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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 885


Mr MARLES (CorioParliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) (12:08): It is with great honour and pride that I rise today to speak in support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, which is really one of the most significant pieces of legislation that I have had the privilege to speak on in my time in this place. That we are talking about the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill as a reality through the passage of this legislation is an enormous tribute to so many Australians who have worked tirelessly to bring this proposal to the point that it is at today—people like Rosemary Kayess, who is a human rights lawyer and a woman who, in a car accident at the end of her 20s, tragically became a quadriplegic. Her life changed dramatically. Rosemary is a friend of mine and had the opportunity of representing Australia in the General Assembly of the United Nations in the negotiations on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It was a great honour for my family that my sister, Jenny Green, was able to travel with Rosemary to New York as her carer. To this day, my sister and Rosemary attend Sydney Swans matches together. It is a disappointment that it is the Sydney Swans, but it is a great thing that their relationship pursues that passion.

Rosemary is an inspiration. I had the opportunity to sit next to Rosemary at dinner. Her life has changed completely. Most people in the situation she finds herself in—trapped in a body which does not work and needing people to help her eat a meal—would find it easy to be bitter and negative and to complain. But Rosemary says that this was a moment which changed her life and, ultimately, changed it for the better—in that she would never have represented Australia in negotiating a convention of this kind and would never have reached the levels she has as an academic in humanitarian law but for what happened to her. That is an unbelievable thing for someone in her position to say. It says so much about the tremendous nature of Australians living with a disability and those who care for them and it says so much about how much we can learn from these people. Kurt Fearnley is another example of the kind of inspiration shown to the whole of our country by people with a disability. Both Rosemary and Kurt have been strong advocates for the bill we are discussing today.

I also acknowledge Bill Shorten, who played a very significant role in his former life as the Parliamentary Secretary for Disability and Children's Services in advocating on behalf of this community within Australia and advocating on behalf of this proposition; Jenny Macklin, who, as the minister, has carried this forward; Jan McLucas, who has worked tirelessly on it; and, of course, our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who has had the courage to push this through. All of this—which has been pursued in a bipartisan way—has seen a very important social reform being brought to this parliament on this day. It is, as I said, a great pleasure to be standing here today advocating for it.

All of us in this place—in our work and in our electorates—have met people with a disability. It is impossible not to be moved by the circumstances such people find themselves in and by the circumstances their carers find themselves in. You have to be moved by the time taken for the daily activities of life; by the effort required to live life with a disability and to care for people with a disability; by the philosophy you have to develop—Rosemary has taught me so much about that, about life—to live in these circumstances; and of course by the love, the acute, intense love you witness when you see people caring for someone with a disability. All of this is what you see when you meet with people who have a disability and with their carers.

The difficulty for people with a disability, up until now, has been that there is an enormous cost associated with living with a disability. Disability makes people poor. Often the financial legacy associated with living with a disability and caring for somebody with a disability can continue for generations—because of the enormous costs. That is why this bill is so important. This bill will change that reality. For the millions of Australians who are either living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability, this is a moment in time when everything changes. That is rare in this place—that we have the opportunity to be part of something that important.

This bill will provide certainty for people with a disability. It will change the very nature of the way people with a disability are cared for and how they manage their lives. It will change things from operating on the basis of just reacting to crises. There will be management plans to help avoid crisis and to help prepare people for a lifelong approach to dealing with their disability.

In the process, what we will do is enhance the productive capacity of the disabled community in this country and unlock the productive potential of that community, which in turn is going to be of such enormous value to this country. Rosemary Kayess stands as testimony to the contribution that people with a disability have to make to our society.

This bill implements the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and in the process establishes the National Disability Scheme Launch Transition Agency to run the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It has come here after much consultation with disability groups, with carer groups, with disability service providers and, of course, with the states. Principally, the bill establishes a scheme which defines eligible participants within the scheme. For eligible participants with a disability it sets up a program by which those individuals can determine an individual goal based, lifelong program based on the notion of what is reasonable and necessary for those people who are living with a disability. What that will do is provide those people with the care and the support that they need. It will ensure and empower people with a disability to have control over the programs, government services and private services which they are able to access as a result of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

That empowering will end the current state of confusion, which sees people with a disability unsure of what they might be entitled to—even when they know what is possible out there—and unsure as to whether or not they will be successful in whatever application they are making to gain access to whatever the service is that they are seeking to obtain. The ignorance that goes with that, the confusion associated with that and the waiting that is associated with that all ends as a result of this bill. As a result of that and the certainty that is created by that, what we will see is a scheme which fosters innovation and excellence in the provision of disability services and providing that throughout the whole of a person's life. It will ensure that there is much better support for carers, and there will be a focus on early intervention.

The national agency will be independent of government. It will have the responsibility for delivering the scheme but it will also have the responsibility for the financial management of the scheme. It will consist of a board which will be representative of all of the stakeholders within the system, but will also have an advisory council which will add an added level of consultation to those stakeholders. There will be a ministerial council established to make sure that this is an agency which is responsive to the states, who have such an important stake in this. That agency will be established under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.

Part of the way in which the National Disability Insurance Scheme is being established is through a number of launch sites, which will see 20,000 people with a disability able to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme from 1 July this year. One of those sites is in my electorate at Geelong. There is enormous anticipation and excitement in Geelong about the prospect of that. The disability service providers are, of course, at the coalface of this scheme. They will be charged with the responsibilities they have now, but with an added responsibility of providing the services to those people with a disability.

In Geelong, disability service providers are outstanding. They are outstanding in the scope and quality of their programs, the level of community integration and the level of cooperation between service providers. They are innovative. Examples of that innovation in Geelong include Back to Back Theatre, one of Australia's most successful theatre companies but with a point of difference because the actors are all people who are living with a disability. This theatre company based in Geelong tours extensively: more than 70 cities around the world. There are service providers such as Corio Bay Innovators who operate as the dal Gourmet Cafe and Catering. They were awarded the Australian Disability Enterprise Excellence Award in 2011 for excellence in training and employment opportunities for people with a disability, particularly young people. I had the pleasure of visiting that service with our Prime Minister last year. Then there is Pathways, who helped put people with multiple barriers into workforce participation. In the first 12 months of operation, MadCap Cafe in central Geelong, right next to my electoral office, employed more than 40 people with a mental illness, and the domestic property services division, Clearwater Business Services, employs 77 people with serious mental illnesses each week.

Karingal is our largest disability service provider in Geelong and throughout the western region. They help nearly 2,000 people with a disability on a day-to-day basis. They provide around 20 different services, including in-home support, supported accommodation, day services and mental health support. They provide supported and open employment for another 6,600 people with a disability each year through Matchworks and Kommercial. Kommercial now famously operates canteens at Alcoa, Shell and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, as well as a catering kitchen. Those canteens are something to behold. Alcoa were managing their own canteen in years past, running it at a loss and serving pretty crummy food. That is now being run by Kommercial. It makes money. It provides a fantastic service for the workers at Alcoa. And it provides a wonderful opportunity for those people working in it.

Karingal's CEO, Daryl Starkey, says that their mission is based on acceptance and inclusion. Karingal's programs are about getting people out into the community and about bringing the community to them. He said: 'We support the central plank of the NDIS, which is to give people more choice and control over the support services they want and need in their lives.'

Another major provider in Geelong is St Laurence Community Services, which is a lead agency for providers in the launch area and which has already started working on a training program with the help of an $86,000 grant from the federal government. The plan is to have people with a disability among those who are doing the training to deliver the programs. St Laurence is another major provider of disability services and employment within the Geelong region. Its employment services include garden and property management, an ironing service, a pickle factory, a nursery, an arts studio and a gallery.

Finally, Encompass is an organisation that runs the innovative program Encompass@Leopold, a small farm and horticultural enterprise where participants grow their own food, cook their own meals, gain life skills and job skills. When I was last there, they had the ambition of having a chocolate bar entirely grown, manufactured and produced at the facility, which warms my heart.

It is expected that disability service providers will have 130 new jobs created among their ranks as a result of Geelong being a launch site. That is in addition to the people directly employed through the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Geelong. Geelong is a city that hosts the TAC. It is a trial site and we have, as I have articulated, excellent and innovative disability service providers. It means that we as a city excel at supporting and celebrating people with a disability. We have a vibrant disability community, with such people as Kelly Cartwright, a famous Australia Paralympian, who are making an enormous contribution to our society. Being a centre of innovation and a centre for the support for and celebration of people with a disability is an aspiration of Geelong and a burgeoning part of Geelong's 21st century identity. It is a part of Geelong's story and we want that story to contribute to a new era for people with a disability and for carers of people with a disability in Australia.