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Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Page: 1606


Mr SECKER (BarkerOpposition Whip) (13:42): At short notice I come into this chamber to talk about a very important subject: the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. The following might be of interest to the member of Boothby, because in closing his remarks he talked about the Suneden School in Mitchell Park. I can inform him that my sister, who was mentally retarded, went to Suneden. She was there for quite a while. It was certainly a very important part of her life to visit Suneden. I know they use different terms these days than the one I use, but I grew up with my sister, who was about 20 months older than myself. She was the seventh-born in the family, and I was the eighth. My mother likes to dine out on the story that when I came along at least one person thought I was perfect; the doctor wanted to reassure my mother that I did not have any intellectual disabilities—although I am sure some people might disagree with that now!

But this is a very important subject, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a very worthy one. I may speak later about some of the problems that may exist. There are some people who may not be covered who think that they will be covered. In fact, I had an email and a phone call only last week from constituents who were concerned, in one case, that once they reached 65 there would not be any coverage—and they were actually thinking about their son—and, in another case, whether blindness was actually covered by this. And I suppose that is the concern of some people: they might think they are being covered when in actual fact they will not be covered.

The concept of a national disability insurance scheme has gained momentum over the past few years. Whenever it has been brought up in this parliament I have been a very strong supporter. One of the reasons it has gained momentum is due to a very strong grassroots campaign by carers, Australians with disabilities and the organisations that support them. More recently, the Every Australian Counts campaign, chaired by John Della Bosca, has certainly made sure we have strong support in this chamber. It has certainly kept the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the public mind on behalf of all those disability organisations.

The NDIS concept was conceived by John Walsh AM and progressed by Bruce Bonyhady AM, President of Philanthropy Australia. It was first canvassed at the 2020 Summit in 2008. It is probably the only decent thing that came out of that 2020 Summit in 2008. In 2009—so we are talking about four years ago—the federal coalition supported the government's referral to the Productivity Commission for an inquiry into a national disability insurance scheme. A final report of the Productivity Commission inquiry was released on 10 August 2011. Anyone who has looked at that final report would be encouraged by the support given by the Productivity Commission and would confirm that the current system of support for people with disability is—in their language—'broken'. This conclusion was endorsed by the federal coalition in all of its jurisdictions. We are not playing politics with this. We totally support it and any suggestion otherwise is bunkum.

Agreement has been reached with five states and territories, including my own home state of South Australia, the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Launch sites will commence in the states in July this year and in the ACT in July next year. In December 2012 the New South Wales state government and the Commonwealth government concluded an intergovernmental agreement for a full state-wide rollout of the NDIS beyond the Hunter launch site. Further expansion of the NDIS will be dependent on the Commonwealth negotiating and concluding further bilateral agreements with each jurisdiction. Queensland and Western Australia are not hosting launch sites but both have submitted proposals to the Commonwealth to be part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and they are certainly part of the support.

The Labor government has sought to claim the NDIS as its own, rejecting bipartisanship on a number of occasions. That is pretty sad. This is too important to play politics with. This has the support of the whole parliament and it is not just them or us; we all support it. Our only concern is where the money is coming from. We are committed to finding that money. We certainly want to show that it does have very strong cross-party support at both federal and state levels.

This bill provides for the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Some people might ask: why has this taken so long? To be fair to the government and to everyone, this is a big decision by government and a big decision by this parliament. It will need a pilot scheme. The last thing we want is money just thrown at something without some sort of sensible pilot scheme to make sure that it works. It is important that we do this properly. That probably means we are going a bit slower than some people would like, but if we do it properly we will end up with a well-thought-out scheme.

The agency may provide general support for people with disability who are not participants in the NDIS, through information, coordination and referral activities. While most funding for NDIS participants will be in the form of individual support packages, the agency may block fund some entities that support people with disability. That is a bit like what we do with block funding in private schools: as a government, we do not get down to the nitty-gritty and saying, 'You do it this way.' For example, in my electorate, where the Lutheran school system is very strong, they get block funding and organise it themselves. In some ways I think that is more efficient than government bureaucracies trying to run it. We support that.

The eligibility provisions described in the scheme require that a person's impairment results in substantially reduced functional capacity affecting their communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care or self-management. Eligibility includes early intervention to mitigate, alleviate or prevent the deterioration of a person's functional capacity.

As I mentioned earlier, people over 65 years of age at the time they request NDIS support will not be eligible. However, future participants can choose to continue with the NDIS once they turn 65. The assessment method will be in the NDIS rules. It is important that we have personal planning provisions which emphasise a person-centred and self-directed approach. A plan must include a statement of participant goals and aspirations prepared by the participant in the statement of participant supports to be approved by the agency.

I digress for a short period of time. Very early in my career as a member of this parliament, I was approached by four mothers in my electorate. I remember the meeting very well. They were concerned not so much about themselves and the work that they do as carers—they saw that as their duty and that was not a problem—but about what happens when they die. You hear that time and time again: 'Who is going to look after my children?' Obviously they will have grown up a bit more, but who will look after them when both parents are deceased? That was a real concern for them because they want to ensure that their offspring get the proper care that they need. I have heard that very often when other members speak on this bill.

Coming back to the bill itself, the plans will specify general support—and that is not purchased with individualised funding—and reasonable and necessary support. Of course, when we talk about 'reasonable', that is always a bit of a moot point: what is reasonable? Some people will want more than others think is reasonable, but in the end we will do our best, whether we are in government or in opposition, to make sure that they get that support. There will also be a review date and it will describe how the funds and other aspects of the plan will be managed. Managing the funding for supports under a plan can be done by a registered plan management provider, a nominee, the agency or participants themselves. Plan management involves purchasing supports, and receiving, managing and acquitting the funds.

Details about the process to become a registered provider of supports or a plan manager will be outlined in the NDIS rules. The agency may compel prospective participants to take action to obtain compensation for personal injury, and the agency is entitled to recover relevant portions of any compensation awarded to participants. These provisions are designed to protect the NDIS from cost-shifting.

There will have to be review processes. Information on review rights must be given to participants when reviewable decisions are made. Reviewable decisions cover eligibility support plans, provider registration, and nominee determinations. And, like many parts of legislation from this parliament, the legislation provides a further avenue of review to the all-important Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Governance will also be important. The agency will have a board consisting of a chair and eight members who collectively will possess an appropriate balance of skills, experience or knowledge in the following fields: provisional use of disability services, operation of insurance, compensation or long-term liability schemes, financial management or corporate governance. The Commonwealth minister will appoint the chair and must obtain the approval of a majority of jurisdictions before those members are appointed.

The legislation also establishes an independent advisory council that will include at least four people with disabilities; at least two carers; at least one person with skills, experience or knowledge in the supply of equipment or provision of services; and up to five more members. The legislation provides for an independent review of the act after two years.

I pay credit to my elder sister who was a nun with the Josephites. She set up the first lance society in Australia. She was awarded an Order of Australia medal for her work there. Our family experience was of a child with a mental disability and it has certainly been a very strong part of my family's upbringing. (Time expired)