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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 893


Mr BILLSON (Dunkley) (12:44): I am pleased to reaffirm the coalition's enthusiastic support for each of the milestones that have been part of the ongoing journey towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme. The coalition supported the initial work of the Productivity Commission—in fact, not only has our support for the recommendations been a key part of the coalition contribution to this debate but we are also concerned that the government is deviating quite significantly in some areas from the measured and assured pathway that the Productivity Commission mapped out. We have supported the commitment of $1 billion towards the NDIS, not only recognising that as a down payment but also underlining the need to be clear on where the additional resources to achieve the rollout will come from. We have supported the launch sites and we hope that the learning that arises from those launch sites is embedded in the ongoing approach to roll out the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We have supported agreements where they have been arrived at between Commonwealth and state jurisdictions, and we support this legislation. The coalition has consistently supported the need for greater support for those people with a disability and their carers, who give selflessly to the task of supporting and nurturing and adding to the quality of life of people with disability who are part of their family.

One of the first tasks that I embraced after being elected in 1996 was when the then Minister for Family Services, the Hon. Warwick Smith, asked me to chair and convene an unmet-needs working group in relation to disability services. It was an interesting initiative that Minister Smith instigated. It recognised that there was an enormous array of views within the disability community of what those unmet needs were and where you would start to tackle that desperate unmet need that was causing such enormous impacts on people's lives. I, along with the committee that I worked with, consulted widely. This was back in 1997. To try to identify what the priorities looked like, recognising that the task was so large, what came clear from that work was that the ageing carers in our community needed to be a crucial priority.

Let us think about the life journey they have experienced and continue to experience today. Many, at a time when they should be contemplating a more relaxed lifestyle and a tempo that sees them enjoy a quality of life well earned from a life of commitment and application, are still caring for mature-age family members who may have a profound intellectual disability—a person of my age, perhaps, where their intellectual disability accelerates their metabolic rate and, in some cases, their family member is old before their time, compounding the care tasks that ageing carers face.

I was pleased that that work saw the Howard government commit several hundred millions of dollars of additional funding to try to tackle that part of the picture, recognising the selfless contribution of ageing carers. So much has been asked of them, and so much has been given out of love, commitment and devotion. At some point there should be the confidence and certainty of knowing their loved one has accommodation and support suited to their needs available and that the carers can rest and reflect on a life of selfless contribution confident that the care is there.

That concern remains today. A decade and a half later in my own local community, even in responses to the consultation being undertaken as part of the NDIS, that concern remains. It continues to be a major issue for people living with a disability and those carers who are devoted to supporting and to ensuring that all of the care and commitment that is possibly available is brought to the task of the support for the person with a disability.

I am receiving material from local organisations that I have consulted with and continue to draw heavily from as this NDIS pathway is progressed. I have been reminded that in Victoria alone there are 1,100 people on a waiting list in urgent need for supported accommodation, and that this may well represent the tip of the iceberg.

It was reflected upon that if the person is not able to have accommodation because of a crisis in a carer's life, or—heaven forbid—a family needs to surrender their child to the state, or there are threats of the care task becoming all too much and the carer's own personal safety might be in question, or a client is simply left in respite and not collected, or it is just all too much, then some help comes perhaps. What was being communicated to me was that, for those families and carers doing all that could ever be asked of them, that selfless commitment might make them less likely to be able to look forward to supported accommodation.

I was reminded of the submission that Carers Victoria made to the Productivity Commission draft report in 2011, recognising that caring for people with profound needs is a shared community responsibility, yet 97.5 per cent of people under 65 with a severe or profound limitation live in the community and 2.5 per cent have some kind of supported or cared accommodation. In that picture, 84 per cent live with family. Yet I was being asked: 'Where is this pressing need in the rollout of the NDIS? Where is it reflected? How do local community groups communicate this desperate cry for help?' My encouragement is to be involved in the consultation process.

It was put to me that the decision of the government to move away from the time lines, pathways, consultation and engagement process that the Productivity Commission mapped out might see some of these priority cries for help overlooked or perhaps not given the full airing. I hope that is not the case, but in the feedback I have received from local community groups they remain bewildered as to why the years of work that went into the Productivity Commission's recommendations—the overview and the action agenda that they outlined—has been stepped away from. They are anxious to ensure that, in this case, that does not see the more than 400,000 people with significant disabilities not having their fundamental needs met because there has not been the opportunity for their daily lives to be improved through secure accommodation and proper support. There is almost a Maslow's needs hierarchy argument being brought forward by local community groups, talking about the crucial nature of shelter and a sense of security in their living circumstances being a fundamental precondition to achieve higher ambitions in relation to the NDIS. That is their view, and they have fed that into the consultation. I hope that is reflected in the rollout of the system.

As I say, the coalition has been an enthusiastic supporter along each of these milestones. I put out some information about where that is demonstrated in action today. In operationalising the NDIS idea—an idea whose time has come—this deviation from the Productivity Commission recommendation and the pathway they have mapped out is of some concern, but we will only know from experience from the launch sites whether the Productivity Commission's pathway has been too conservative, too cautious or too keen to reflect and learn, and where the trajectory will run now and whether that meets the needs. I hope it goes well, and I hope the insights that arise from those launch sites are well reflected in the broader rollout.

It is clear, though, that providers, their clients and caregivers have a great deal to offer in the design, rollout, implementation and evaluation of the early NDIS models and launch sites, and I hope that input is taken up and embraced. There is an extraordinary cry for those providing services to be heard, and I have highlighted previously what an important role local government plays in the provision of services for people with profound needs. My hope is that local government's input is also embraced and recognised as this work continues. Local government has not featured in the policy discussions to date, and certainly as the NDIS is rolled out there will be a need to reflect on how local councils do what they do. A previous speaker, the member representing the Greens party, talked about some of the other compensation arrangements and mechanisms that need to be interwoven into the ultimate NDIS model.

It is clear that there is a need to stay the course on this. The coalition has proposed a joint parliamentary committee, an important step and one that I urge the government to embrace because, to do this well and to see the NDIS ambition fulfilled, it will involve sustained commitment over a number of parliaments, involving all sides of the parliament. The coalition feels that a joint parliamentary committee will provide that continuity of engagement, a mechanism of bipartisan involvement and support that would not only serve the objectives well but also bring the best that all of us in the parliament have to offer to this once-in-a-generation reform task of successfully implementing the NDIS. It will unfold over the life of several parliaments, and we think there is a need to have some oversight infrastructure in place that reflects that and continues a certain and shared way forward in its rollout.

It does also reflect a concern that Labor has sought to try to claim this as their baby, trying to politicise the rollout of the NDIS. It is a very unbecoming political strategy but I have seen it pop up—

Dr Southcott interjecting

Mr BILLSON: Yes, I am being as generous as I can be in describing what I have seen, but it is certainly not the kind of conduct those people praying for the NDIS would look for from their parliamentary representatives. I would encourage the government in the spirit in which this whole journey has evolved and on the pathway that has been mapped out to not be quite shrill in its partisanship when it comes to the issues of the NDIS.

I also want to take a moment to talk about other issues that have been raised with me at the implementation level. I was pleased to convene an NDIS consultation in my own electorate, a round table discussion which I was very thrilled to host with my friend and colleague the shadow minister for disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector, Senator Mitch Fifield. At that discussion we did again hear about, and it was very encouraging to recognise, the terrific support for the NDIS. We had a long discussion about the level and types of care, the person-centred notion of managing the resources that are available and choosing wisely the care options that are within reach.

There was a sober contribution from the local providers. They talked to me about the difficulty a number of the current providers have in meeting current demand. Their concern was that some of the discussion around the NDIS seems to be inner-metro centric, where you have a vast array of service options just within reach and you can pick and choose and the person-centred, client-driven facilitative model would work just fine. It was put to me that that might be the case in the major capital cities, in the inner city areas, but for communities that I represent on the outskirts of the metropolitan area and beyond into the rural and regional communities of Australia that simple notion does not stack up. Services are stretched. The capacity to expand rapidly, if that is what the non-Productivity Commission timetable that the government is pursuing seems to expect, is a very difficult thing to achieve.

There was a discussion about how to build the capacity of a service system to deliver the services that people hold out as an expectation as the NDIS is rolled out. I think there is a need to look more carefully at the workforce available and at the service system infrastructure and the capacity but, more particularly, to look at what is available where across this vast continent of ours. What might be available in Port Melbourne or in some inner city area in the metropolis of Melbourne might be quite different from what is available on the Mornington Peninsula. Yet this ambition of certainty and confidence about the care that can be available, about it not being a raffle or a lottery in terms of the nature in which a disability was acquired, should not then be replaced by a new raffle which is 'Where do you live? What are the actual service provision options available within your reach?', creating a new segregation of the kinds of support that the NDIS can provide purely because of the location of your home.

So these are some thoughts that I put on the record. I am enthusiastic about what the NDIS can achieve and I am pleased to have been part of the support for these action steps taken to date. I look forward to a successful rollout of the NDIS. It is a generation-long endeavour and I am very optimistic that it will go well.