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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 618


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (13:13): I think that the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 is a very important piece of legislation and I am certainly pleased to rise and speak on the NDIS, which is an area of considerable debate in the community. I think it is an issue in which the community is looking to people in this House to participate in a fulsome and wholesome way, having waited so long for this issue to actually rise to the top of consideration for governments.

I have to acknowledge the very heartfelt and honest assessment of the member for Hughes's own commitment to the disability sector, and I acknowledge the personal journey that he is on. Around this entire chamber there would not be a person whose life has not been affected or impacted in some way by disability, whether that was at the moment of birth or a disability that has been acquired in some shape or form during the course of one's life—so I think that all of our hearts might be in this. But before I become, perhaps, too gentle on the member for Hughes—I know he is sturdy enough for the critique that I would like to offer—I would just like to focus in on a couple of words that he has mentioned.

Mr Neumann: He was talking about Campbell Newman in Queensland.

Ms O'NEILL: Absolutely—because one of the things the member for Hughes said was, 'We have to have the desire and we need some action.' These words are very important. This is the government which has the desire and this is the government which has taken action to address the very real and pressing issues facing people who experience disability. We had 12 years of the Liberal-National coalition. They had the opportunity to do something about this issue while in government. After all—let's face it—this is not a new issue. There have been powerful community responses to this issue over many years. But in the 12 years of the Howard government there was no vision, no desire and certainly no action—no real action. Nothing happened in this space that was anywhere near as significant as the vision this Labor government is offering the people of Australia. We are doing so in response to the people of Australia waking up and saying, 'We have to be able to respond to this issue better than we have been able to so far.'

At the end of 12 years of Liberal government, we had plenty of crowing about a surplus. A surplus is a great thing—but not in and of itself. Achieving a surplus after we have looked after the poor, the vulnerable and the people who are experiencing disability—that would be something to be proud of. But we have to make sure that we have ideas, that we have vision. We have to use the money that Australian taxpayers offer up in ways that respond to the real and pressing needs in our community. That is what the NDIS is. It is a real response to real people. It does require vision and it certainly requires leadership—and the only people who will offer that leadership and bring about the delivery of the NDIS are the Labor government.

We can look to Queensland, as my colleague here in the chamber suggested. When this debate emerged, after the Productivity Commission report, all of the states engaged in the discussion. I am proud that New South Wales was the first to come on board to get this trial going—because the people who are dealing with the challenges of disability do not need to wait any longer. They do not need to go to the bottom of a pile of possible policy considerations for those opposite. They need to be at the forefront of our consideration. They worked so hard to get attention onto this sector. So now is the time to act.

The reality described by the Productivity Commission is that there are indeed pockets of success in some states but that, overall, there is no disability support arrangement in any of the states or territories around Australia which really meets people's needs. Having said that, I want to make sure I put on the record my personal admiration for the amazing workers and carers—the community effort which has provided the degree of response which has been offered to people with disability until now.

But we have reached a point where, quite frankly, the system rules—and the people have to fit in with that system. Currently, there are a range of options available to only some people with disability. We need to make a change to that. We know that any person who has a significant disability will need support. Some will need early intervention; some will not need early intervention but might need something later on. The individualised nature of the responses required means that we must start anew—to create a system which serves the people, not continue to ask people with disability to fit in with a system which, as has been proven, is not meeting their needs.

In acknowledging the workers, the carers and the community support, I wanted to bring attention today to the great work being done in my own community—around Gosford in the seat of Robertson. I particularly wanted to mention Fairhaven, a local community group which started up with parents who had children with disability. About 50 years ago, a group of parents—who probably could not afford the time or the money, but who could not afford not to act—gathered together and decided to create educational opportunities for their very special kids. From that has grown an amazing organisation led very ably by Jim Buultjens and his great board, his staff, the volunteers and the parents of the people who use that facility to create opportunities for work and opportunities for social engagement. They do great work. They are 100 per cent behind getting this National Disability Insurance Scheme off the ground, and it cannot happen too soon for them.

I also want to acknowledge the work of the House With No Steps, which has agencies right across the country. I went to an amazing event at the end of last year, entitled the Glitz and Glamour Ball. Many, many local community members with disabilities were there, as were their families and friends, and I have never been to a night of such celebration in the entire time that I have been in this parliament. The outfits were out of this world, and the doctors from Gosford Hospital, who had put together a band, were setting up and getting ready to play, and the minute the participants of that night heard that the band was about to play they were on the dance floor. In terms of the notion of disability, so often it is framed as people having less than capacity. The reality is that people who have labelled disabilities are people who enable the rest of us, in so many ways, to look at the world with different eyes, to appreciate the things we have and to be taught new ways of being, including not to be embarrassed about putting your dancing shoes on and getting out on the dance floor and really enjoying music when it is offered. That was certainly my experience of the night with the people from the House With No Steps at the Glitz and Glamour Ball.

The community is behind this piece of legislation. In my electorate, we also have one of the aspect schools, which deals with and assists families of children with Asperger's or autism spectrum disorders. Their participation in the process that led to the establishment of this legislation, which has come out of the Productivity Commission's report, was really very significant. What we have before us is the product of many, many conversations with key advocates of the community to make sure that what we are proposing is something that is seen to be sustainable, that is seen to be fair, that is seen to be a timely and appropriate response to the real issues that are happening for people experiencing disability, and their families and their carers.

In essence, this bill creates the foundation for this very important reform. It will, when implemented through this parliament, fundamentally change what is available as an option for people who face disability, whether it is at birth or acquired. And it does not matter through what means that disability might be acquired; it might be a later revelation of a genetic disability, it might be a car accident or it might even be an unfortunate situation where somebody, a young man or woman, dives into the water and finds themselves permanently disabled in a way that no family can anticipate.

The Productivity Commission's Disability care and support report that came out in 2011 was very widely accepted. Certainly there were a number of community campaigns to encourage people to respond to that with the Count Me In campaign. At this point of time, I would like to note also the leadership of advocates in our community, people who have come to see me individually. A businessman who lives outside my electorate but has a disabled daughter was one of the first to come to see me and asked me to sign up to the Count Me In campaign. There was also a number of disabiliTEAs that I attended—I will be speaking to that later this evening as I put forward a notice of motion on this issue—at Pearl Beach and Kariong in my electorate.

But I would also like to note the broader leadership of the Mariners, that great local team from the Central Coast right at the top of the soccer football table. We are very proud of them and they are very proud to put their name to the Every Australian Counts campaign as well. They have argued that they have had a long interest in improving care and support and independence for people with disability, and they continue to do that. I am sure that, like me, the Mariners and the people who support the Mariners are waiting for this legislation to pass because, as I said at the beginning of my speech, no-one in this chamber and no-one in the community would be unaware of the challenges faced by people with disabilities and by families who are caring for people with disabilities.

One of the reasons that the NDIS is held in such high esteem in our community is that it has been produced out of a process of long and careful consideration with stakeholders. Families have had a say, carers have had a say and of course people with disability have had an important input into this legislation. Critically, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Advisory Group and the National Disability Insurance Scheme expert groups have participated in putting forward ideas in four key dimensions, including eligibility and the assessment of disability. Of course we need to talk to the experts, we need to talk to families, to understand the challenges the current system presents and to provide alternatives. We also have had advice on quality, safeguards and standards. Obviously there are challenges across the states, so creating a national capacity for choice and control for people with disabilities has been one of the key areas that has been attended to. Workforce and sector capacity have also been considered in the preparation of this bill. This government has also funded the National Disability and Carer Alliance to make sure consultation is ongoing.

In July this year the government will be launching sites across the country, in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and, happily, close to me in the Hunter region of New South Wales and also in the Barwon area of Victoria. This means that 20,000 people will be part of the launch sites that are going to enable us to really work out what is the best way to proceed on a much larger scale for all Australians who find themselves encountering disability.

The scheme is based on the principle of providing long-term certainty for the resourcing of disability and care. One of the things that has often been raised with me in my consultations with local constituents is that, when somebody is identified as having a disability, the insecurity of not knowing what help they might be able to get or how long the care might be available for is one of the pressing concerns that leads to an incredible anxiety. We understand that short-term responses are an inadequate response for a whole-of-life disability and that is why the scheme considers the whole-of-life context of people's disabilities.

The other thing that has emerged from the good care that has already gone on is the fact that everybody's care is unique. There are individual needs. To be able to choose carefully the response that suits you and enables you to achieve the most that is possible with a disability is a key concern of this government. We also want to look at supporting carers. As the member for Hughes pointed out, a billion hours of carer responsibilities is a very big contribution. We need to make sure that we are caring for the carers, and that is a critical part of our consideration as well.

All of this means we have to move away from the crisis model that has prevailed—the crisis model that was adequate for those on the other side of the chamber when they were in government. It is no longer adequate. The time has come in this country for us to respond to this reality, and this government is committed to making sure it improves the lives of people with disabilities. (Time expired)