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Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Page: 5741


Mr PORTER (PearceMinister for Social Services) (09:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017 establishes the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission for full scheme NDIS. The commission will deliver on the government's commitment to establish nationally consistent quality assurance mechanisms and safeguards for NDIS participants.

The bill also makes administrative amendments to ensure the efficient and effective operation of the NDIS, resulting from an independent review of the act in 2015, as required by the act and as supported by COAG.

The NDIS is one of the largest social and economic policy reforms in Australia's history. At full scheme, it is estimated that 460,000 participants will receive supports from thousands of NDIS providers.

The NDIS therefore represents a dramatic shift from services delivered under largely block-funded contractual relationships between providers and primarily state and territory governments, to one where people with a disability purchase and consume services from providers.

The government has been fully committed to the NDIS from day one. We are bringing forward this bill to establish a new commission to oversee quality and safeguards at full implementation of the NDIS. The commission will:

Register NDIS providers and oversee provider quality

Respond to complaints and manage reportable incidents such as the abuse and neglect of any participant

Provide leadership to reduce and eliminate the use of restrictive practices in the NDIS. The definition within the bill of a restrictive practice is any practice or intervention that has the effect of restricting the rights or freedom of movement of a person with disability.

Lead the overall design and broad policy settings for nationally consistent NDIS worker screening.

The bill seeks to balance appropriate protections that meet governments' duty of care obligations, with enabling participants to take reasonable risks in pursuit of their goals. The commission will support a strong and viable market for disability services that offers people with disability genuine choice and control.

In February 2017, the Disability Reform Council released the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework. The framework was developed in consultation with people with disability, carers, providers and peak bodies over a three-year period. It outlines the ongoing commitment of all jurisdictions to quality and safeguards for people with disability.

A series of recent inquiries and reports have documented the weaknesses of the current safeguarding arrangements for disability services, many of which result from a disconnection between quality assurance and oversight regulatory functions. These inquiries include the Senate inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with a disability in institutional and residential settings, Victorian government inquiries, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. These inquiries found failures to uncover, report and respond to abuse, and inadequate national screening of workers. They called for nationally consistent provider accreditation and the use of positive behaviour support strategies to reduce challenging behaviours instead of using restrictive practices.

This bill establishes the Commonwealth's regulatory responsibilities under the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework and in large part forms the basis of the government's response to the Senate inquiry.

The new arrangements replace a complex and fragmented system of quality and safeguards in each state and territory, delivering a nationally consistent approach.

The commission will uphold the rights of people with disability, as part of Australia's commitment to the UN convention, through the exercise of its registration and regulatory functions. Article 11 of the UN convention provides that all necessary measures must be taken to ensure the protection and safety of people with disability in situations of risk. Article 16 requires that people with disability be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse.

The commission will be led by a commissioner who will be a statutory office holder and staffed by members of the Australian Public Service. The commission will operate with up to 300 staff, at a total cost of $209 million over four years.

The bill establishes the commission in the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (the act). The existing objects and principles of the act will underpin and inform the commission's regulatory activities. An additional object has been included to provide the specific focus required of this commission—'to protect and prevent people with disability from experiencing harm arising from poor or unsafe supports or services under the NDIS'.

In support of the commission's registration functions, the bill provides the power to mandate types of supports considered higher risk which can only be delivered by a registered NDIS provider.

The bill includes a power to issue NDIS practice standards benchmarking expectations relating to the quality of support delivery, participants' rights, the management of organisational and operational risk, continuous improvement, legal obligations and workforce management. The registration system requires providers delivering higher risk supports to obtain third-party quality certification against the practice standards and providers delivering lower-risk supports to undergo a 'lighter touch' verification process.

Registered NDIS providers will be required to notify the commission of certain reportable incidents, and comply with all registration conditions and the NDIS Code of Conduct. Establishing the expectations and obligations for NDIS providers will contribute to fostering high-quality and safe supports and services.

The bill requires registered NDIS providers to maintain complaints and incident management systems in accordance with requirements to be detailed in the rules. It further establishes the commission's complaints function, which will receive, manage and respond to complaints about NDIS providers and workers. The commission will provide information about the complaints process to people with disability and also provide information to providers, on best practice complaints handling. The commission will support people with disability to be heard and provide protections from victimisation should they make a complaint.

The commission will have extensive compliance and enforcement powers under this bill, commensurate to the vulnerability of some participants within the NDIS. Monitoring and investigation powers will allow matters to be pursued whether they originate from suspected breaches of registration conditions, the NDIS Code of Conduct, reportable incidents or complaints. Operating as an independent statutory body with integrated functions and powers, the commission will be a fit-for-purpose, evidence-based, responsive regulator.

Integral to responsive regulation is the ability to monitor changes in the market using data it collects in the course of its regulatory activities.

The bill establishes a market oversight function which will draw on information gathered across the commission's functions. It will identify provider practice indicating emerging risk and that may contribute to provider failure and unplanned service withdrawal.

Information gathering and sharing provisions within the bill will support the commission to work with other regulators and state and territory governments to identify and collect regulatory intelligence.

The bill provides the commission with a broad policy design responsibility, including determining scope, information to be considered and a decision-making framework. The states and territories will be responsible for operating worker screening for the NDIS.

The bill sets out the role of the commission in providing national oversight and policy settings in relation to promoting strategies to reduce challenging behaviours, and monitoring the use of restrictive practices within the NDIS.

Under the commission a restrictive practice will be used only as a last resort. It must form part of a behaviour support plan which includes positive behaviour support strategies and which has been developed by a registered behaviour support practitioner. Restrictive practices must also be authorised by the state or territory in which the participant resides.

The bill provides for the orderly transfer of providers from existing state and territory regulatory environments as each jurisdiction reaches full scheme. The commission will be established in early 2018 and commence operations in New South Wales and South Australia in July 2018 and in remaining states and territories, except Western Australia, in July 2019. In Western Australia, it will operate from 2020, subject to final negotiations with that state. The NDIS participants will continue to be covered by state and territory quality and safeguards systems until the new commission is in place at full scheme.

This bill also amends the NDIS Act in response to an independent review of the operation of the act. The review, required by section 208 of the act, considered the operation of the act in supporting the scheme, and whether any changes were necessary for that purpose. The amendments in schedule 2 to this bill were recommended by the review and are supported by COAG in its response to the review recommendations. The amendments are largely administrative and focus on ensuring the effective operation of the legislation.

For example, the amendments expand on the general supports which can be provided to people with disability under the scheme, to support the implementation of the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building element of the scheme.

The amendments provide clarification of some elements of act—for example, how the disability requirements apply to people with chronic health conditions; how a person with lived experience of disability can become a member of the NDIA board; and how the NDIA gathers information on people who may be eligible for support under the NDIS.

The Turnbull government will continue to work with NDIS participants and the disability sector to deliver a fully funded, high-quality NDIS. This bill represents a significant step forward in protections for people with disability, their families and carers. We will continue to consult with stakeholders to establish nationally consistent expectations for the conduct of providers, the training and screening of their workers and the quality of supports and services that they deliver under the NDIS.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.