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Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Page: 1591

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (12:30): I rise today to give my whole hearted support to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. It is an important bill. It shows that, as a country, we can be compassionate and fair, and we can look after those who are less fortunate—who, due to circumstances out of their control, have had things happen to them that mean that they will need assistance and help throughout their lives. As a society, we can recognise that and do what needs to be done.

As a young boy growing up, my parents every year took me along to support the Mansfield Autism Centre. They held a ball every year. It was put on to raise money for that centre, and as a young boy I came across the parents, the carers and the children who were in the centre, and I got an understanding of all the issues that they were dealing with. It has meant that as I have gone through life I have had a great deal of compassion and sympathy, but above all else I have had a great deal of admiration for everyone who works in the disability sector and for all those people with disabilities as they go about their lives.

As a parliament we have a real opportunity to make a difference with this bill, and that is what we should do. Only three or four months ago I was reminded of the time that I spent as a young boy trying to help and support the Mansfield Autism Centre, when I met with the Ararat Disability Parent Support Group. I went along to talk to the Ararat Disability Parent Support Group but also, more importantly, to listen. While I was there—I was there for a couple of hours—I heard some of the most compelling testimony that you would hear in your life as to why we need a national disability insurance scheme.

One lady in particular read out a four-page letter about the difficulties that she had had getting respite for her child. It was an incredibly moving letter. I do not think anyone in the room—and there were 30 or 40 of us—had a dry eye by the time she has finished. The sad thing about her letter was that it showed clearly the difficulties that people face in this area. More often than not it is not because anyone sets out to deliberately cause problems or issues; it is just that the system is broken. It is having a huge personal toll on those who are dealing with this system. That is why we need to implement this bill. We need to implement the trials that are part of this bill and we need to get on with making sure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme becomes a reality.

I would like to take the time to thank the opposition shadow minister for disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector for the time that he has spent in my electorate explaining what the scheme would mean to our local communities. He has visited Portland, Warrnambool, Avoca and Maryborough. I am sure—he has said so—he would more than willing to come back and meet with other groups to explain how important this NDIS scheme is. I have met with more groups across the electorate, and everywhere I go all I can think is that the case is even more compelling for this scheme.

I would like to congratulate those who have campaigned for the NDIS. I had a meeting on 8 September 2011 with Jacqui Pearce and Lynn Foreman, who came to my office to promote the NDIS. Lynn Foreman in particular went beyond the call of duty to ensure that she got to that meeting and was able, once again, to make me aware of the need for the NDIS. She tried to get down by train. In the end she could not, and ended up having to come in a taxi—which shows once again the difficulties people with disabilities face on a daily basis. But, once again, they were able to put an extremely compelling case—and that has been done across the nation, to all MPs and to all senators, to both state and federal parliamentarians, because we are going to require the cooperation of those two levels of government to ensure that the NDIS is rolled out and rolled out properly.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention Bill Shorten because, in his previous role as the parliamentary secretary for disabilities, he spent a lot of time publicising the need for the NDIS. In a show of bipartisanship I would like to recognise the contribution that Bill Shorten has made.

I would also like to recognise the contribution that the Productivity Commission has made. It is not easy getting the parameters right around implementing such a thing as the NDIS. This is serious reform and it needs to be done in a way that we know will work. There are people whose hopes are dependant on the NDIS and its successful rollout, and the Productivity Commission to date has done an outstanding job in setting the framework as to how that should take place.

When we talk about bipartisanship I think we should note—and this will be as important on our side, if we win the next election, as it is currently to the government—that we need to do everything we can as a parliament to make this a bipartisan step. This is something that all sides of this House should be able to get together and work on, to make sure that what we get is an excellent product. Neither side of this place has the wherewithal and the brains to ensure that every single element of this is rolled out to perfection. What we need to do is to make sure that we cooperate, that we work together, that we ensure that by putting our minds together collectively we do the best we can—and I think it is beholden to the government to look at what it can do to ensure that the NDIS is a bipartisan initiative, as much as it will be on this side if we win the next election. That is something that I will be extremely keen to see in the months and years ahead, as we continue to roll out the scheme.

There are going to be important aspects of the scheme that we are going to have to make sure we get right. The previous speaker, Mr Hunt, expressed some of these aspects. There are two in particular that I would like to pick up on; one is that we are going to have to make sure that there is flexibility of delivery. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to this, because it will not work—across disabilities there are unique circumstances. When it comes to how this is rolled out, and the services delivered between metropolitan, regional and rural communities, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. So we have to ensure that there is proper flexibility in the system. If we do not do that, then once again we will see people battling the system, and they have been doing that for too long. That is what the NDIS is all about: trying to prevent the bureaucracy and the red tape from sucking the life out of people as they try to get help for their loved ones. We have to make sure that the system we put in place is flexible across disabilities, but it must also be flexible across communities, whether they are metropolitan, regional or rural.

We also have to ensure as best we can that red tape is minimised, because nothing strangles more than red tape. For people who are emotionally dealing with incredibly difficult circumstances, the last thing they need is having that emotion added to by having constant battles with red tape. Often the red tape is well-intentioned. It is put there to ensure that delivery occurs according to how the system is legislated, but we have to make sure that, in putting this system in place, what we want to see occur is very clear and we have to make sure it allows people to get on with caring for their loved ones.

The time has come for this piece of legislation. It is something we need to see as quickly as possible. When I have met with groups across my electorate, there has been one uniform and compelling thing that they have said to me, and that is that they want to see compassion from their government—they call it 'their government', and they should call it 'their government'. They want to see an understanding, they want to see that people are listening and, above all else, they want to see a government which is prepared to step in and help them deal with the issues that they are dealing with on a daily basis. That is what this piece of legislation will enable. We still have a long way to go. We have to make sure that the trials are done properly; we have to make sure that we learn lessons from the trials; we have to make sure that the feedback from the trials will feed into the final NDIS; and we have to make sure that the establishment of the NDIS is done in such a way that we can continue to have bipartisan support for the model. These are going to be the challenges that we are all going to have to meet as we go forward.

I would like to say this: failure on this piece of legislation is not an option. Once you have met with community groups, once you have met with disability carers groups and once you have seen what these people are currently going through, you have to keep in the back of your mind that failure is not an option. They are doing wonderful work. They are dealing with things that we have to make sure we comprehend. We have to compassionately show that we understand and want to lend a hand. If we do not do that as a national parliament, we will fail. I do not want that resting upon my shoulders, as I am sure no-one else in this parliament wants it resting on theirs. I give my wholehearted support to this piece of legislation. We still have a lot of hard work to do, but we have to make sure that we do it and we get it right.