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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 696


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (18:29): It is interesting to sometimes take a step back and actually watch some of these debates and see the contributions by individuals who have a particular activity or life experience that relates to legislation. It was interesting to hear the member for Throsby, who actually worked in the sector and thereby became connected with some of the NGOs that assist people.

Equally, the member for Hughes, on the opposite side of parliament, talked about his own family life situation. I do not think he mentioned this today, but I will mention it: he plays a role in a particular organisation that straddles my own electorate, Fowler, and his electorate. In his own time, he serves on the committee there and he obviously has had firsthand experience of these issues.

I join with other speakers in congratulating Minister Shorten for putting this on the agenda. Also, I think that another person involved in Australian politics has played a significant role in this, and that is the former state minister in New South Wales, John Della Bosca, who mobilised national activity and campaigned around this issue. I think we all have to recognise that it might be an issue whose time has come, but it may not have come without activity by non-government organisations, carers, parents, disabled people themselves and their political sponsors. John Della Bosca has not had a five-minute commitment to this issue; he has always been a person in New South Wales politics who was respected.

I recall when I was the member for Reid: we had a very large disabled organisation called Cumberland Industries based in Lidcombe, next to the Western Suburbs rugby league ground of past years. Let us be as kind as we can: that organisation collapsed because of absolute and total mismanagement. We will not say that it collapsed for other reasons. But it was an organisation which employed hundreds of disabled people in a variety of work companies. One of the activities undertaken out there by John Della Bosca, the then state minister, was to work with Cumberland Industries—at that stage, people thought they were capable of selling a few raffle tickets or something, which proved to be incorrect in the end. But he established a situation over there—or tried to—whereby a variety of state disability organisations could share administrative and clerical staff et cetera to reduce their overheads; to have the one site and to utilise a variety of facilities out there. So he has had a long-term commitment. I have seen in my own electorate the way in which this organisation has pressed members of parliament and put the issue on the agenda.

We are here today after the government has undertaken a variety of measures: establishing a Select Council of Treasurers and Disability Service Ministers, appointing a four-expert group to work under the advisory group and making a national government commitment to support the technical work required in the laying down of the foundations to launch the NDIS. The government has also committed millions to projects that examine the what needs to be done so that service providers and their workers are able to deliver individual personalised care. So there has been a significant amount of work, and no-one is disputing that this is such a massive project that it will certainly require commitment from a number of governments into the future.

One of the things that struck me—and I have said this before in the House—in moving from the electorate of Reid that I represented out to Werriwa was that there was such a dramatic difference with regard to disability organisations and activity. In the old Reid electorate there were rarely any functions related to disability. There were not many organisations. Quite frankly, except for my own individual experience with a few people in the office and people I know locally, it was not an issue which took up much of my daily working life. But out in Werriwa there is such a plethora of organisations, many of them with paid, committed workers, and they each have very strong volunteer bases. I have put it down to, perhaps, being a more Anglo-Saxon electorate, where people are more prepared to talk about these issues. These disabilities are not regarded, perhaps, as given by God. Areas such as Claymore have a high number of housing department homes, and we all know the correlation between disabilities and the breakup of marriages. Usually, the female is left to care for the child. The male—and this is not always the case—predominantly cannot handle those tensions, and therefore you have a lot of single parents in public housing. That is why I think there is a predominance of these organisations and activity in my electorate.

In my electorate I have certainly been persuaded, pushed and cajoled into being involved in the activity around this. I want to cite a few organisations out in my region. One is Junction Works which is led by its CEO, Christopher Campbell. They concentrate on day programs for young adults. They also run a disability catering group which is quite widely used in the region. Recently, I used them for an event with Telstra. Tim Walton heads up AFFORD, a church-connected organisation. It has a factory which employs people in packaging and curtain manufacture. Grace Fava has been mentioned in this House before—she runs the organisation the member for Hughes is intimately involved with. This woman has created an organisation totally through volunteer action. It now has its own premises, it has a 24-hour national phone service and it provides support for children for transition into school. Disability South West has an emphasis on day programs. It operates a house in Lurnea and a drop-in centre for young disabled people. Macarthur Disability Services, headed by Anne Thorn, concentrates on respite and the whole age gamut from children to adulthood. Annamaria Wood is the head of Macarthur District Temporary Family Care at Minto, which provides respite and hosts holiday programs for families. Finally, I want to mention Northcott Disability Services—I say 'finally', but there are many others in the electorate. These are some of the organisations which stand out and which have been involved in pushing the political system to come to this point today.

We can quibble about the funding, but what we have here today is action after decades. It is all right for people to say that it is not properly funded—everyone opposite has been saying that—and this and that. But this is a crucial reform and it has not been put on the political agenda until now. It took the Prime Minister to bang a few heads together at state level to get a few areas for trials. That was a difficult process, but she accomplished it.

Through the NDIS, people will have more choice, they will have programs tailored to their particular needs, they will have a mix of services available to meet their individual requirements, and they will be able to access various levels of care. I join with other speakers in emphasising one particular aspect—the deep concern people in my electorate have about what will happen to their children after they depart. People are living longer and that creates a range of difficult situations. One is that sometimes you get older people being unable to manage because of the size of their child. Another is the fear people have that, after they go—because of the current mishmash of services and some of the rules about how you gain access to them—their children might fall between the cracks.

A number of speakers have mentioned the situation, which has become particularly noticeable in New South Wales. The service or help you get can depend on such things as whether your disability is from birth or not; whether, if it came from an accident, that accident took place in the workplace or not; or whether the disability was caused by another individual's negligence or not. Depending on those things, you get different standards of service and support. In New South Wales a lot more people are going to be falling into that worrying area because trips to work are no longer to be covered by workers compensation.

I commend the lack of partisanship in this debate. I also commend the legislation, which is very important for people in my electorate. It is the culmination of the work of the committed activists, paid workers—although often these people are paid well below what, based on their level of training, you would think they should be paid—parents and families who have thrown their weight into this campaign.