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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2315


Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (17:31): The National Disability Insurance Scheme is one of the largest social and economic policy reforms in Australia's history. At full scheme, it is estimated that the NDIS will be supporting around 460,000 Australians with a disability. The NDIS is a transformational social policy which is being delivered by this government. This will require a new, nationally consistent approach to quality and safeguards. In December 2016 the Council of Australian Governments endorsed the NDIS quality and safeguarding framework, setting out a new approach to regulation for NDIS to protect NDIS participants. The framework was developed in consultation with a range of key stakeholders, including people with disability, their families, carers, providers and peak bodies.

Nationally consistent NDIS worker screening is an important element of this framework that will minimise the risk of harm to people with disability from the people who work closely with them. It will reduce the potential for providers to employ workers who pose a high risk of harm to people with a disability and deter individuals who pose an unacceptable risk of harm from seeking work in the sector. Worker clearances will be portable across jurisdictions and employers, reducing duplication and complexity for workers and providers living or operating in multiple states and territories. Workers who hold an NDIS worker screening check clearance will be subject to ongoing monitoring at a national level for relevant criminal history or commission records.

A national NDIS worker screening check is a major step forward from the variable arrangements operating in each state and territory. This bill, the Crimes Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme—Worker Screening) Bill 2018, is an important step towards nationally consistent NDIS worker screening, which will help to protect people with disability from experiencing harm. This bill creates exceptions to the provisions that prevent disclosure of spent, quashed or pardoned convictions for persons who work or seek to work with people with disability in the NDIS. Reports of abuse and neglect perpetrated against people with disability may not be pursued for a variety of reasons. The difficulties experienced in securing a conviction where the victim is a person with disability and the challenges faced by people with disability who are victims of crime are now well documented. For these reasons, Commonwealth, state and territory governments have agreed that it is appropriate to consider a person's full criminal history, including spent, quashed and pardoned conviction information, to assess the risk they may pose in working with a person with a disability in the NDIS. This bill will allow relevant Commonwealth criminal history records information about workers to be shared with state and territory worker screening units so they can make a more accurate and informed assessment of the risk that a person may pose to people with disability in the NDIS. This bill has been informed by arrangements already in place for working-with-children checks and the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

This bill ensures the right balance is struck between safeguarding the rights of people with disability and the rights of individual workers to privacy and employment. The exchange of information permitted by this bill is subject to the same stringent safeguards in place for working-with-children checks. Information will only be disclosed to prescribed worker-screening units for the purposes of worker screening. The bill requires the Attorney-General to be satisfied that certain criteria are met before a person or body can be prescribed. A person or body will not be able to be prescribed unless the Attorney-General is satisfied that the screening unit has the legislative basis for doing so and complies with applicable privacy, human rights and record management legislation. The person or body must also comply with principles of natural justice and must have risk assessment frameworks and appropriately skilled staff to assess risks to the safety of a person with a disability. The bill also contains staged reviews of its operation. The department will also conduct a privacy impact assessment of the measures proposed in the bill. These are important safeguards against the misuse of criminal history information.

The paramount consideration must be the right of people with disability to live lives free from abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation. The provisions in the bill are a reasonable and necessary measure to ensure people with disability have access to quality and safe supports and services under the NDIS. The NDIS worker-screening check will not replace the responsibility of employers to recruit suitable employees and provide a safe environment for people with disability, but it does represent a very significant reform designed to strengthen the national standards to address abuse and neglect for the most vulnerable in our society.

We will continue to consult the stakeholders to establish nationally consistent expectations for the conduct of providers, the training and screening of their workers and the quality of supports and services that they deliver under the NDIS. I extend the government's thanks for the commitment and contributions made by so many people across the community as we work together to implement quality and safeguard arrangements, including this bill, that support the right of people with disability to access safe services and supports in pursuit of their goals and the effective implementation of NDIS. I commend this bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): The original question was that this bill now be read a second time. To this the honourable member for Jagajaga has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.