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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 610

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (12:33): I rise today to record my support for the highly anticipated National Disability Insurance Scheme. I have been involved with the disability sector and people with disabilities for many years now and agree it is now time that the NDIS be implemented. The Gillard Labor government should not be paying lip service or playing politics with this important issue. It should come clean and explain to Australians how it is going to fund this very important scheme.

All too often we hear those on the other side make announcements and get the media all hyped up. They use weasel words, they spin round and round, but you cannot lock them down. It is time for them to come clean. After all, this is the same government that promised no carbon tax, promised a surplus and in fact reported through a number of its members' newsletters that they had actually delivered a surplus, which we all know is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. How can you believe anything this Prime Minister or the government says? Most Australians agree that it is a stark, sad reality that the state of the system of support for Australians with a disability is fundamentally broken and that it is now time for the NDIS.

A number of constituents who have contacted me regarding this issue tell me they think it is time that the Gillard Labor government committed to real funding of the NDIS. The Gillard Labor government does not have a good track record of implementation, and this issue is too important to be meddled with or mucked up by the Gillard Labor government and the politics associated with it. They are a desperate government who will do and say anything to stay in power.

The coalition is ready to work together on this issue so that we can get it right. We have made an offer to work with them. To get this right, a coalition government is absolutely essential. A coalition government is needed to deliver a strong budget surplus and to give certainty to this scheme, which will affect so many Australians with disability and their families. This is the only way a government can guarantee that an NDIS will be sustainable. Territorians want an NDIS. I have spoken on this issue before in this place and shared some of the stories of constituents who have asked me to support the introduction of an NDIS.

The NDIS will help people with a disability participate more fully in economic and social life through the provision of funding for aids, essential equipment, supported accommodation and round-the-clock care. Sadly, we can all agree that most Australians with a disability currently are not getting the support they need, and that is an absolute disgrace. Whether people have been born with a disability or have acquired it during their life, there is currently no real support system for them; there is nothing really for them to fall back on during their time of need. In some instances there are people who can recover the costs of their care due to injury if the injury is through the fault of another or can be covered under an insurance scheme. However, for the overwhelming majority of Australians with a disability it is a lifelong struggle for them and their carers to find the money to pay for essential care and equipment.

It is disappointing that the Labor government has not released a proper set of NDIS rules. It is very hard to determine who will get assistance and who will not without these guidelines. The Gillard Labor government released a discussion paper on the NDIS rules on 1 February 2013. It is a fair statement to say that this paper does not shed light on the NDIS rules—not one little bit. This is disappointing for Australians with a disability and their loved ones who are waiting with high expectations for a firm and rigorous eligibility procedure to follow. The aforementioned paper proposed a series of questions, hardly what we would expect of a draft set of rules. What is clear, though, is that the coalition has supported each milestone on the road to developing an Australia-wide NDIS. We supported the initial findings by the Productivity Commission and have encouraged vehemently the Gillard Labor government to take up our offer of a cross-party committee, so that we can ensure that we can get it right. Not surprisingly, this offer was refused by the Gillard Labor government. We wholly supported the $1 billion in the last budget and will support this legislation.

The coalition believes that the NDIS can be delivered in the timeframe recommended by the Productivity Commission, but this can only be achieved by a prudent government that manages its finances and delivers a budget surplus when it promises. The Gillard Labor government has now promised to deliver a budget surplus over 500 times, and we are still waiting. My hope for all Australians with a disability is that the promise of a fully-funded NDIS is not broken the same way that the carbon tax promise was broken. The coalition stands ready to work with the Labor government to achieve its promise and deliver a well overdue NDIS.

Additionally, medical defence organisations and individuals with a disability are concerned with the measure that allows the NDIS CEO to make directives that a participant must sue or make claims from insurers when there is the chance that costs could be recovered. Personal injury litigation is an expensive and arduous process and this can be dangerous as it could force more costly litigation upon our already over-litigated society. Insurance premiums will skyrocket, which will trigger a flow-on effect to Australians and on their ever-increasing cost of living. Our overworked courts will be even more clogged-up with unnecessary litigation. As usual, the Gillard Labor government has provided little detail as to how individuals will be assessed, how they will be eligible, what kind of disabilities will fall under the scheme and also what support services will be provided under the scheme. This will not be obvious until the rules and regulations are released, which we do not expect for some time. It would be useful if we had them now; however, this is the path of the process that they are choosing to go down.

The NDIS is a once-in-a-generation reform that will unfold over several parliaments and it is important that we work together to get this right. The Leader of the Opposition has shown his personal dedication and commitment to this issue by dedicating to Carers Australia $540,000 raised by the 2012 Pollie Pedal bike ride. He has also personally met Australians with disabilities and their carers, and with numerous disability organisations, as have many of the members on this side. Carers Australia is a fantastic organisation, and the next two Pollie Pedal rides have been dedicated to raising funds for the organisation to further assist Australians with a disability.

The Gillard Labor government continues to spruik the NDIS as a scheme promoting Labor values and Labor beliefs, but Australians are sceptical, and they tell me that they do not necessarily believe this is the case. The NDIS supports Australian values and Territory values. The NDIS gives Australians with disabilities and their carers a fair go. It will help those who face challenges for reasons beyond their control. The NDIS is designed to empower the individual to remove government from their everyday life and reduce red tape.

The coalition believes that the full implementation of an NDIS would be nothing short of a new deal for people with disabilities, and their carers. We must get this right, and we will get this right with a prudent coalition government with strong fiscal policies for the future of Australia. To get this right it is as essential that we have a high level of consultation and a precise attention to detail from now through to implementation, until we see results that this is working for Australians. The coalition has always welcomed a cross-party parliamentary committee chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the implementation. One of the biggest health reforms since Medicare, it is fundamental that we get this right. A parliamentary oversight committee would lock in all parties and provide a non-partisan environment where issues of design and eligibility could be worked through cooperatively.

While the NDIS will fundamentally help Australians with disability, it will also provide some form of certainty to the selfless carers that care for their loved ones with a disability. A mother should not have to fear for her adult child's safety when she passes on. A father should not have to worry every day of his life how he will pay his 40-year-old son's specialist bills, when he is too old to work. It is important to note that every government in Australia and every opposition in Australia supports and wants to see a successful NDIS. This is a very important point, because it is not the same for the Gillard Labor government's carbon tax.

The Gillard government should accept our offer of a parliamentary oversight committee. This government likes to pay lip service to wanting to have cross-party support for the NDIS, but when the opportunity to get this has presented itself they have declined to participate. What message does this give Australians? The coalition want to give the government, the Greens and the Independents an opportunity to work together on this very important issue. We want to offer our hand of cooperation by moving amendments to this bill to establish a non-partisan oversight committee. And the Gillard Labor government should accept this offer to ensure a successful NDIS delivers results to Australians who need it most. This is the right thing to do.

It was disappointing that at the COAG before last the Prime Minister could not rise above her partisan instincts and agree to work on this with as much support she could find. It is to the credit of Premiers Baillieu and O'Farrell that they continued to negotiate in the face of public attack and misrepresentation by the federal Gillard Labor government. But they stood firm until they reached agreements to host launch sites. The coalition urged the Prime Minister to adopt a more cooperative approach when dealing with our state and territory governments as there can be no NDIS without their buy-in and without their support. It is now up to the Prime Minister to continue to work with the states and territories and to adopt a more constructive approach to reach a more bilateral agreement—hopefully one that will benefit the people of my electorate, Solomon.

Whilst the Productivity Commission never envisaged a problem with the absence of launch sites from a few states and territories, Territorians know that we in the Top End are extremely far from the nearest capital city and without confirmation from the Gillard Labor government about how eligibility tests will be carried out, I cannot be sure that the people in my electorate will not miss out because of Labor's incompetence. The coalition will continue to place this issue above politics and, as I said, we are prepared to work with state governments and the Commonwealth Gillard Labor government toward a better deal for people with disabilities and their carers.

In the last federal budget, we fully supported the government's commitment of $1 billion dollars to the NDIS However this does not add up to the $3.9 billion that the Productivity Commission said would be necessary over only the first phase of the NDIS. It is essential that this scheme is fully funded throughout the rollout phase as this first stage will benefit over 20,000 people with disabilities and their families and carers. Australia is the land of opportunity. The NDIS will provide this for many families across Australia as long as it is fully funded to reach its potential. As I have said, the coalition stands ready to provide strong and stable government. A coalition government can provide this funding with its plan to deliver a safe, secure Australia with a budget surplus.