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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 709

Mr MORRISON (Cook) (19:28): I rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. Like most, many or indeed all in this place and the other place, all of our lives have been touched by the issue of disability one way or the other either directly or through our family and friends. As an able-bodied person who has been very fortunate—and indeed my family has been very fortunate in these things—I cannot pretend to know what it is like for people to live with a disability. I also cannot pretend to know personally what it is like to care and be the primary carer for someone in that situation and the burden that places on them. Like everyone in this place, I seek to empathise and to understand, but there is a constraint on truly understanding this for those of us who thankfully have not had that terrible misfortune. That misfortune can come through accident at birth or through accident itself, as many disabilities do—and, in that regard, it is very important that we do all we can to ensure that we keep Australians safe. There are so many great initiatives out there—public, private and in the not-for-profit sector—that are designed to teach children, particularly, how to ensure that they can live safely and do not find themselves in the position of receiving a serious injury.

I say that at the outset because I think there could be nothing more offensive to someone who suffers from a disability or cares for someone with a disability than for us to somehow think that we truly get it or understand it. That is why I provide that qualifier. But, coming from that position of disadvantage, let me say to everyone outside this place that, in this House and in the other place, there is strong support for the intentions and measures that are put forward in this bill. This scheme is long overdue and it is something that we all hope to see achieved in our lifetimes. I sincerely hope it is and I sincerely hope that the momentum that has been created over a very long period of time will continue. I hope that the advocates of many, many years ago are encouraged by what they see taking place here, with equal measures of support across this chamber.

The coalition supports the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, and we have pledged to work constructively with the government to implement these measures in the most timely and effective manner. We do live in the lucky country, and most Australians assume that, because we are an advanced and wealthy nation, there is adequate support and resourcing provided for people with disabilities and their carers. There is not. For such a long time, that burden has fallen—and, sadly, for a time it will continue to fall—on individuals, families, friends and communities, who will be the primary support for those who suffer.

The Productivity Commission identified $6½ billion in unmet disability care and support—money that could have been spent on Australians in need, to support those with disabilities and those who work tirelessly alongside them. That has been the subject of other political debates.

As my colleagues have outlined in this place, the coalition will look to engage constructively to take this important issue forward. When this legislation before us was first introduced into the parliament last year, the coalition, in agreement with the government, referred the bill to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee to systematically work through the detail and inquire into these matters in a spirit of bipartisanship. That report will be presented to the Senate next month, and we look forward to receiving its findings and actioning them accordingly, where appropriate.

In that spirit of goodwill, the coalition also propose the establishment of an ongoing joint parliamentary committee, chaired by both sides, to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. As well as providing a formal tool to facilitate that bipartisanship, the committee would provide an opportunity to sound out questions about design, implementation and eligibility and put together a potential timetable. Regrettably, to date the Prime Minister has not adopted our suggestion. Disappointingly, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers has gone so far as to say it was a bad idea. This is disappointing. The coalition, if there should be a change of government, will make the same offer again, because the NDIS is something that should go forward with practical cooperation, regardless of where you sit in this place.

We support the introduction of this legislation into the parliament. It establishes a framework for the NDIS and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency. But we must be careful in this place that we do not raise expectations about what is to be delivered by this bill, particularly in the short to medium term. I can think of nothing more cruel than to raise the expectations of people who are living with this challenge on a day-to-day basis. We should be honest about the progress and we should be clear about our resolve, but we should not pretend that things are going to change quickly, certainly not overnight. To that end, making statements about having 'delivered' the NDIS and things of that nature are not helpful. I look forward to the NDIS being delivered, but it certainly has not been delivered yet, and it will be some years before it has. It will certainly be some years before the benefits of such a scheme, enjoying the support of the entire parliament, are actually experienced by those who are intended to receive them.

The bill would enable stage 1 of the scheme to be launched in five sites across the country from July, to the benefit of more than 20,000 people with a disability, their families and their carers. The scheme would provide funding to individuals or organisations to help people with a disability engage and participate in economic and social life. This could be through the provision of an entitlement enabling aids or equipment, or personal attendant care and supported accommodation.

The NDIS in principle is person centred, operating on a self-directed funding model. At its heart, the bill is about empowering those with disabilities to reach their full potential and encouraging them to embrace opportunities, set goals and live a full life. But it is important to note that, without funding, this is nothing more than a hollow gesture, a hollow promise. Where the money is to fund the NDIS is not clear. The government has allocated $1 billion of $3.9 billion required over the forward estimates for stage 1. The detail of where this funding is to come from to give reality to what we are discussing in this place is still to be revealed, if it will be revealed at all.

Labor have brought forward the launch sites by one year ahead of the Productivity Commission's plan. They are still yet to explain how they intend to fund a full national rollout. We believe the Productivity Commission's timetable is achievable, with prudent government and good economic management. The coalition has supported the initial work of the Productivity Commission, including the five launch sites and the introduction of the legislation into this parliament. We will continue to support milestones on the road to the NDIS.

Much has been said in this place today about how the NDIS is an opportunity for once-in-a-generation reform, and this is true. Admittedly, it will be a work in progress, as I have mentioned, for many years, but it is important that reforms of this nature, which will touch so many lives, are carefully worked through. We have a responsibility to work in this place constructively and collaboratively to ensure we get the detail and the blueprint right. We cannot afford for this policy to be rushed in implementation and catastrophically bungled, like the project delivery we have seen across this government in so many other portfolios.

In reflecting on the promises of this bill before us, it is also appropriate that, in this place, we recognise the work that is already being done in this space—quietly, behind the scenes, in homes and organisations around the country—because the burden will continue to fall on them for many, many years to come. We cannot allow the NDIS to—

Government members interjecting

Mr Champion interjecting

Mr MORRISON: I note the interjections from the members opposite. I do not think this is the sort of debate that encourages those sorts of interjections.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The member for Wakefield will cease interjecting.

Mr MORRISON: If he wishes to make this debate partisan, he will have the opportunity to do that in his own remarks. I was trying to acknowledge the good work of people in our own communities and, I am sure, the member's communities who are actually out there doing it every day, and the carers and parents and families who are doing this job. We should endeavour to do all we can over the years in which this scheme will come into being to ensure that we can assist them in the meantime. I would not have thought that was something inviting an interjection, but I suppose that reflects more on the member opposite.

In my electorate of Cook there are two particular organisations I would like to pay tribute to. They do this work every day of the week, and I would like to recognise in this place the work that they do. Civic Disability Services have served the shire for more than 50 years. Their commitment to providing care and purpose for those with disabilities in our local area is commendable, and they continue to provide those services today in spite of the pressures and costs of operating in a very difficult economic environment. I have had the opportunity to be part of many of their programs and see their work firsthand. They provide people with intellectual disabilities with a job, with real work, which they are paid for as part of a functioning business that is out there making its own way. One of the most inspiring things about Civic Disability Services is to meet the people who have had those jobs for decades. They have had this as a focus of their lives for such a long period of time. It is important that they continue the work that they are engaged with, and it is important that they can continue to be commercially successful and deal with the many challenges that come their way which small businesses understand and face all around this country. They employ more than 100 people. They provide meaningful employment and give purpose to the lives of people with disabilities in the shire because they can provide a commercial service to real commercial clients who expect high standards at an affordable cost, and that is what they deliver.

There is also the Sylvanvale Foundation. It has provided support to people with an intellectual disability not only in the shire but also in greater Sydney for more than 60 years. The foundation provides a wide range of support services and they are dedicated to serving people under the guidance of their now chief executive Jill Deering. Their vision is to touch lives, awaken potential and work in partnership with people that they support. It is the words 'work in partnership' that ring most true in my association with them. We should be taking that attitude of a partnership forward in the way we engage with the detail of this bill and implementing this scheme in this place. This is not about politics; this is all about a partnership between all Australians. The Sylvanvale mission is to enable people with an intellectual disability to achieve their full potential by providing exceptional services that support, inspire and enable people to reach their goals. Sylvanvale provides a wide range of services and initiatives including accommodation designed to help those with disabilities to live as independently as possible, gain confidence in themselves, acquire skills and expand life experiences. They also offer day programs specialising in lifestyle and social skills, in addition to post-school options and community participation initiatives designed to enable people to gain their independence and look after their health and wellbeing. The Transition to Work Program assists young adults with an intellectual disability to prepare them for work once they have finished school by equipping them with the vital life skills to help them in a home and workplace setting. In Jill Deering's own words, 'It is important for people with a disability to have a choice and have control over the services they need.' Sylvanvale provides that partnership, allowing each individual to take an active role in determining their future.

The level of community support for the initiatives before us in this bill is the reason it has been so well received. The expectations, ambitions and aspirations that the people of Australia have for this have been great, and that is why those aspirations and expectations have to be managed carefully. I noticed this when last year, in response to some changes in funding arrangements, Sylvanvale was out of pocket for some $7,800 to continue an out-of-school-hours care program for children with disabilities. The response from our community to this was simply incredible. Not only was that money raised directly from the community, but it was raised many times over. I particularly want to commend the member for Barton who joined with me to raise much of those funds. Around $20,000 was raised in a Pollie Paddle that we conducted on the Port Hacking River together.

That event demonstrated the spirit in which members of this House, in the main, try to work together in their local communities to address the needs of disabled people and the services that they depend on. With great support from organisations like Ace Gutters, TCQ Construction, Crown and Virgin, and Caringbah Rotary this initiative was a great fillip. It was a great encouragement to those at Sylvanvale, because it said to them that their community cared. I hope in the future that this parliament will be able to demonstrate that it cares through the realisation of the intentions of this bill.