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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 428

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (12:35): I rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. I commend the member for Herbert, particularly for the passion in his speech, although I did not hear all of the speech. But I do want to point out two things to him. The first—and this might have been a slip of the tongue—is that he said that the states are the largest providers for people with disabilities. Obviously, as a local member he would recognise that it is actually the NGOs who provide the services; the states merely pass on the money, primarily. And I am sure some of the NGOs he mentioned are actually looking after the people with disabilities. That is why, as he said, this is a great opportunity. The local NGOs, the states and the federal government have the ability to work together.

The second is that, as he rightly pointed out, good government is about making sure you have the right priorities, and I would ask him to ask the Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, to make this much more of a priority. And perhaps the member for Herbert could revisit the state member who signed the NDIS pledge and say, 'Perhaps it might be a time to look at some of the priorities; rather than building a new tower of offices for politicians down in the middle of Brisbane, perhaps we could look at the NDIS scheme, which will benefit all of Queensland.' I would ask him to do that, because obviously Queensland is the odd state out in that it does not have a trial site, and I would suggest that that is an opportunity missed. I do not like to praise our Victorians—and I do not think there are any in the chamber, apart from Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou!—but the reality is that Victoria gets it much better. They spend $10 on someone with a disability, compared with a Queenslander's $7. And that is under Labor, Liberal and National Party governments, so I am not making a political point. It is an empirical fact that Queensland needs to lift its game more than any other state, especially compared with Victoria, which does it so much better.

In 2011 the Productivity Commission reported on the disability supports available in Australia for the federal government, as touched on by the previous speaker. That report revealed that the needs of people across Australia with disability, as well as the needs of their families and carers, were unmet. The Gillard Labor government knew immediately that widespread action had to be taken to remedy this distressing situation. So, on 3 December 2012 I, like many politicians around Australia, had the pleasure of going out to local community workers to talk about the International Day of People with Disability. The NDIS was a topic on everybody's lips. Luckily for me I went out to the Endeavour Foundation to look at some of the great work they do. Endeavour is one of Australia's largest non-government disability service providers, supporting more than 3,350 people with a disability across 230 locations in Australia. It is just one of the many disability service organisations I am proud to have in my electorate, and I will mention some of the others later.

The Endeavour Foundation is a great supporter of giving people with disability a right to have control over the decisions that affect their lives. It might have started with a different brief, as so many of these charities did—more of a nanny-state sort of brief—but now it has much more of a partnership with people who have disabilities and their carers. They support funding for those who provide assistance to people with disability, their families and their carers. It was a great opportunity for me to tour the factory that the Endeavour Foundation members work in and to look at the individual jobs the people do, and the pride they have in doing them. It is an assembly-line process, basically. Some people with severe intellectual disabilities are able to contribute to the production line. Others, with disabilities that do not hamper them as much, supervise. It is a great process.

It was great to see the dignity and the joy that came with people working together in a team, contributing and making money. Obviously, they were being paid at different rates depending on what they contributed. It was great to see the dignity that pervaded the room. I thank the Endeavour Foundation for the great work they do. That model is basically what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is about. It is about making sure that people have dignity and have as much control as possible in their lives to make sure that they have control over the decisions that affect their lives.

Just last week I met with Deaf Services Queensland in Moorooka to discuss future opportunities and some of the challenges that their members face. Like many other disability service organisations, sadly, they are struggling to fund their services. They have taken a few hits in terms of cuts from the state government, and the important services that Deaf Services Queensland provide and the skills that they have acquired over the years might get lost or left behind. My electorate of Moreton is home to many peak disability bodies, including Multicap, which I am proud to say is actually doing some work in the NDIS pilot project in Eight Mile Plains. There is also Westside Community Services and the Kyabra Community Association. The Moreton electorate is also serviced by other great organisations that include Montrose Access, Contact Inc., Huntingtons Queensland, Spinal Injuries Association and many, many others. They are groups that passionately advocate for the people with disability they represent.

The Gillard government is determined to provide support for those who need it most and is working hard in some tough discussions with the state and territory governments to achieve the level of care that Australians need. In my home state of Queensland, members of my community are struggling to make ends meet under the current disability support legislation and arrangements as are those of my colleagues. As I said, it is $7 that every person with a disability receives in Queensland, compared with the $10 that someone in Victoria receives. Sadly, at the moment, Premier Newman is leaving fellow Australians behind and falling short by $300 million of funding for the NDIS that would have been available.

Raising awareness about the rights of people with disability has grown significantly since the United Nations introduced its Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons in 1974. How much things have changed since then. I am proud to be part of the government that, in 2008, sanctioned with 111 other countries the convention recognising the equal rights of all people with disabilities to live in the community, to have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services necessary to support living and, importantly, inclusion in the community and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community. I am proud to be standing on this side of the House that will recognise these opportunities for people with disability by supporting and delivering the NDIS, which will slowly become a reality for thousands of Australians.

The major reforms in the NDIS will give people with disability more control and choice over their care and support irrespective of where they live in Australia, which at the moment is a bit of a lottery, or the other lottery associated with how they acquired their disability. This important legislative reform is about developing innovative services that are delivered on a local level, and I know the local disability service organisations are looking forward to the process and will be proud to implement this historic legislation.

I am going to finish by touching on the word 'dignity' and I want to mention a gentleman by the name of Kevin Cox who comes from my home town. I see that there is an article in Mamamia today saying, 'We need to talk about Kevin'. I am going to mention two Kevins who I was lucky enough to go to dinner with at the convention centre in Queensland a few years back. It was when former Prime Minister Rudd was kind enough to take me to the ACTU dinner one night—although, you can tell the ACTU is a Victorian organisation, because they organised the dinner to be on the night of a state of origin event! Only Victorians would do that in Queensland! But we were proud to have the dinner there, so I flew up on the government jet with former Prime Minister Rudd and went to the convention centre. We came in from the airport in the government car.

I sat down at my table and turned around, and right behind me was a gentleman by the name of Kevin Cox. He is in a wheelchair, because he had a Rugby League accident, which I remember seeing in my home town of St George. Kevin had been a shearer, and I think he was working in the banking industry when the accident occurred. I remember where I was standing—I think it was in 1979—and seeing the accident. He was a simple country bloke from St George, and he ended up in a wheelchair and became more and more active in disability rights. In fact, when Wayne Goss was premier and Kevin Rudd was one of his major advisors, the government decided to build a convention centre. So, they built this fantastic convention centre, which I would commend to anyone—but the only thing is, they did not put in access for people with disabilities. They said, 'Well, we've got all these fantastic steps; you can just go around the back and go up in the service entrance.' And Kevin Cox, this country bloke from St George, said: 'In the 1980s, that's not right. We should do something more. We don't need to go in through the kitchen entrance; we're the same as everybody else.' He took on the government and won.

So there I was at that dinner with my Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and right next to me was Kevin Cox. So there were these two Kevins. Here was me, this bloke from St George, and there was Kevin Cox, this other bloke from St George. We had ended up there, and we were talking to each other, saying: 'How did this happen? How did we end up here at the convention centre?'—the very convention centre which Kevin made sure had improved access. It was a tale of two Kevins! I am proud to say that now Kevin Cox, the shearer and bank worker from St George, is the anti-discrimination commissioner in Queensland, standing up for all Queenslanders with disabilities.

I just think of what the NDIS will do to make sure that every Kevin Cox has an opportunity to take control of their life, because not everyone will have the courage of Kevin Cox to stand up to a state government—a Labor government—and say, 'That's not right'. But the NDIS will hopefully set up a scheme that will promote such opportunities. I commend the legislation to the House.