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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1163

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (12:41): It is my privilege to rise and support the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, which is before this House, because the NDIS is truly a historic reform for our country and for our parliament. It could not have come any sooner for the more than 400,000 Australians who have a significant disability and for their families and their carers.

It is particularly important today to acknowledge that the NDIS has bipartisan support. I would like to take this opportunity to praise government ministers, in particular the member for Maribyrnong, who championed this cause when he was the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, and also a former state MP, John Della Bosca, who has done a lot of work with the Every Australian Counts campaign.

On our side of the House I would also like to pay particular tribute to Senator Mitch Fifield, who is our shadow minister for disabilities, but also to our leader, Tony Abbott, who has personally championed this cause and in fact, in last year's Pollie Pedal, which he undertakes annually, raised more than $500,000 for carers.

It is through the combination of the government and the opposition that we will together see that the NDIS becomes a reality. We have supported the NDIS in a bipartisan way ever since it was first referred in 2009 to the Productivity Commission. We supported it when a billion dollars was allocated over the forward estimates for these launch sites, and we support it in this bill before the House and the subsequent implementation of the NDIS.

Big ideas and big reforms start as a kernel of an idea, but if they are going to be legislated into reality they need champions in this place. I am proud to say that there are those on both sides of the divide. I also want to give particular credit to one of my constituents and friends whose name is Bruce Bonyhady. He is Chairman of Yooralla and also President of the Philanthropy Australia Council. He has promoted and pursued the concept of the NDIS with every fibre of his body. To the people who have participated in the Every Australian Counts campaign, and so many others, I say thank you.

In my electorate, there are so many organisations and community groups that work in this important area of disability support. There is St Paul's College at Villa Maria; Belmore School, a special school in Balwyn; and the Association for Children with a Disability in Hawthorn. There is Q ArtStudio, which allows people with a disability to pursue their untapped talents for the arts; e.motion21 is a wonderful group that allows young people with a disability to pursue dance as a way of enjoying their life and pursuing a recreation; Vatmi Industries, which provides employment opportunities; and EDAR, which is in Surrey Hills, Balwyn and Balwyn North. And there are many, many other organisations and outstanding individuals like Ariane Garner-Williams, who I have met, who have been ambassadors for people with a disability. During this time these community groups and these individuals have championed the idea of an NDIS. They have kept the pressure on people in this place to see that this reform becomes a reality.

The bill before us today establishes a framework for the NDIS and establishes the NDIS Launch Transition Agency, which will operate the scheme initially in five locations starting in mid-2013—South Australia, the ACT, Tasmania, the Hunter in New South Wales and Barwon in my home state of Victoria. This new agency will fund individual support packages and block-fund some entities. Eligibility to become a participant requires that a person's impairment to have resulted in 'substantially reduced functional capacity' which affects their mobility, learning, social interaction, communication, self-care or self-management. Once a person is eligible support can be granted to alleviate, prevent or mitigate deterioration in a person's functional capacity. Importantly, people over 65 years of age will not be eligible to request NDIS support. However, if a person is already receiving NDIS support and does turn 65 they can continue with that support.

Each eligible person will have a plan prepared for them detailing the support they receive under the scheme, the management of those funds and the date for review. At a later date there will be further NDIS rules which will outline the process for becoming a plan manager as well as rights and processes pertaining to reviews under the scheme.

There will be an agency board with a chair and eight board members who will have a range of skills and experiences across the financial, insurance and disability sectors. The Commonwealth will appoint the chair and will require a majority of jurisdictions to support the board appointments. Importantly, there will be an independent advisory council with at least four people with a disability on it, at least two carers and someone who has skills in the supply of equipment to help people with a disability. There will be an independent review of the act that will take place after two years. These are important logistics that can actually turn this reform into a reality.

It is no secret that we on this side of the House have called on the government to establish a joint parliamentary committee which would be chaired by representatives of both sides of the political divide to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. Issues of design, eligibility and delivery will still need to be worked through over the coming years, and this should be done in a bipartisan manner because no one single party or no one single person owns the NDIS; it belongs to the community as a whole and the notion of a bipartisan committee to oversight its implementation is a step in a positive direction. It is quite different to having a parliamentary committee inquire into this bill or into the NDIS. This would be setting up a permanent committee to deal with the transition and implementation. It is unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition has had to write five times to the Prime Minister about this and my colleague the member for Dawson, George Christensen, has introduced a private member's bill.

Despite these efforts on our side, the government has refused to countenance, to this point, this idea of a bipartisan committee to oversee the implementation. Nevertheless, we will continue to promote this amendment. We do not want to see a repeat of the wrangling we saw between Liberal premiers and the government before the last COAG meeting, because we need to be above the partisanship, particularly when it comes to this reform. At the end of the day, this reform is too important for us to fail. The NDIS needs to be properly funded by this government and they are going to have to explain where they are going to find the additional billions of dollars that the Productivity Commission has said would be necessary over the forward estimates, because the target deadline for getting a full scheme up and running is 2018-2019. We have criticised the fact that only $1 billion has been set aside for the forward estimates to reach these five trial sites, which will reach up to 20,000 people with a significant disability. This is a start, but it is not enough.

We are here today debating the NDIS and pushing it through as a parliament, as a significant reform, because the system has been broken. The system of funding and supporting people with disabilities has failed the Australian people. It is just not right that depending on where and how you got that particular disability—for example, whether it was in a car accident or by birth, or whether you live in South Australia or Victoria—you are funded differently for the same disability. It is not right. With another Australian becoming significantly disabled every 30 minutes, this is a serious issue. I want to remind the chamber what the Productivity Commission said back in July 2011 when they reported to government:

The current disability support system is underfunded, unfair, fragmented, and inefficient. It gives people with a disability little choice, no certainty of access to appropriate supports and little scope to participate in the community.

Those are damning words and they resonate not just in this House but also across the Australian community in every small town and in every big city. If we are going to find that additional $6.5 billion annually that was identified by the Productivity Commission, we will see funding for disabilities increase by up to 90 per cent. Currently the states and the territories provide $4.7 billion and the Commonwealth $2.3 billion annually for people with a disability. But we need to find that additional $6.5 billion. If we do find it in a bipartisan manner then we will see funding for people with a disability reach about the same level as the disability support pension. It will be more than we allocate to the PBS, but it will be less than the $18 billion a year that we allocate to Medicare.

Questions about the funding are absolutely critical—it requires the bipartisan support of this House and it requires a decision by the political leadership of this country to prioritise the funding of people with disabilities, because at the end of the day we do not have an endless pie of money that we can just pull from for every particular need. We have to prioritise and, as far as I am concerned, we need to prioritise supporting people with a disability.

My eyes were opened when I was at university teaching tennis on a voluntary basis with a group called the Kids Tennis Foundation. We would go out to some public courts every week—I and a man called Bob Crump—and teach kids with Down syndrome how to hit a tennis ball. You would think kids with Down syndrome could not hit a tennis ball, and you would be right. But the point is that they got out on the court every week, threw a racket around, missed nine out of 10 balls, but the smiles on their faces would bring a tear to anyone's eye. I know that my colleagues on the other side of the House and my colleagues on this side of the House have had similar experiences as they have attended the morning teas in their electorate under the banner of Every Australian Counts, as they have visited Yooralla, as they have visited the art studios and the dance studios that give opportunities for young people with a disability, as they have spoken to the carers who give so much of their time and are underpaid to support people with disabilities, and as they have sat down with the family of a child or an adult with a disability they have heard those personal stories.

I think the NDIS speaks to our humanity as a nation. It speaks to our personal compassion. It is actually why we are all here. We may disagree on the avenue and the route to finding the same place, but that same place is all about creating a stronger, fairer, more prosperous society. If we grasp this opportunity to take the NDIS beyond this bill before the House and beyond these five trial sites that have been set down, we will have achieved something that previous parliaments have never done. The people of Australia are watching us. They are hoping that we can deliver on that promise, and we should not let them down.

Debate adjourned.