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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 435

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (13:00): I am very pleased today to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. All Australians should have the opportunity to realise their potential, including those who live with a disability. All Australians should have a choice and control over their own lives. And all Australians should have the opportunity to live with dignity and with as much independence as possible. However, sadly, that has not been the experience for many of our citizens living with a profound disability.

In a modern society such as Australia, built on the idea of a fair go, we cannot and should not tolerate that those living with a disability continue to be second-class citizens. It is for this reason that the government has sought to reform the way disability services are provided in this country. The current system of disability care and support is not doing enough for Australians with disabilities, their families or their carers. The government is committed to delivering an NDIS because it will mean more choice and more control, more independence and more opportunities for people with a disability to be involved in school, work and community life.

The reality is that we never know what challenges life will throw at us or at our loved ones. But we do know that on average an Australian is diagnosed with a significant disability every 30 minutes. An NDIS will give all Australian families peace of mind to know that if they or a loved one is born with, or acquires, a disability through illness, injury or accident, they will get the helping hand they need to live the life they want.

The NDIS is our government's response to the Productivity Commission 2011 report, Disability care and support, which found the current system to be unfair, unfunded, fragmented and inefficient. As a government we knew that this commission's findings could not be ignored. We have been working towards the delivery of the NDIS and a fairer go for all Australians ever since.

The bill outlines how the NDIS will operate. It covers key areas, including principles, becoming an NDIS participant, personal planning for support, earlier intervention requirements and administration. The NDIS Advisory Group and NDIS expert groups have provided valuable technical advice on the design of key elements of the scheme, including eligibility and assessment, quality safeguards and standards, and a national approach to choice.

The government recognises that nobody knows what people with a disability have to go through more than carers, families and those living with a disability. Therefore, we have funded the National Disability and Carer Alliance so that we can directly communicate with the key stakeholders—the people living with a disability and their families—to ensure that they have valuable input into the design and implementation of the NDIS.

This is just one of the many avenues the government has pursued in order to make the consultation around this bill very wide and very sound. Indeed, in November last year I had the pleasure of hosting a forum in my electorate that was attended by Minister Macklin. It was great to hear feedback from local residents with a disability and their families, friends and carers about their current experiences. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss how the NDIS will work—how it will deliver services on the ground. Many local residents in my electorate have been calling out for an NDIS and look forward to having an ongoing dialogue.

One of the participants who has been a long-term advocate for the NDIS is Linda McGarvey. Linda has been working extremely hard to make sure those with a disability are treated equitably. Linda has previously worked in special education and saw how these issues with service delivery were affecting those most in need, especially our young children. But she said it was not until she was directly affected after losing her leg through infection that disability reform became personal. Linda said she is looking forward to the NDIS giving people with a disability and their carers more control over services available to them and creating equity in services no matter how a disability was attained. Linda said it is not a charitable handout but rather insurance for issues that are often out of the control of the person. She said people with a disability have great things to offer the community and the NDIS will make sure that those with a disability are being treated equitably and, indeed, can achieve their potential.

The bill also establishes the framework for the NDIS and the NDIS Launch Transition Agency and will allow for the scheme to be launched in five trial sites across the country in July of this year, a year ahead of the timetable set down by the Productivity Commission. The reason we are doing this is that this government knows that this reform is too important to wait. The trial is being implemented because the government wants to make sure that we get this reform right so that we can build an NDIS that is sustainable over the long term for people with a disability and their families and carers. Launching the scheme in selected locations will provide us with valuable experience and evidence to inform its further implementation.

Importantly, I am pleased that our government is working through COAG with the states and territories to deliver a full NDIS around the country, because currently the states and territories are responsible for disability care and support. The Commonwealth welcomes the commitment and contributions already made by the state and territory governments, and we will continue to work together to share the responsibility for this important reform. I am particularly pleased about the current cooperation between the federal government and the South Australian government, which will see the NDIS brought to around 4,600 South Australian children by mid-2014.

In addition to delivering the scheme, the agency will perform a range of important functions across a range of areas. It will be responsible for managing the financial sustainability of the scheme, building community awareness about disability and undertaking key research about disability and social contributors to disability. The government has also followed through on the Productivity Commission's recommendation that the agency be established as a body under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997, because we recognise the need to take an insurance approach to this scheme. It is important that this insurance approach to disability care and support will not be subject to the cycle of budgets and elections, which could undermine its continued effectiveness. An insurance approach will also mean that we invest in activities that will give the best possible outcomes for people with disability over their whole life, and early intervention is one of those critical areas.

Our government recognises the need for excellent governance and accountability in this scheme. That is why the agency will be overseen by a board of experts with extensive experience in the provision or use of disability services, financial management, governance and the operation of insurance schemes. Importantly, there will also be an advisory council made up of people with real, lived experience of disability and caring to make sure the scheme is delivering the change that it was designed to deliver. To ensure accountability to governments, a ministerial council will be established, representing all state and territory governments. We have also included special provisions for the independent review of the new act to examine its operation during its first two years.

Once the trial period has ended, the government will be ready to deliver an NDIS that truly is national, covering people with disability all around the country. The NDIS has at its core a focus on the people and ensuring that support that is delivered is designed to meet the needs of individuals and their families. Personalised plans mean that we can ensure that people with a disability can live a fulfilling life and reach their potential.

This plan may be to support them in the present, but individual support could also be to improve one's life in the future.

This would include early intervention that could improve functioning, for example, for people with autism, acquired brain injury, cerebral palsy or sensory impairments and those for whom early intervention could delay or lessen a decline in functioning, like those with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. This concept of early intervention is an important principle—that is, an NDIS is not just about helping those with a disability today but helping those who have that disability well into the future.

Early intervention services have already begun to be rolled out for some disabilities, and I have to say the Australian government's Better Start for Children with Disability has been welcomed in my electorate. That scheme enables children under the age of six who have been diagnosed with a range of impairments—such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and a number of other disabilities—to have access to early-intervention services. This has been welcomed by so many of my constituents who have used this program. But, if we are going to ensure that all Australians with disabilities get the efficient, personalised care they need, and the early intervention they require, then we need the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Importantly, it means that we are not just helping people to receive medical care. It is also important that the NDIS will deliver tools and services that individuals need to participate in economic and social life to the best of their ability.

Any meaningful reform to disability services must also consider support for carers. The NDIS does recognise the crucial role that families play in the day-to-day lives of people with a disability. The government knows we need to ensure that we support carers and recognise the important role they play—to really nurture carers is incredibly important.

An NDIS will move away from the crisis model where families only receive support if they are unable to continue in their capacity as carers. The government does not want carers to have to wait until there are no other options. Instead, the new system will work with families before they reach crisis point to make sure that invaluable care is provided and can be sustained.

The long-term nature of the support provided by the NDIS is also an important part of giving carers peace of mind. I could not say how many times I have had this conversation with carers in my electorate, who are never complaining about the work they do as carers but are saying that they are worried about what will happen if they are no longer there and able to provide care for their loved one. I have seen the anxiety that this creates so many times. It is of real concern to so many of my constituents. I believe that is another reason why the NDIS is just so important: to give peace of mind to carers out there and for them to know that, if they are no longer able to care for their loved ones, they will be supported and cared for.

I need to make the point here that carers do an amazing job. I see it in my electorate every day. I was pleased to visit the Southern Carers Conference in late November last year, where I got to talk directly to so many different carers and hear firsthand about their concerns and about some of the problems they are currently experiencing. We also heard of some of the things that are going well. We also talked about a number of things they would like to see when it comes to an NDIS. I am very pleased that this government has developed a National Carers Strategy, and we need to continue this to support carers and to really provide the opportunity for them to also enjoy all aspects of their lives, including the chance to fully participate in work, in their communities and in family life.

In conclusion, we have seen under this government an increase in funding support to people with disabilities. I have heard from the other side a lot of criticism. I might just note for the House that, while the coalition were in government, they indexed money for disability services by only 1.8 per cent, which was a lot less than the CPI. I think that is important to note. This government has provided increased funding to disability services, particularly to improve specialist disability services, supported accommodation, and targeted support and respite; but the NDIS is the game-changer when it comes to disability support.

Labor has always been involved in giving people the opportunity to get ahead and in making sure no one gets left behind. That is what we did when we introduced the age pension, Medicare, superannuation and paid parental leave and that is what we are doing now with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is a critical piece of legislation that will go a long way towards ensuring that people with a disability and their families really get what they deserve, get the support they deserve and get to live a fulfilling life. I commend the bill to the House.