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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 674


Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (16:57): I am pleased to be able to offer my support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. Many of my constituents have expressed their enthusiasm for the scheme and the new approach that aims to bring support to those with a disability. I know that many more will benefit from the scheme, including those caring for someone with a disability. I am pleased that the coalition not only has supported the recommendations of the Productivity Commission that gave rise to this scheme but also has already adopted a bipartisan approach to this legislation. It is clearly disappointing that the government has rejected the suggestion of a joint parliamentary committee to ensure that the scheme is implemented as quickly and as smoothly as possible, given that the process will stretch over several parliaments. The government has yet to commit to the Productivity Commission's target date of 2018-19 for full implementation and seems intent on playing politics with the issue rather than genuinely delivering a better deal for those with a disability.

To turn briefly to the background of the NDIS, we need to move to a system that provides consistency of care and support across the nation. Currently, the care and support received by a person with a disability will depend on where they live and how they acquired their disability. It should make no difference how the disability was acquired, whether it be congenital or caused by an accident. It should make no difference whether the disability was caused by a workplace accident or a motor vehicle accident. It should make no difference which state or territory you live in, but currently it does, and this cannot be right. As the Productivity Commission concluded, we need a system that will put people rather than circumstance first: a system that looks at the problems individuals are facing and the support they need, makes an accurate assessment of the level of support required and then leaves the final decision on a mix of services to the individual to determine. The NDIS would put the individual front and centre of the system of support, and the individual would be able to select the service provider of their choice. This would be both empowering and effective, not just for the person receiving the support but also for their families and carers. We will have a system of choice, rather than a prescriptive system of entitlement. This should result in more efficient and effective allocation of resources. As the Leader of the Opposition put it:

There are millions of Australians who are involved with this, not because they necessarily have a disability themselves, but because their loved ones do and they are rightly, rightly very interested in the outcome of this Productivity Commission inquiry and we won't let them down

Carers for people with a disability climb mountains every day. They selflessly go without to deliver that care. In many cases they give up careers, a social life or many of the things that we take for granted so they can deliver that care. We as a community and as a parliament have an obligation to those carers and to people with a disability. Clearly, if we fail to get this right, it will be at our peril. Members will be aware that, regrettably, the reputation of this House is at a low ebb. Failure to properly implement this scheme will mean that we are even lower in the public's esteem.

Before I turn to the bill, I would like to commend the work of a volunteer organisation which operates in many coastal locations, and that is the Disabled Surfers Association—the DSA. The DSA is particularly active on the north coast of NSW. It provides the opportunity for people with a disability to enjoy the thrill of surfing. The unpredictable nature of the surf is a barrier to those with a disability participating in that sport, a pastime that so many of us take for granted. The DSA breaks down those barriers, providing an opportunity for people with a disability to enjoy surfing in a safe environment—safe because of the efforts of a legion of volunteers who make it possible. It is quite moving to watch a blind girl stand on a surfboard for the first time or to see a severely disabled person run down the face of a wave in safety. But it is more than just the participation in surfing itself, it sends a strong message to people with a disability and their carers that our community cares. I would like to commend the great work of all DSA volunteers; in particular, I commend Cliff and Lee-Ann Lloyd, Sue Kliedon, Liz Scholton and Wendy Sawley. They do a great job in providing a great outlet for people with a disability, and a great day at the beach for their carers as well.

Returning to the bill: as well as establishing the framework for the NDIS, this bill enables the NDIS Launch Transition Agency to set up five trial sites across Australia from July this year. More than 20,000 people will benefit in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, the Hunter Valley in NSW, and the Barwon area of Victoria. Members will note that Queensland and Western Australia are missing from that list. The reason for this is that although the state premiers all support NDIS, they had serious concerns about the limited details they were being given in return for their support as current providers of disability services. There was also concern that the government had only allocated $1 billion of the $3.9 billion the Productivity Commission said was necessary over the forward estimates.

To this day, the Prime Minister has refused to confirm how the NDIS will be funded beyond the trial period. It is quite clear that the NDIS runs the risk of joining the long list of broken promises and bungled policies now trailing behind the Prime Minister and her government. The hopes of people with a disability and their carers run the risk of being dashed on the rocks of the Prime Minister's cold and cynical expediency. The Prime Minister is working to a political timetable that takes no account of the best interests of the people this policy is supposed to serve. The only interest that she has is her electoral timetable and hanging on to power grimly until 14 September.

The Productivity Commission came up with a scheme that was praised as making a major contribution to improving the lives of those with a disability and their carers, but the Prime Minister is ready to sacrifice that on the altar of short-term political gain. The Productivity Commission came up with a timetable for implementation, but the Prime Minister has ignored that in favour of her own election timetable. The Productivity Commission came up with detailed funding recommendations, but the Prime Minister ignored these because her government has lost control of the public finances. The Productivity Commission set a target date for full implementation by 2018-19, but the Prime Minister has failed to commit to that date because she has only one date in mind, and that is 14 September 2013.

No wonder the Prime Minister would not agree to the coalition's proposal for a joint parliamentary committee to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. If she had, she would have lost control of the process and would not have been able to wriggle out of her commitments to the disability community. Yet I have no doubt that in the coming months we will hear the Prime Minister describing her government as champions for introducing the NDIS. What a hollow claim that would be as, once again, this Labor government ignores the best advice and fails to work on the detail of the policy in its desperate rush for positive headlines as it tries to swim against the tide of sleaze and incompetence that threatens to sweep it out of power. Members will remember the bank deposit guarantee scheme. It was introduced without a cap despite the best advice, with the result that many self-funded retirees and others found their investments frozen. Remember the pink batts scheme. That resulted in deaths, fires, and the disruption of what would have been a stable insulation sector; it ended up with a bill costing the government billions—a problem of its own making. Then there was Building the Education Revolution, something that was supposed to deliver much needed infrastructure for schools. The schools found out they could not get the classrooms they wanted and the classrooms they did get were vastly overpriced. In these policies she ignored advice in a rush to achieve a political outcome. It is important that this does not occur in relation to the NDIS.

This is a very important issue. It is vital that the House succeed in implementing a system that is going to meet the needs of people with a disability and their carers. It is vitally important that we in this parliament move in a bipartisan manner to ensure that the current system is enhanced and improved so that people with a disability can enjoy the services they need and rightly deserve and that we can achieve that with least cost to taxpayers.