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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 698


Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (18:39): I support the comments of the member for Werriwa and many of the other speakers on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is an idea whose time as come. We on the coalition side have been very clear that we support the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Productivity Commission recommendations which formed the basis for the creation of the scheme. It is great to have this opportunity to speak and to consider the position of many in our community who probably do not have the options in life that those of us in this House have. I think of people like Merv Cooper and Ross Kruger, parents of children that have disabilities. I have spoken to them many times over the last couple of years advocating for people in our community with disabilities. This is certainly an area that in the past has not been given the attention it has deserved, I think it is fair to say, from either side of politics.

This morning I watched an address by Dr Ben Carson. He was making reference to the US national emblem, the bald eagle. He made the comment that eagles are able to fly because they have two wings, a left wing and a right wing which work together. I think it is a very pertinent point that we in this House are debating the National Disability Insurance Scheme from the basis that both sides of politics are prepared to work together in a bipartisan way to achieve an outcome for the people with disabilities in our communities.

As I said earlier, more is needed to be done to assist the nearly four million Australian people living with disabilities so that they do not feel isolated, secluded and left out of the opportunities that many of us take for granted. We all have a basic need to live with dignity and to feel important, valued and respected. We want to have active roles in our family lives and our working lives and within our broader community. Support for people with disabilities is not welfare; it is support to assist those people in participation in the everyday life of our communities. I would like to praise those people involved in the grassroots campaigns for people living with disabilities—their families, their friends, their carers and support organisations—for the many years they have spent getting us to where we are today. More than 150,000 Australians have signed up to the Every Australian Counts campaign, which has given Australians a huge reality check in relation to the treatment of some people living with disabilities. We have many young people living in aged-care nursing homes. We have people with disabilities in some cases only getting two or three showers a week and children who are having to wait up to two years for a wheelchair. These are just some of the examples to highlight that we have been failing as a nation to appropriately support people with disabilities.

There is much support for the NDIS in my electorate of Forde. However, there have been concerns in that the scheme's implementation will continue to face hurdles in terms of funding and how the final make-up of the scheme is put together. The disability and carers sectors also have concerns in relation to the current drafting of those bills. It has been noted that some of the concerns that have been raised are about the lack of detail in the bill and the impact of the bill on small service providers. In addition, further questions raised by the bill include how the full version of the NDIS will be financed, whether there will be sufficient monitoring and other protections in place for participants, who specifically will receive support and what specific supports they will receive, and whether people over 65 should be able to become participants. The rollout of the NDIS, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, will span several parliaments and will continue to require the support of both sides of parliament to ensure that it is successfully implemented. As proposed by the Productivity Commission, the NDIS will take some seven years to reach its full implementation.

I have already had many discussions with constituents in the electorate around needs for the NDIS and, in particular, with a constituent who suffered an accident at work and whose life has been forever changed as a result. This gentleman is the father of two young boys and now spends his life in a motorised wheelchair as a full quadriplegic. After meeting with him at his home, I discovered that it costs him around $200,000 per year just to stay alive. His carers are working around the clock, and he is spending a considerable amount of money making changes to his family home to make it disability-friendly. The cost of hiring carers and the cost of medications, which are often not covered by any kind of concession, readily add up to a vast sum of money. The saddest part of this story is that he was a young man in the prime of his life and that it was an accident at work—he was not doing anything untoward or anything silly. It was, unfortunately, an accident. Yet his two children suffer the burden of seeing their father now as a quadriplegic for life. The things that they may have done with him as they grew up—kicking a football around, throwing a cricket ball around the backyard—are pleasures that they will never get to enjoy. So it has not only cost him his mobility but also brought about a massive change in life for him. Unfortunately, it has also cost him his marriage. This is just one example of how tough it can be for people living with a disability, not only in my electorate but in electorates all around the country.

In addition to the requests for financial assistance from families with young children struggling to afford life's basic essentials, I regularly receive inquiries in my office around the necessary aids and medications for those children with special needs and disabilities. I have also been alerted to the concerns of parents of disabled children, who worry about what will happen when they become old and pass away. Their concern is, 'Who will look after my child then?' Something needs to be done to ensure that these people are given the support that they need to live a comfortable, dignified life and to assure them that their children whom they love dearly will be looked after when they pass away.

In order to make this a reality, we need to hear how the NDIS will be funded into the future. The NDIS could already be being funded, if it was a priority. Now that the reality has sunk in about the shortfall in the mining tax revenue, where does that place the funding for the NDIS? Does this government have the funding to ensure the NDIS becomes a reality? These questions are asked in a constructive spirit, as we on the coalition side stand ready to work with the government to see the NDIS delivered as soon as possible. To be able to deliver good social policies such as the NDIS, a strong economy is required. That is why we need to live within our means and to ensure a strong and growing economy. As I said at the outset, we support the NDIS for the benefits it will bring not only to those in my community of Forde but also to the broader Australian public. I commend the bill to the House.