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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 411


Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (11:23): Like everyone else, I share the commitment of the previous speaker, the member for McMillan, to reform within the disability sector. The National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 represents a great opportunity to achieve that reform and I am very positive about what can be achieved. Yes, as the member for McMillan said, there are a lot of difficulties and, yes, it is very complex. I think we all acknowledge that. But I am very positive about the federal government doing the best we can, despite all those complexities and difficulties, to work with the states to roll this out.

As many speakers have said, this is an idea whose time has come. It is so vitally important to our nation. We have all heard the stories from people with disability, their families, their carers. We have all met people who have desperately needed this reform. People have called for this reform over such a long period of time. As a Labor member of this parliament, I am very proud that a Labor government is introducing such a significant reform for our nation, one which is very overdue. It truly is a very Labor reform. Those of us on this side of the House are all very proud to be part of introducing a national disability insurance scheme and of the difference it will make to the lives of so many.

When the rollout was first announced, there was a tremendous response. I certainly saw that in my electorate of Richmond. When people saw the detail of the rollout in New South Wales, to be completed by 2018, they could see it would make a big difference to people on the North Coast—not just to those with a disability, their carers and their families, but to people across so many sectors of our community. We are very proud that the Labor Party has introduced so many important social justice reforms—universal health care and paid parental leave, for example—which have impacted on the lives of Australians. Now it is 2013 and we are doing it again, delivering one of the most important reforms this country has seen. It really is a once-in-a-generation reform.

Looking at some of the detail of the bill, we see that it establishes the framework for the NDIS and for the transition agency as well. When the first stage of the scheme is rolled out in selected areas, it will benefit more than 20,000 people with a disability. The bill sets out all the objectives and principles under which the NDIS will operate. One of the most important objectives is to give choice and control to people about the care and support they receive. That is vitally important, not only from the perspective of meeting the differing care needs of people but also from the perspective of taking on board their individual concerns, their families' concerns and their carers' concerns. Individual care should always be at the centre.

The bill sets out the processes for a person to become a participant in the scheme, for the development of individual goals based plans and for how the support for those personal plans will be put in place. It sets out how people will be able to choose and manage their care and support and how they can receive assistance from local coordinators should they wish—another important aspect of the scheme. The bill also sets out how the agency will be responsible for the provision of support to people with disability, their families and their carers and how, as well, it may provide funding to individuals and organisations which support people to participate more in life.

The report of the inquiry by the Productivity Commission, Disability care and support, was released in 2011. It identified that disability care and support in Australia was underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient. We could all see the piecemeal approach across the country and we have all met, or heard stories about, people who fell through the cracks in the system and were not able to get their individual needs met. We could certainly see the problems and why reform was needed. Since the release of the report, the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments have agreed on the need for major reform in the form of the NDIS, which takes an insurance approach—sharing the cost of disability services and support right across the community and funding reasonable and necessary services directly related to a person's individual ongoing disability support needs.

This bill establishes the scheme and an operating approach which gives effect to these principles and gives effect, in part, to Australia's obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The bill also reflects the extensive work which has been undertaken by the federal, state and territory governments, by people with disabilities, by carers and their families, by service providers and advocates, and by disability care workers. There has been a very long commitment to engagement and consultation. The NDIS Advisory Group and many experts have been heavily involved in helping to put this reform together.

I will touch specifically on my seat in New South Wales for a little while. Over 140,000 people across the state of New South Wales with permanent and/or significant disability will have access to the scheme as it is rolled out. By agreement, the scheme will be jointly funded by the federal government and the states.

As we have heard from other speakers, the initial rollout of the scheme in New South Wales will begin in the Hunter region at a later point this year. We will all be watching that very closely. I know that members from that region have spoken about the importance of the scheme starting, and we are very much looking forward to it being rolled out further right through New South Wales. Particularly in my seat in Richmond on the Far North Coast we are very keen to have it in our areas as soon as possible.

As I have said, it really is a major achievement of this government, particularly in terms of the provision of providing the individualised care and involvement of local care coordinators. It does mean more control and autonomy over their lives for those people with a disability and their families, more certainty about the care and support they need and greater opportunity for them to be much more involved in the community in so many ways. So, there are many different reasons why we should be celebrating this magnificent reform.

I, like many other people in the chamber, want to talk about some individual cases as well. I know that we all have many cases we could discuss, but there is a very special one I want to talk about. It is about a young lady, called Shona Robertson, who I have spoken about before in the House. Shona is a truly outstanding inspiration to many people. She is a very special friend of mine and also of all the staff in my electorate office. She volunteers regularly and does an amazing job.

Shona has Down syndrome and comes into the office once a week. She is a real inspiration and keeps us all on our toes. She is also at the forefront locally of the Every Australian Counts campaign. She has done a great job with that and we commend her for it. She got married recently to her sweetheart, Andrius. They had a beautiful wedding, and congratulations to both of them. Both Andrius and her are very strong lobbyists to have a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Shona recently travelled to the UN and spoke there about the need for disability reform everywhere around the world. Shona, as I say, is a true inspiration and she certainly looks after us and keeps us on our toes. She is a wonderful addition to the office and we really appreciate the time she gives to us as a volunteer. Further, she has a real commitment to our community and knows the difference that having an NDIS will make to our region and throughout New South Wales and, indeed, right throughout the country.

In talking to many people in my electorate I know how desperate they are to have this change and how keen they are to follow the rollout of it and to see what the effects will be. As I say, we have all heard many of the really harrowing and difficult stories of individuals and families who struggle and face hardship in caring for a family member with a disability. They have shared the great joy of their family members, but we have also heard about their emotional and financial hardship, as well as their hardship in obtaining the correct care and the difficulties associated with that.

I congratulate other groups in my area, too, that work with people with a disability and I know how hard they work and how committed they are. They do outstanding work. They have a strong role in advocating for an NDIS and have continued involvement in that. One of the organisations that I would like to particularly recognise is Care Connect in Tweed Heads. They recently took part in a DisabiliTEA campaign, and I was very pleased to attend that. It was a fantastic event. I know over 1,700 DisabiliTEAs were held around the country to promote the Every Australian Counts and NDIS campaign. I congratulate everyone involved. We had a great morning tea at Care Connect and a really wonderful opportunity for many people to come along and hear firsthand about what the situation was with the NDIS and how they could be involved. I know there are many great groups that did that, and congratulations to all of them.

One of the things that really resonates is that so many people say that, finally, the days are numbered for a very piecemeal, disjointed system. Finally they can see that we are changing and reforming. I think everyone agrees that there has been disparity, inequity and difficulties, and there is certainly a lot of consensus about the great reform and what it actually does mean. As I have said, as a Labor member, I am really proud to be part of this great Labor reform. It is a real example of Labor achieving for those people who desperately need to have assistance.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the NDIS is one of many great reforms. It will stand beside many other major Labor reforms such Medicare, the age pension and the minimum wage. They are really important and major social and economic reforms and have changed the lives of many. It is also something that we are very proud of from a social justice perspective in providing greater opportunity for all Australians.

I am really proud to be speaking on this debate and I commend the bill to the House. I congratulate everyone who has been involved in this fantastic reform.

Debate adjourned.