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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 896

Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (12:59): I too rise to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, and I do so as a very proud member of the Australian Labor Party. The measures in this bill establish the framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It sets out the scheme's objects and principles and it establishes the NDIS Transition Agency, which will oversee the launch of the scheme in our five initial trial sites. The NDIS is a very important reform for this nation—a reform that, in the years to come, will be seen as part of the foundation of our social safety net in this country, in the same way as those great reforms of Medicare and superannuation are today.

The bill before the House entrenches the framework for the NDIS into law. The framework reflects the principles agreed to by the Prime Minister and first ministers, including giving people with disability individual care and support based on their needs; giving people real choice and control over these supports—meaning more control over their lives; ending a situation where people are not told what support is available or how to access it; and fostering innovative services that are delivered and coordinated locally. The framework also includes the principle of bringing long-term certainty to the resourcing of disability care and support so that people with disabilities can feel secure that they will get what they need over the course of their lifetime. It is also based on a whole-of-life approach in the context of people with a disability, so that it responds to each individual's goals and aspirations and how to strengthen the other informal and community supports that are important for the person with a disability.

The scheme is intended to move away from the crisis model, where families only receive support if they are unable to continue in their caring role and there are no other options. It is about working with families before they reach that point to make sure that the valuable informal care they provide can actually be sustained. The scheme takes a lifelong approach. There is also a focus on intensive early intervention, particularly where there is good evidence that it will substantially improve a person's functioning or slow or prevent progression of the disabilities over their lifetime. These are very crucial elements of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and a fundamental change to the way in which disability services are provided in this country.

At its heart, the NDIS is a simple scheme of entitlements. Eligible people with disabilities will be entitled to access a bundle of services from a provider or providers of their choice. The services will be available throughout a person's lifetime and will change as their needs change. But, despite the simplicity of the notion of the scheme, it is not simple to establish.

We know not just from the Productivity Commission but also from the many pleas from people with disabilities that have led to this scheme coming into place that our current system of service provision for people with disabilities does not work. It is patchy, and what you may be entitled to depends on how your disability came about, where you live, what funding happens to be available at any particular point in time, your age and what not-for-profit or other agencies may actually be in your area. In many instances, you may not be eligible for any services at all. There are multiple providers and multiple schemes of eligibility which differ from state to state and there are multiple and confusing points of access.

To try to pull all of this together, to unpick the current system, reach agreement with states and territories about a common funding pool, understand its interaction with the various modes of accident and workplace accident compensation schemes, establish a system of providers, establish a system to determine eligibility and for what and where and then to establish delivery mechanisms is incredibly complicated, but we have to start. That is what this bill is about—the start of an incredibly complex but fundamental reform.

I have spoken in this place many times about the strong history in my own region for supporting people with disabilities. There are a number of organisations who provide people with disabilities with access to education, to work opportunities and to independent accommodation. They have been working in this space for a very long time. Many, such as Pinarc, for example, have championed the principle of choice and self-directed services and individual choice for people with disabilities. It has been a hard fight to get people to move to that system.

These organisations are ready to embrace the change. They want to be part of it. I know for carers, for parents and for people with disabilities themselves how critical this reform is. I know many people in their roles as parliamentarians, and in previous lives before coming into this place, will have met with or know family members and people who have disabilities. They watch the awful struggle to access services, the bewilderment that is often confronted by people with disabilities about what they may be able to get and often finding that in fact they are not eligible for any services at all. I have seen many families, particularly young people with children who have received a diagnosis, desperately trying in what you know is going to be a very long and hard pathway to try and find services. Even where they may be eligible for services there is often not enough funding in that particular week, month or financial year for them to be even given services in the first place.

So we know this is a fundamental and critical reform. There has been a lot said about the ideals that are behind this reform. But ideals are not worth the paper they are written on, or the many speeches we will give in this place, if they are never actually implemented. To me that is the stark contrast between the Labor Party's commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and what is happening on the other side of this chamber. It is very easy to say, 'I support the NDIS.' I suspect there would be very few members of parliament at all who do not support it with their whole hearts. But the test is: when are you prepared to actually make it real? When are you actually prepared to put pen to paper and agree, 'This is going to be implemented and this is how'? That is the hard work. The previous speaker talked about it being a generation of hard work, and it will be.

Stella Young is a very staunch advocate for people with disabilities. She highlighted the point I have just made in a terrific blog she wrote this month commenting on the Leader of the Opposition's Press Club speech and a question he was asked about NDIS and the opposition's commitment to it. She says:

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of those things that's been put on the—


"let's wait and see" list.

…   …   …   

Of course, elsewhere in the speech he—

Tony Abbott—

… said, "after all, the measure of a decent society is how it looks after its most vulnerable members."

Excuse me while I pause for an eye roll. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that one, I could probably just fund the NDIS myself.

The thing is, Mr Abbott, fixing the broken disability system we have in this country isn't like saving all your pocket money until you could finally afford that CD player you desperately wanted when you were 12. It's not a luxury item that we can simply do without until there's some spare cash floating around. What you said yesterday—

talking about the Press Club speech—

made it very clear that you see improving the living conditions of people with disabilities and our families as an indulgence.

Stella does not let us off the hook, either, and nor should she. She says in that same blog:

The seven year timeline outlined by the Gillard government is already far too long for many people with disabilities …

Stella's comments, I think, point very starkly to what this debate today is actually about.

The clear message from people with disabilities is that they cannot wait. They should not be asked to. We have a lot of work to do, a huge amount of work to do, to ensure that we deliver a system that enables people with disabilities to fully participate in all aspects of community and economic life in this country. The bills before the House are a start. They are the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We know that disability does not discriminate, and can and does affect families and individuals every single day. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a fundamental reform to ensure that, whilst disability does not discriminate, we do not continue to.