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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 891

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (12:38): For too long, people with disabilities and their families have been ignored. For too long, people with disabilities and their families have been left to fend for themselves. And for too long, people with disabilities and their families have struggled to survive. Now, with this National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, as a nation we are finally taking action for people with disabilities and their families. Finally, people with disabilities and their families will get the help they need and deserve.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme package, including this legislation, will ensure that people living with a disability will receive more comprehensive support to help them in their everyday lives. By giving much greater choice and control to the individual who requires the service, this legislation will help transform the way disability services are delivered in Australia. The support that will be provided by the NDIS focuses on meeting the aspirations of the individual by providing the necessary supports to help them live, work and participate in their own communities.

The Australian Greens believe the central role of government is to care for people and that is why we so strongly supported the Every Australian Counts campaign, which has also worked towards increasing the total funding available to deliver services, as well as ensuring national consistency and availability of those services. I want to congratulate everyone who has worked so hard to get national disability insurance on the agenda.

This legislation is the culmination of many years of campaigning by many, many people. Unfortunately the campaigning is not over. There is still some significant detail that has not yet been provided by the government on how the NDIS will operate. While the legislation sets out a framework for how the NDIS might operate, until we see the rules that sit underneath this legislative framework there will be a large amount of uncertainty about the operation of the scheme. We remain concerned about who is in and who is out under the eligibility criteria. We have already taken note of the uncertainty around hearing and vision services, as well as the management of the late onset of complex disabilities, particularly for those who do not begin to require care until after they turn 65. We hope that these and other concerns will be addressed through the release of specific eligibility criteria and would urge the government to resolve these matters quickly. Unless the NDIS is properly funded it will not deliver for people with disabilities and their families.

The government is yet to outline the funding arrangements for the NDIS. In particular, we are yet to know how block funding and service sustainability will occur in a funding model focused on self-directed care or where the savings will be found or the revenue raised to adequately fund the scheme. The Australian Greens share the concerns of organisations like Victoria Legal Aid, who have highlighted issues about where individuals who require additional support and advocacy services will be able to turn for that support, particularly given that Legal Aid is already overstretched in many places.

The Australian Greens recognise that the NDIS may not directly tackle discrimination and disadvantage, and there will be some groups who may struggle to access the NDIS. Those people living in the community who already face other significant personal barriers, such as homelessness which may limit their ability to participate in the NDIS, will require additional support to access entitlements. The Australian Greens also realise that the NDIS alone cannot possibly meet all the needs of all people living with a disability. Those who also require extra assistance to access health care, education and employment need to know that allocations will continue to be made for those services. People living with a disability are often among some of the poorest households in Australia, along with people living on Newstart. We need to continue to assist people with a disability to access employment, recognise that there are support costs associated with employment that must be accounted for and break down the barriers, including discrimination and lack of flexibility, that prevent them from accessing work.

I will support this bill on behalf of the Greens today so that the substantive issues, including possible amendments, can be dealt with in the Senate, following the conclusion of the current Senate inquiry into this bill. Already that inquiry has heard that the legislation needs stronger links to United Nations conventions and that there are concerns about the CEO's powers to press individuals to seek compensation from other parties before being allowed into the scheme. The committee has also heard significant information about workforce sustainability, a move towards greater casualisation and the OHS implications of individual contracts. This is an issue I am particularly keen to ensure is managed well. I have introduced a bill that addresses the issues of insecure work and workforce casualisation. We need to carefully balance the move towards self-directed funding with care for workers' rights, particularly for lower-skilled support workers who might be left vulnerable by individualised contracts. My colleague Senator Siewert will pursue these issues further in the Senate, and we reserve the right to move amendments to the bill. Nothing could more clearly highlight the importance of government than the measures in this bill, because if we are to achieve real equality we need government to act and extend a helping hand to those who are left behind. That is what this bill does, and that is why the Greens are right behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme.