the next twelve months to determine what types of services and supports are needed to make the difference to their lives. Part of the process will also be to review our existing policies and procedures, service structures, service delivery methods and philosophy.

There is no greater organisation in the Riverina than Kurrajong Waratah, and the level of business support and individual support that that organisation receives is marvellous. It is also warranted. We heard how many children and adults the organisation supports, and it works right throughout my electorate doing a tremendous job each and every day of the year. They are supportive of an NDIS. Anne Napoli at Griffith and her husband Angelo are supportive of an NDIS. Mrs Pat Thomas at Temora, who has a carers group there, is very supportive. Carol and Chris Harmer, who have two disabled children, are very supportive. I could go on. There are so many people—hundreds of them—right throughout the Riverina who are in need of an NDIS. May they get their dream before not too long. I urge again that this is above politics; this is the right thing to do, it is warranted and it is needed right now.