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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 402


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (10:38): This bill provides for the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. From the outset I just want to say that, regrettably, there has been too much misinformation and cheap politicking on this particular issue. Let us be really clear about one thing: the NDIS does have bipartisan support. My parliamentary colleague and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has been unequivocal in his support in his statement that 'the NDIS is an idea whose time has come'. That time is right now.

All in this chamber know that the system of support in Australian for people with disability is broken. The coalition strongly supports the recommendations of the Productivity Commission for an NDIS. We also support the $1 billion pledged for the scheme in the last budget. However, this is only one-quarter of what is required, according to the Productivity Commission, and this is one of the major concerns that the coalition has with the NDIS proposal in its current form.

Many of the speakers on this bill from both sides of the House have referred to the bill as a once-in-a-lifetime policy change—and indeed it is. They are all correct. On this we are united, as we all should be. If we embrace the notion that the key role of government is to help those who cannot help themselves—again, as we should—then it is incumbent on us to find a way to make the NDIS work.

Such a large, once-in-a-lifetime policy as the NDIS means all levels of government must work together to provide certainty and hope for the hundreds of thousands of people in this country with a disability. I am passionately committed to continuing the fight for the NDIS on behalf of my electorate to ensure a better deal for Queensland families who have children and other family members with disabilities. On 30 April last year, I took an active part in the 'Queenslanders who want to make the NDIS real' rally at Reddacliff Place, just off the State Library in the Brisbane CBD. I addressed the rally and reinforced the coalition's support for the NDIS.

There have been many occasions where I have had the opportunity to interact with parents of children with disability. On 26 October last year, I attended a morning tea attended by 55 parents in New Farm in my electorate to raise awareness about the NDIS and to highlight the impact the scheme would have on individual families in the local area. I want to pay special tribute to Julie Collins for organising this incredible event. It is heart rending to hear the stories of the fragmentation of services, the difficulty in accessing services, the difficulty in finding out if services even exist and the fight that families have to go through every single day of the week to ensure that their children get some form of assistance, whether it is early intervention, speech therapy or physiotherapy, and the enormous associated costs, particularly for families who have children with disability.

I also invited Senator Mitch Fifield, the shadow minister in this area, to conduct a forum in my electorate where some 60 to 70 providers attended and provided very valuable and useful information. A number of organisations attended, as well as medical experts who work in the field. It was a very successful forum. Both he and I got some very valuable and constructive recommendations on how we might move work in this area forward.

I want to also pay tribute to the great work that is being done in my electorate by the Red Hill Special School. I attended a morning tea there for Every Australian Counts. I want to acknowledge the amazing work that they do every day and the dedication of the teachers.

Last year, I called on the federal government to negotiate with the Queensland government and commit to the full implementation of an NDIS from 2018 to 2019. In this spirit, I welcome the recent agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales government for a full state-wide rollout of the NDIS.

I also want to congratulate the Newman government for their persistence in seeking a deal on the NDIS with the Gillard government and the announcement of a $1.77 billion commitment towards the scheme by 2018. This is particularly important not just for the people in my electorate of Brisbane but for the whole of Queensland. The deal will benefit approximately 100,000 Queenslanders with disabilities. As I said, there has been too much misinformation on this issue, too much politics and too many false claims that Queensland has walked away from the NDIS. But the facts are plain to see.

I just want to reiterate these facts. On 12 December 2012, Queensland became the second state to commit to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with Premier Campbell Newman promising $1.77 billion towards the landmark scheme by 2018.

Premier Newman also promised to reform the state's fault-based motor accident insurance scheme and adopt the no-fault National Injury Insurance Scheme. Queensland will have to drastically increase its level of disability spending to meet the target, but Premier Newman has said that the LNP's tough budgetary measures have freed up the cash. Queensland already spends $959 million on disability, but it will need to boost that by $868 million within six years. While New South Wales has committed to almost a 50-50 funding split with the Commonwealth from 2018, Premier Newman has stated that Queensland could be asking for a 56-44 funding split, with the federal government chipping in $2.2 billion.

The coalition believes an NDIS can be delivered within the time frame recommended by the Productivity Commission and by a prudent government that manages its finances well. My comments and any comments that the coalition has made about the NDIS have been offered in a constructive spirit, in an endeavour to help make sure that the NDIS can be the best scheme that it can possibly be. Again, I want to be really clear about this: the coalition stands ready to work with the government, ready to make sure that an NDIS scheme is delivered as soon as possible. There is one quibble that we will have with the government, and that is when Labor members and senators say that the NDIS represents quintessential Labor values—it does not. The NDIS represents Australian values, a fair go, helping those who face challenges for reasons that are beyond their control. No side of politics has a mortgage on these. The NDIS is a people-centred, self-directed funding model. It is aligned to the objectives of empowering the individual, of removing government from people's lives and of reducing the red tape that I spoke about earlier.

As my coalition colleagues have said, the coalition believes that the full implementation of an NDIS would be nothing short of new deal for people with disabilities and for their carers. We have to get this right. As I have said, the NDIS is a once-in-a generation reform. It will unfold over the life of not just this parliament but many parliaments. It should be the property of the parliament as a whole on behalf of the Australian people rather than the property of any one political party. To get this right will require a high level of consultation and attention to detail, not just now and not just in the launch sites but also in the full implementation.

The coalition has called for the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to be chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the establishment and implementation of the NDIS. A parliamentary oversight committee would lock in all parties and provide a non-partisan environment where the issues of design and eligibility could be worked through very cooperatively. When people come to my office or when they ring me, they want me to fix things as their member. They do not see this as a party issue. They see this as a national issue.

I want to commend my parliamentary colleague George Christensen, the member for Dawson, who has had a motion in the House to establish this committee for some time, but regrettably it has not been brought forward for a vote. Senator Fifield moved a similar motion to establish an oversight committee, and Labor and the Greens combined in the Senate to vote it down. The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, reiterated this offer in his Press Club speech last week, when he said:

The Coalition is so committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for instance, that we've offered to co-chair a bi-partisan parliamentary committee so that support for it doesn't flag across the three terms of parliament and among the nine different governments needed to make it work.

The government should accept the offer of a parliamentary oversight committee. The coalition intends to give the government, the Greens and the Independents an opportunity to accept our hand of cooperation by moving an amendment to this bill to establish a non-partisan oversight committee—and the offer should be accepted. It is also important to note that every government and every opposition in Australia supports and wants to see an NDIS, and that is why at the COAG before last it was disappointing that the Prime Minister could not rise above partisan politics. It is to the credit of Premier Baillieu and Premier O'Farrell that they continued to negotiate in the face of public attack and misrepresentation by the federal government and reached an agreement to host the launch sites.

We urge the Prime Minister to adopt a more cooperative approach as there can be no NDIS without the states. They are partners, not enemies. The fruits of a constructive approach were there to be seen with Premier O'Farrell and the Prime Minister when they signed an intergovernmental agreement in December for a full state NDIS rollout after the Hunter launch project. It is now up to the Prime Minister to continue this constructive approach in discussion with other jurisdictions and to conclude further bilateral agreements. There can be no full NDIS without intergovernmental agreement with every state and territory.

A word in defence of those states who are not hosting a launch site: the Productivity Commission never envisaged every state hosting a launch site and never saw the absence of a launch site as a bar to taking part in a full national rollout. Indeed, Premier Newman has written to the Prime Minister with a proposal to be part of a full national rollout, and Premier Barnett has written to the Prime Minister proposing a joint WA-Commonwealth NDIS.

The coalition will continue to place this issue above politics and is prepared to work with the state and Commonwealth governments towards a better deal for people with disabilities. We emphatically support the government's commitment of $1 billion to the NDIS in the federal budget, but we do have some difficulties in reconciling this figure with the $3.9 billion that the Productivity Commission said would be necessary over the forward estimates for the first phase of the NDIS. We assume that the government will account for this and will make appropriate provision in the coming budget.

The bill is currently being inquired into by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee and it will report on 13 March 2013. A recurrent theme in the evidence presented to date by witnesses is that it is hard to offer advice, pose questions or plan for launch sites in the absence of rules. They need to be released quickly before the passage of the bill through parliament.

In her second reading speech, the Prime Minister indicated the government's intention to bring the final version of the bill to vote in the budget sessions. The rules, however, need to be released very soon. The risk with this government in its lack of capacity to competently implement measures has always been there to see.

The interaction of three components, the NDIS Bill, the NDIS rules and the operating guidelines for the NDIS Launch Transition Agency, will determine how the NDIS operates. At this point in time, developing a complete picture of how the NDIS will unfold is limited by insufficient information. The work of the Senate committee is absolutely crucial and it is hoped that they will have the benefit of the NDIS rules and the operating guidelines for the agency before they conclude their work. In the absence of the other two elements, it is difficult to determine if further amendments are required to this legislation.

The concept of the NDIS has gained momentum over the last five years and it is appropriate to acknowledge the role played by Minister Shorten in helping to elevate the public policy profile of disability, but the time has now come. The lion's share of the credit goes to people with disability, their families, their carers and the organisations that support them. They have all come together. They have decided that enough is enough. They speak with one voice. In order to ensure that the NDIS is a success, we support the smooth operation of the launch sites. (Time expired)