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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 713

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (19:43): It is a great privilege and honour to speak on this bill. In 2006 I did about 71 or so street corner meetings as well as meetings in towns and suburbs in my electorate. The striking thing about those meetings was that I could probably say that at every one of them was a parent or carer of a person with a disability. Parents came to talk about their adult children who had lived with a disability and who relied on their care. There were parents who were often very worried about what would happen to their child once they had passed off this mortal coil or grew too old to care for them. There were also parents of young children with severe autism or with other disabilities who were worried about what the future would hold for their son or daughter. And, of course, there were the pleas of carers.

We know that there was nothing new in the issues, demands and concerns brought up by these parents. This was a crisis which had been decades in the making. And we know that state governments had, by and large, done a pretty poor job of providing a safety net, much less a life of dignity for people with a disability, for their carers or for parents of children with a disability.

And credit should go to the member for Maribyrnong, because he was one of the first politicians to realise that this group of people were out there and that they were a constituency whose needs needed to be met and acknowledged. I remember him doing a disability forum with the member for Makin and me. A huge number of people turned out at my old university—it is now a school in Tony Zappia's electorate—and there was a huge outcry from them. They had very reasonable demands of government about giving people with disabilities some dignity.

In August 2011, the Prime Minister released the Productivity Commission inquiry report, Disability care and support. That was a watershed moment. The one thing I will agree on with the member for Cook is that we need to be careful about setting up this scheme. We need to make sure that it is set up for the long term. The Productivity Commission found that the state of care in Australia at that time was underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient. We probably did not need the Productivity Commission to tell us that. Any one of those people who turned up at my street corner meetings could have told you that. And anybody who took more than a passing interest in disability issues could have told you that. But it is important for government to hear it from the Productivity Commission—this advisory body.

The Productivity Commission is known for its economic efficiency and not, normally, for its social care. So when you hear it from the Productivity Commission you know things are pretty bad. Some of the things that have been agreed to since the release of the report are that major reform is needed, that that reform should come in the form of a national disability insurance scheme and that we should take an insurance approach to the cost of disability services and support across the community.

That is a very important concept, because disability can affect anybody at any time. It can affect you at birth or you can be the subject of a car accident. There can be some misfortune in life that means that you or a member of your family can acquire a disability, and that disability can literally change the course of your life overnight. It can affect your earnings, the earnings of your family, your quality of life, and your ability to participate in the community.

So it is reasonable that we should take an insurance approach. If it can happen to anybody then we should all take some common approach to making sure that there is a level of protection that is provided by the community so that it is not left to an individual or to a family to meet those demands themselves.

We want to see reasonable and necessary services and supports provided to make sure that a person's individual ongoing disability support needs are met. And we want to make sure that those people with a disability can exercise more control and choice in their lives by having those services tailored to them. And that is very important, because one of the constant criticisms was not just that there was not enough funding, but that the funding was haphazard. Some people got really great packages; other people got packages that were not suited to their needs.

Having a system that has a person at the centre of its thinking or conceptual analysis is a particularly important thing. This bill reflects work that has been done with the states and territories. It reflects work done with those with a disability, their families, their carers, the workers in the sector, the service providers, and the advocates of the design, funding and governance of an NDIS. This engagement process has been done carefully and methodically but with the haste that is needed because, after decades and decades of delay or neglect, there is a great demand in the community for the creation of the NDIS. So there has been engagement but we want to press forward with the creation of the NDIS, and this bill is a particularly important part of that.

This bill establishes the national agency to administer the scheme. One of the things we want to make sure of is that the NDIS agency provides the overall framework to put in place the full scheme. We want to make sure that, when we have the launch sites, we learn the lessons from them so we can make sure that this agency is independent from government to set the NDIS up.

It will perform a range of functions, including managing the financial sustainability of the scheme, building community awareness about disability, which is particularly important, and undertaking research about disability and social contributors to disability. We want to make sure that this agency is set up appropriately so that it can take the insurance approach and take into account the care and support that needs to be provided to people with a disability outside the cycle of budgets, elections and the whims of politicians. The agency will be overseen by a board made up of people with extensive experience in the provision and use of disability services, financial management, governance and the operation of an insurance schemes, as well as an advisory council made up of people with lived experience of disability and caring. To make sure that this agency is accountable to government, a ministerial council will be established through COAG, and all governments—state, territory and Commonwealth—will be represented on that ministerial council.

We want to make sure the supports that are provided not just are person centric but also look at giving long-term certainty for resourcing disability care and support, and making sure people have got a lifetime of support. In South Australia, the launch site is designed with this in mind. It is looking at covering all children in stages. The first stage is about 5,000 children up to the age of 14, including children who are already receiving support. The launch site will be rolled out from 1 July 2013. The first year of that launch is designed to focus on children from birth to five years of age who have permanent and significant disability or who would benefit from early intervention regardless of where they live in a state. In the first year, it is from birth to five years of age; from 2014, it will be available for children from birth to 13 years of age; and in 2015, it will be for all children with a disability up to the age of 14.

The reason that we focus on children is obviously because this launch site will give valuable experience and inform the national scheme. It is something the South Australian government has willingly signed up to. It is an important trial. We will learn much from it. Early intervention is key to dealing with disability, and this launch site, which will cover people in my electorate, will help provide that.

This is particularly important legislation. For those people who have approached me over the years about the state of disability services in this country, I know it cannot come too soon. I am conscious that we not build up expectations, but I am equally conscious that we do not want to unnecessarily disparage people's legitimate hopes, demands and expectations of government. It is not good enough that people who are born with a disability or who acquire a disability are left to their own devices, or to their family's capacity to take care of them, to make sure that they live a full and supported life within the community. As far as we can, we should make sure that people have access to employment, to the sorts of support that they need to gain that employment and to the sorts of support that they need to get about in the community with dignity. That is a very important expectation. It is an expectation that we should not put off for the future. It is an expectation that we should encourage and foster, because all of the people who are currently providing services or taking care of someone have that in their minds. They have that expectation of a full life in the community. Being employed and involved in the community—they have that in mind for those with a disability.

That is my expectation. I cannot praise the government and the Prime Minister more for putting this on the fast track and making sure that it gets done. I think that it is an important thing for the community and I think that it is an especially important thing for those with a disability. We should do all we can to make sure that they live with dignity and that they live full lives within our community. I commenced the bill the House.