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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1177


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (13:36): I rise today to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, presented for consideration in this place—an historic time. It is fitting to begin by acknowledging the important progress, the aims and the benefits that the NDIS concept demonstrate. All of us in this chamber will acknowledge that the current systems provided to Australians for their disability, their families and their carers are not only insufficient but, as has been mentioned by a number of speakers today and previously on this bill, are also broken. What lies at the heart of many of the issues inherent to the current system is the lack of an universal approach to support based on need, rather than rationing, with the entitlement for support going to the individual.

The level of external assistance a person with a disability receives is largely dependent on several factors. These include: what state they live in; whether the disability is congenital or was acquired, and if acquired, whether it was in the workplace; whether it was as a result of a motor vehicle accident; or whether it was acquired in some other context. Workers compensation and motor vehicle accident insurance provides coverage in some states but if, however, your disability is from birth or you acquire a disability later in life, your experience can be vastly different, with many experiencing exhausting waiting lists and queues. The result is that many people with a disability are left without the assistance they need. It is critical, therefore, that a new system be developed where the individual is at the centre and wherever possible in charge, able to choose the supports, the aids, the equipment, the carer and the service providers of their choice. But what is more vital is that the system is flexible enough not only to adapt to the capacity of the individual, the family and the carers in the management of this process but also that the detail of how this program is implemented is right. The devil, indeed, is in the detail.

The coalition has enthusiastically supported every marker in that development of the NDIS. We supported the initial work by the Productivity Commission, the $1 billion allocated to the project in the last budget, the five launch sites and the agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales for a full state-wide rollout after the Hunter launch. The coalition believes in and supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It believes it can be delivered within the time frame recommended by the Productivity Commission by a prudent government that manages well. This is where the challenge lies. The coalition will devote every effort to engaging with the government and to endeavouring to help to ensure that the NDIS be the best that it can be. We are therefore ready to work with the government to see an NDIS delivered as soon as possible.

However, the coalition objects to the appropriation of the values underpinning the formation of the NDIS by Labor. Members of this government have attempted to assert that the NDIS represents quintessentially and exclusively Labor values. This is demonstrably false. The NDIS represents Australian values—a fair go, helping those who face challenges for reasons beyond their control, providing a secure and effective safety net that empowers those with a disability to reach their fullest potential, to celebrate their abilities, and to achieve a quality of life that every Australian deserves. Most Australians would be surprised to learn that these were partisan values and not those imparted to them by their parents and carers.

The particular value of the NDIS is that it is an individual-centric and self-directed funding model. The coalition believes that the full implementation of an NDIS will be nothing short of a new deal—a new future for people with disabilities, their carers and their families. The success of this new system is absolutely critical and every effort must be devoted to making it the best package possible. Because the NDIS is a once-in-a-generation reform that will unfold over the life of several parliaments, it should be the property of the whole parliament on behalf of the Australian people rather than that of a particular political party. A very high level of consultation and examination is critical to the successful development and implementation of the NDIS. 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 implementation of the NDIS. A parliamentary oversight committee would lock in all parties and provide a non-partisan environment, where issues of design and eligibility could be worked through cooperatively.

The member for Dawson has had a motion in the House to establish this committee for some time now. Regrettably, it has not been brought forward for a vote. Similarly, Senator Fifield moved a motion to establish the oversight committee. Labor and the Greens combined in the Senate to vote it down. The government should accept our offer of a parliamentary oversight committee. The coalition intends to give the government, the Greens and the Independents an opportunity to accept our hand of cooperation by moving an amendment to this bill to establish a non-partisan oversight committee. The offer ought to be accepted.

Despite the best efforts of the current federal government and members opposite to misrepresent facts, every government in Australia and every opposition in this nation supports and wants to see a National Disability Insurance Scheme planned and implemented effectively. That is why at the COAG before last it was disappointing that the Prime Minister could not rise above her partisan instincts. It is to the credit of the premiers of Victoria and New South Wales that they continued to negotiate in the face of public attack and misrepresentation by the federal government, and reached agreement to host launch sites. Their commitment is to the people with a disability, their families and their carers in their states.

The tangible benefits of a constructive approach were apparent when Premier O'Farrell and the Prime Minister signed an intergovernmental agreement in December, for a full state-wide NDIS rollout after the Hunter launch project. The Prime Minister must build on these constructive interactions in discussions with other states towards a conclusion of further bilateral agreements. The NDIS cannot function fully without an intergovernmental agreement with each state and territory. In reference to those states that are not hosting NDIS launch sites it should be noted that the Productivity Commission never stated that every state should host a site, nor did it assert that the absence of a launch site in a given state would be any hindrance to that state taking part in a full national rollout. Indeed, Premier Newman has written to the Prime Minister with a proposal to be part of a full national rollout, whilst Premier Barnett has written to the Prime Minister proposing a joint WA-Commonwealth NDIS. Unlike this government, which has incessantly sought to utilise and manipulate the NDIS as a tool for attacking—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! It being 1.45 pm the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Macquarie will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.