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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9051

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (10:55): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that the:

(a)proposal of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a once-in-a-generation landmark reform that has the potential to deliver better quality of life outcomes for Australians with disabilities;

(b) schedule for implementation of the NDIS, as proposed by the Productivity Commission, will take seven years, spanning the life of three Parliaments; and

(c) NDIS is a reform that involves the cooperation and support of state and territory governments, the disability support services sector, people with a disability and their families and carers;

(2) notes the bipartisan and cross-party support for the implementation of the NDIS;

(3) declares its support for policy stability on the NDIS over the life of those three Parliaments and until the scheme's full implementation; and

(4) resolves to immediately establish a Joint Select Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme which will:

(a) oversee the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme;

(b) be subject to terms of reference to be agreed upon by the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader and ratified by this House;

(c) be comprised of 4 Government members and/or Senators, 4 Opposition members and/or Senators, 1 Greens member and/or Senator and 1 non-aligned member and/or Senator;

(d) be jointly chaired by 1 Government member and 1 Opposition member; and

(e) remain in existence until the full implementation of the NDIS is achieved; and

(5) transmit a message to establish a Joint Select Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the Senate for concurrence.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Lyons ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Craig Kelly: I second the motion.

Mr CHRISTENSEN: My mother would turn blue when she had her fits. I grew up in a family where disabilities were a lived experience every single day. My father lost a leg to cancer when he was 19, before I was even a twinkle in his eye, and my mother was an epileptic who also had cerebral palsy. While, as a child of parents with disabilities, you got to understand the difficulties that people with disabilities have to put up with on a daily basis, nothing was more shocking than watching your mother turn blue when she was having an epileptic fit. She would alarm us by crossing or folding her arms and asking for my father's help before she went into one of her epileptic fits.

My dad was out making a living, driving taxis so that we could have food on the table, so he could not be there all the time and certainly was not there a lot of time when she had her fits and was calling for help. Even then, as an eight-year-old kid, I knew that when Mum did that you had to put her on the floor in case she fell off the chair she was sitting on or fell over. Then her eyes would roll back into her head and sometimes she would stop breathing and her face would turn blue. I would literally smack her on the face, because as an eight-year-old it was the only thing I could think of to snap her out of it. I never knew whether that would be the last memory of my mother, and to think of that as an eight-year-old kid—all because the support services for people in her situation were nonexistent.

So I know too well why a national disability insurance scheme is needed in this country. Certainly I am very proud that the government and the Liberal-National coalition strongly support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But forgive me for this one negative shot: I also know why I bristle every time I hear disabilities and indeed the NDIS proposal being politicised. When I hear the Prime Minister say that the NDIS is a 'great Labor reform' as if the Liberal-National coalition is somehow against it, to me that is politicising disabilities. As someone who had to revive his epileptic mother from unconsciousness several times, it is quite frankly disgusting.

National Disability Services, the peak body for non-government disability services, give an apt description of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They say it will be an entitlement based funding mechanism which will provide flexible, person centred supports so that people can participate in ordinary daily life. It will provide people with a disability, their families and their carers with the ongoing care, support, therapy and equipment they need.

Most importantly it will be individualised and person-centred, with support based on the personal choices of either the person with a disability or their family or their carers. This is the fundamentally great thing about the NDIS—empowerment. It lets individuals and families decide what services will best fit them rather than have some bureaucrat in a state capital work it out on a desktop model. It opens up competition and opportunity in the disability services sector, which is good for both the person with disabilities, as they will have affordable choices for service provision, and for the disability service providers as they will have greater certainty in terms of long-term service demand.

In my electorate of Dawson we have many quality organisations working in the field of disability support—organisations such as Cootharinga, Engedi, Mackay Lifestyle Choices, MADEC, CQ Community and In-Home Care, Bowen Flexi Care, the Burdekin Flexible Support Services, the Burdekin Community Association, Life Stream Mackay, Blue Care and the Endeavour Foundation. These local organisations provide quality care services and make life easier for their clients—people with disabilities and the families and carers of those with disabilities. They are great local service providers in my electorate, but I know they could provide so much more for their clients if there was a better, more streamlined funding system that their clients had access to. But the benefits of the NDIS go beyond just people with disabilities and disability service providers; it benefits the entire nation.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that one of the great things about the National Disability Insurance Scheme is that it will 'give people with disabilities and their carers more opportunity to be productive and more opportunity to participate in our economy'. He went on to say words that aptly express my feelings about the NDIS:

That's why it's not just a cost. Over time, it is an investment in a better society and in a stronger economy.

The NDIS is not about handouts, it is not about charity, it is an investment in our future. National Disability Services say:

Timely interventions, appropriate aids and equipment, training and development would become investment in individual capacity rather than welfare. The scheme would therefore lead to more positive results for people with a disability, their families and carers as well as being fiscally responsible.

It is for these reasons that the Liberal-National coalition believes that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is an idea whose time has come. Earlier this year, the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the entire Liberal-National coalition, released a statement which deserves putting on the parliamentary record. He said:

Right now, the treatment given to people with disabilities depends upon how the disability was incurred and which state it happened in. Most rely on state government-funded disability services where demand always outstrips supply.

It’s wrong that people’s treatment should depend upon the litigation lottery or more upon what the system can afford than upon people’s needs.

The national disability scheme should be a new project that unites Australians.

It has to be done responsibly but it does have to be done.

The Coalition will do what we reasonably can to make the NDIS happen and would accept a government invitation to be jointly responsible for this vital national project.

On 13 April this year, the Leader of the Opposition sent a letter to the Prime Minister putting forward the concept of creating a parliamentary NDIS committee that would ensure policy stability for the proposal until its full implementation. There was no written response but merely a brush-off that was put in the media. On 27 April, the Leader of the Opposition repeated the offer to the Prime Minister but this offer was formally rejected. As we know, the implementation of the NDIS, as proposed by the Productivity Commission, will take seven years, spanning the life of three parliaments and quite possibly different governments. That offer by the Leader of the Opposition was, sadly, rejected.

A new offer now lies on the table for the government and for this parliament in the form of my motion. Upon passage of this motion in this place and passage of a concurrent motion in the other place, this parliament would resolve to immediately establish a Joint Select Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which would oversee the implementation of that scheme. It would be subject to terms of reference to be agreed upon by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and ratified by this House. It would be jointly chaired by a government member and an opposition member and, most importantly, it would remain in existence until the full implementation of the NDIS is achieved. The joint committee I propose today is the only vehicle for true bipartisanship for the NDIS.

The National Disability Services chief executive, Ken Baker, has issued a statement this morning in light of this motion being brought before the parliament today. I want to read a section of this statement. Dr Baker says:

If you compare the progress towards building the NDIS to a race in the Paralympics we are 20 metres in to a 400 metre race. You don't get a gold medal for leading at the 20 metre mark, you have to keep your head down and keep working. When it comes to the NDIS we need all parliaments to keep working at building the scheme.

I don't think anyone in the disability community thinks that we have won the NDIS. We know that neither political party has outlined how they will fund the full scheme. We also know that the discussions around funding will involve the Federal, States and Territories parliaments.

Parties at both levels of government should recognize that this is a long-term reform which requires support from both sides of politics. To deliver the NDIS in full, political opponents across successive parliaments both federally and in the states are going to be required to work together for the greater good.

The truth remains that before the NDIS is locked in we will need both political parties to outline how they intend to fully fund the scheme. We will also need both political parties to commit to true political collaboration on the design and roll out of the NDIS.

Dr Baker is right: we are at the 20 metre mark of a 400 metre race in the Paralympics and, after the next election or the one after that, it very well could be a relay where the baton needs to be passed to a different player.

National Disability Services campaign posters for the NDIS run the line: 'It's time to make every Australian count.' Indeed, that has been the campaign slogan for the NDIS movement. Right now, it is time to make this parliament count when it comes to the NDIS. Let's put aside petty politics, join together on the NDIS and make this work for the betterment of our nation.