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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1152


Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (11:48): It is my pleasure to speak on this important legislation, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, and, in doing so, follow so many of my colleagues who have already spoken in this debate on behalf of their electorates. We just heard the member for Makin talk about some of the people making great contributions in his electorate. As the member for Makin pointed out, as much as we see the great work by the volunteers, as much as we see the great work by some of the not-for-profit organisations and see the struggle of the carers and those with a disability, we cannot know all of the struggles and all of the difficulties unless we are in that situation.

There has been an acknowledgement in this parliament and in the last parliament that the current system of disability funding is broken. Previous governments of both political persuasions have acted to improve things. It is a system that has suffered from the difficulties of being split between state and federal governments, but we know that the current system is broken and we know that it is unfair. We know that the way you acquire a disability can unfairly determine the level of support that you get. We know that, in other circumstances, so much of that support is capped and, therefore, leads to rationing. That is why on this side of the House we have shown our strong support every step of the way for the creation of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is a scheme that will give support based on need and where the individual will be at the centre and in charge. We have supported the initial work by the Productivity Commission, the $1 billion in the last budget, the five launch sites, the agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales for a full state-wide rollout after the Hunter launch and, of course, we support this legislation. As the leader of the coalition, Tony Abbott, said recently, 'The NDIS is an idea whose time has come.'

I want at the outset to pay tribute to all of those in the disability sector that brought the argument to where it is today. There have been some great leaders and great visionaries, and I know Senator Fifield from our side of the House has worked very closely with them.

We know of those in our electorates who have worked so hard for so long to promote the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the work of the Productivity Commission was particularly groundbreaking in giving the new path forward.

Can I say though, that for us to deliver everything that those wanting the NDIS would like it to deliver, for us to meet the hopes and expectations, the implementation will be absolutely critical. The reason there has been so much difficulty is the patchwork between Commonwealth and state funding over such a long period. For us to do well as a parliament and to deliver the very best that the NDIS can offer means that the implementation will have to be managed every day and every week to the best of everyone's ability. I think, as Senator Fifield has said, it is important and wonderful that the NDIS is supported by every government and every opposition at every level right across Australia. But the implementation will take place over a number of parliaments. It will involve all of the state and territory governments over a long period, and that is why we should be determined to make sure that the implementation is governed as best as possible.

Any failure of implementation will be felt by the disability sector, and that is why the coalition has called for the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to be chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the establishment and the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We have a role to legislate here, but we also have a responsibility to oversee the implementation of what will be a very complex and groundbreaking reform. That is why there should be a specific joint parliamentary committee chaired by both sides of politics. In this House, Mr Christensen has had a motion to establish this committee for some time. I would like to see that motion come on for a vote. Senator Fifield, our shadow spokesman for disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector, has had a similar motion in the Senate, and unfortunately that motion was voted down. I would urge those opposite, as they reflect through their contributions in this important debate, to accept this bipartisan and responsible suggestion to establish a joint committee with a chair from each side of politics to make sure that parliament is there to oversee this very important implementation.

I think if we could establish this, it would be a great step forward and would give confidence that the implementation will stay on the rails, and that those who have argued so hard for this reform will equally have that avenue open to them to help oversee the implementation. I call on those opposite to reconsider what has been opposition to the establishment of this bipartisan committee, to recognise it can play a critical role, to recognise the complexity and the time frame of the rollout and perhaps before the debate is out to indicate that this important committee will be established to do the work over three terms of parliaments and with the nine different state and territory governments that it will be working with to make the scheme work.

Can I pay tribute to just some of those doing great work in my electorate. I have over many weeks and months had the opportunity to meet with, consult with and hear the views of those working directly in the disability sector about the need for the NDIS, about their key constraints today and about their hopes for a better future. I am going to mention three groups I have had a bit to do with. I will not be in a position to mention every single group. As you would appreciate from your electorate, Madam Deputy Speaker O'Neill, every person with a disability or their carer who we come across wants to see a better system. But I pay tribute to just some of the groups who represent so many across the electorate and do so much good work. The Melba Support Services group in Mount Evelyn was started by a group of parents a few decades ago because there was not a tangible support service in the area.

I have had quite a bit to do with Wesley Fire and Clay. They do a great job in Lilydale. The Yarra View Nursery is a supported employment program run by Knoxbrooke. I pay tribute to them. I very strongly support, along with my colleagues, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I again urge the government to reconsider, in this bipartisan debate, their to-date opposition to the establishment of a bipartisan joint parliamentary committee. I urge them to indicate, perhaps before this debate is out, that they have had second thoughts and agree that the establishment of that would be a very important ingredient in making sure that the implementation is the best that it can be.