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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 408


Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (11:09): Let me commend the member for Shortland on her address to this parliament. She is obviously passionate about the issue. She drew attention to her electorate and the Hunter and the way the National Disability Insurance Scheme will affect the community she serves and this nation. If she stays for the debate, she may not enjoy some of the things I say, so I suggest she leaves now. During the debate in this House, the member for Reid has been in the chair, and the members for Scullin, Cowper, Barton, Kingsford-Smith, Wills, Wentworth and Richmond have all been in the chamber while I have been listening. In mentioning those members, I am speaking to the truck driver whose friend has a daughter with a disability, I am speaking to the vegetable grower—he knows who I am talking about—who has a daughter with a disability, I am speaking to the farmer on the swamp who has a son with a disability who is now ageing, I am speaking to all the people right across this nation who are listening to this debate, including those in the gallery, and I say that there is not one scintilla of difference in the desire of all those members of parliament to have the best possible outcome for people with disabilities.

I had better explain my background in disabilities. I am a life governor of Minibah, now called Outlook, which is one of my centres. This issue is very close to my heart, my efforts and my inspiration. The NDIS will not be the be all and end all for every person with a disability. If this parliament comes to a point where it raises the hopes of everybody across this nation who has a disability, woe betide the Prime Minister who has to implement the NDIS, with all the complications before us in our approach to putting this legislation in place and fulfilling its aims.

To my personal regret, the member for Scullin will not be in this place for the years it will take for the working of this legislation because it is not a five-minute job. It is not going to be fixed tomorrow. Already we have heard from the members who have spoken about the difficulties with the states. The Productivity Commission said very clearly that this is a federal responsibility, that the federal government should pick up the barrow, take the lead on this and run with it. Yet the first thing I was so embarrassed about with my disability community was that they were attacking my own Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, for seemingly not supporting this because he was ambushed by the Prime Minister over funding for the trial.

There will be people who take the moral high ground on this issue and force things on the states which it was never intended they would be required to do. I understood it was for the federal government to take the lead, but the first thing to happen is that states right around the country, depleted of funds, are being asked to do things that the Productivity Commission never intended them to do.

We need forbearance on behalf of all people. So I say to the disability community across the country and to those who are vitally interested in the NDIS, who will be listening closely to the debate, that we have a long way to go. This is not the panacea. Is it a great opportunity? Yes. Could it be a world first? Yes. Could it change the lives of people with a disability? Yes. Do we desire the best possible outcome for those people? Yes we do, but I do not want to raise their hopes to a point that they are dashed when they find that their type of disability may not be covered by the NDIS—or shouldn't anybody say that?

Is there not a place for the truth in this House on the NDIS? Is there not a place to say, 'No, everything is rosy and once the National Disability Insurance Scheme is implemented every issue within the disability community and the problems they face are fixed'?

I am in awe of the work that the disability providers in my electorate do: from Pakenham to Warragul to Moe—Rosa, I love you—all the way down to Wonthaggi and everything in between. There is the work that the op shops do on behalf of their communities, and all the volunteers connected with the op shops have one desire—like the members of parliament that I mentioned before—for the best outcome for people with disabilities in their own area. The major contributor to disability services in this country should never be forgotten. As Jean Tops outlined in her submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee:

It will never be delivered by the federal government; it will never be delivered by the state government; it will never be delivered by the services on the ground. It will be delivered by the parents and the families that surround people with disabilities.

It will be delivered by the communities that are close to them. The NDIS will only ever play a part in the care and support of people with disabilities—only ever play a part. The major role and responsibility will always be held by the parents of that child. Recently I lived through the heartache of a mum who looked after her precious boy for nearly 30 years of his life, and the best option was for him to move out of the house into accommodated services. Let's call her Mary. The hardest thing for Mary was to give up that child—that young adult, but her little boy. It is the same for us here: they may grow up and they may get married, but they are our little kids. It was hard for Mary to let go of that child to go into that other service. But she did, and he has blossomed and so has she.

In a recent conversation someone said: 'Politics is about choices. Just get with it—politics is about choices.' Life is about choices, and the hardest choices you have to make are when you have a child with a disability. Before I go any further, I want to make this point: I do not speak with any authority in this House on this issue, and I will tell you why. Unless you live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with a child with a disability—or in some cases two or three children with disabilities—nobody in the House can stand with any authority and say, 'I identify with you; I understand what you are saying; we'll do something about it.'

It is a bit unfair of me to say, 'We'll do something about it.' I should say, 'We'll do our best to do something about it.' Let me say to this House and to the people of Australia: not one of you can identify or empathise with those parents and sometimes grandparents who deal with a child with a disability every day of this life. We can care and we can do the best we can, but we cannot empathise and we cannot enter into that space, because we do not live it. Until you have lived it, you cannot enter into that space. I have some very funny stories about disabilities to tell, which we cannot tell today, and I have some very sad stories about disabilities to tell.

Since I began, we have gone through a complete range of facilities including a school for pre-, primary and near secondary. We were the first organisation to integrate into the mainstream schools. We went from a day-care centre to an entire organisation with great expertise and the state government of the time said, 'Russell, we're integrating.' I was there to carry that burden through integration. I wonder whether we will turn a whole wheel when someone says: 'Do you know what we need? We need a day-care centre.' We will have gone through the whole process and the wheel will have turned. I will live long enough to see it.

I am not blaming anybody, but progressive governments have said they would properly fund integration services in schools. There is no member in this place who has not had a complaint from somebody with a child with a disability who says: 'We need more integration aids in our schools. My child needs greater support. I can't get enough hours. Can you help me?' There is not one member who has not been approached to help get more hours. We go through the process of trying to help a family. We have all been there. Those who are listening will find that members of parliament are often closer to these issues than the cynics in the community would think, because we deal with the issues at a parliamentary level. At our electorate level we are close to these issues, because those with a need come to us. The member for Shortland's speech was very important, because it was all about people surrounding her in her electorate and the hope she has for the NDIS. I am the same. The coalition totally supports the NDIS. My leader, on our behalf, has talked about his inspiration and support for the NDIS.

The parliament supports it and the government supports it, but I am saying to you that this is part of the road we travel. It is not the be-all and end-all. It will not solve every problem. But the best thing this parliament can do is work with the states, territories and all involved to get the best outcome we can.

I would love it if the Prime Minister of this nation, or the education minister of this nation, were able to stand up in an international forum and say, 'We have the world's best national disability insurance scheme,' or 'We have the world's only national disability insurance scheme and we proudly lead the world in our approach to people with disability.' I could not think of a better outcome for a parliamentary career, or a better outcome for any term of parliament, than to deliver an NDIS. I could not think of a better outcome than being able to say to the world, 'We in this parliament delivered what could not be delivered.' Wouldn't it be great if, as a member of parliament, you could stand up and say: 'We delivered the world's first national disability insurance scheme and, in that process, we led the world. Now such schemes exist in this country, that country and that country.' I leave you with this final thought: we should not set the bar so high—hopes should not be taken to such a high level—that we are unable to jump over it. Thank you.