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Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Page: 1589

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (12:19): In addressing the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, let me begin by giving my wholehearted support to the bill and to the broader underlying principle. I want to speak briefly today across three fronts: the humanity behind the bill; the principles to be enshrined in the bill; and the issue of supported accommodation, which, for those living in the Hastings area as well as across the electorate of Flinders and across Australia, is a critical element of care and treatment for those who have some of the most challenging disabilities that we face in our country.

I want to begin by looking at the humanity, with people that I know. There is a young fellow, Tom McGann, whom I have known for over a decade. His situation is that has had:

… a neuromuscular disability since birth which means I have never walked and have been in a motorised wheelchair from age 4.

He is now a young adult. He went through mainstream schooling at Mount Martha Primary School and then secondary school. He is a joy to be with and he is an absolute source of pride to his parents. These days, he is studying IT at TAFE and his goal is to have a career in the field. He has been involved with Boccia, a Paralympic sport, and with Channel 31, where he has an on-camera role.

He has also been involved with Beyond Disability. Beyond Disability is a local self-help group created to assist those with disabilities to have access to the appropriate technology. It was started by a magnificent local constituent, Richard Stubbs, who was a very successful banker. He developed a severe neuromuscular condition and lost much of his mobility. His response was not to feel sorry for himself but to establish a practical self-help group named Beyond Disability. I have watched as their charitable work has grown and expanded. It has provided a window to the world, an avenue and means of communication, self-respect, creativity and fulfilment.

Out of that process has come Tom McGann. Tom has been determined to live the best life he can lead. He is really a shining example to me of a life well lived. So it is a real honour to have known him since he was such a young age and to have watched him develop through primary and secondary school and then enter tertiary education as a fine young Australian. His story is powerful because it is an example of what we can be and how we can overcome challenges and be our best selves. He has done that despite great difficulties, with the support of stunningly helpful and committed parents. In many cases, family circumstances just do not allow these steps forward. That is why we come to the issue of a national disability insurance scheme.

I saw another example only a couple of weekends ago, when the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia held a disabled surf event at Point Leo on the Mornington Peninsula. My understanding is that there were over 50 participants. I was there in a wetsuit as one of the support crew—

Dr Southcott: Shameless!

Mr HUNT: Yes! I gave my little bit. There were 50-plus participants who have disability, and they had the time of their lives. Some were a little bit frightened, but you could see their fear being overcome as something new came into their lives. You could see the joy—they were just thrilled to be in the water. By my count, there were over 200 volunteers there. It was one of the most uplifting events you could ever witness. It was Australians supporting Australians, locals supporting locals and families supporting families, in the best of all possible ways.

Many of these people and their families have endured extraordinary challenges and difficulties. Whether it is Tom McGann or the crew at the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia or the people for whom they are caring; whether it is Richard Stubbs or another local constituent, Alan Lachman, who, in order to give his daughter, Francesca, the best support he could, helped establish the Insight school for those with visual challenges, blindness and other forms of eyesight disability; whether it is those working in the autism space—and we have pledged to work with Senator Mitch Fifield, our shadow minister responsible, towards a national autism summit; whether it is any of those or the many other areas in which challenges abound, it is time for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The principle behind this is that, if you were designing a budget from scratch—if you had a blank sheet of paper—supporting those with disabilities in the best possible way would be right at the top of the list of measures because it is an expression of our humanity, an expression of decency and an expression of what we do. But, as we have developed in different ways over different times, we come to the point where we are today, with a different budgetary position.

So what we have to do now, I think, is adopt two fundamental principles: firstly, flexibility of delivery and, secondly, a non-bureaucratic model. The critical principle of flexibility of delivery is that we find the right solution for the right person. Each person's needs will be different. That may mean that for some it is about respite, for others it is about ongoing care and for others it is about material assistance such as customisation of a car or other vehicle or provision of computer equipment. Our approach should be flexibility, and that is what I think is critical—a flexible approach.

That leads to the non-bureaucratic model. I am very heartened by what I have seen come out of Western Australia. I think the Barnett model of flexibility is non-bureaucratic and an extremely important way forward. I think we should all look to the way in which Western Australia has provided a model. At the end of the day, we want to achieve a simple, flexible, non-bureaucratic model which is not about employing lots and lots of public servants but about giving individual families, carers and those suffering from disabilities the ability to meet their most significant needs.

That leads me to my third and final point, which is about supported accommodation. The Hastings model, as it is sometimes called, of small supported accommodation started just across the road from my office. Families such as Norm and Dizzy Carlyon, Joy and David Jarman, and Karl and Marie Hell—Karl has now passed on—came together to say that we needed a small, local supported accommodation centre. That was funded and it is largely built, but I have to say, with great respect to the Commonwealth, that nothing has happened in the best part of 18 months. The buildings have been frozen and the Commonwealth has not intervened to ensure that a building issue is resolved. I would respectfully say to the minister: now is the time to intervene, bring together the different parties and make sure that this building dispute is ended. It is a great model and one which I would like to see as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but this case in Hastings can and should be resolved so we can get young people into supported accommodation. They are waiting; they are desperate; their families have visited. So I say to the minister: please intervene. This is an early example of the positive things that can be done by a national scheme. It is a pilot, an exemplar and a model. I ask for your help.

Having said that, when I think of Tom McGann, disabled surf Australia, Richard Stubbs, the work that Alan Lachman has done and those parents of children with autism, for whom we did our walk two years ago, they need and, above all else deserve, our support. As a parliament, we can be our best selves by supporting them. I commend the notion of a joint parliamentary committee. We will, as a parliament—as a unified group of people—continue to work towards a model which ultimately is not about bureaucracy nor tight rules; it is about finding the right solution to the needs of each family with a significant disability so that those families and those with the disability can be their best selves.