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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1400


Ms SAFFIN (PageGovernment Whip) (10:02): I am sure the chocolates are there because of Valentine's Day—they look tempting!

I rise to speak in strong support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. Like a lot of things, it has been a long time coming. It pleases me to be able to stand here and say that I am part of a group—the federal parliamentary Labor Party—that did the work and got to the stage where we can have a bill before the parliament. At this point I would like to thank some people. I think it is important to do so.

Firstly, I would like to thank ministers, particularly Minister Shorten, who was previously the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services. This was already a big issue, but he was able to make it a big issue in a political sense so that a lot of people took notice. I thank him for doing that when he was in that role. When I talk to local people in my electorate, who welcome this scheme, they always mention his name. He visited my seat of Page and met with a lot of those people when he was parliamentary secretary.

Secondly, I would like to thank Minister Macklin, the Minister for Disability Reform, for her support, her leadership and her detailed work on this issue. It is not easy to say that the system is broken and that we have to reconstruct it into a whole new system—and that is what we are doing. This is a new system that is being built on a patchwork of systems, projects, programs and services that exist across the country, across jurisdictions. A lot of that is done in the states and territories but also with Australian government involvement.

I would also like to thank former Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard for their leadership and support in working to make sure this bill could come to fruition. That is really important, because it is not an easy thing to do.

I would also like to thank a local person, the late Jacob Baldwin. Jacob was a friend of mine over decades. Jacob was a disability activist, having once done a tour of Australia in his wheelchair to highlight the issues faced by people with disabilities. I can report that some more good things will later be flowing out of the early advocacy and work that Jacob did. For many years Jacob talked about how we could have a different system, how we could have a national insurance system that guaranteed that people with disability would be included and able to participate in life. Jacob was a strong advocate for the services following the individual, not the other way around, so that service delivery is not a model for the service that applies; rather, the person gets the service that they need. That was Jacob's dying wish, and he knows that this work is being carried on. It pleases me to be able to stand here and thank the late Jacob Baldwin.

This bill establishes the framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency—the agency, as it will become known, which will enable the scheme to be launched. Commencing in July 2012, the agency will launch the scheme in five sites across Australia. The first stage of the scheme will involve and benefit more than 20,000 people with disability, their families and carers living in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, the Hunter in New South Wales and the Barwon area in Victoria.

Like everything, everybody in Australia wanted it to be in their area. But it is a transition agency and it will launch it and it will finesse it, so it is good that it is on the road.

The bill also sets out the objects and principles under which a national disability insurance scheme will operate, including giving people choice and control—and choice and control are the two key words—over the care and support they receive. That means they have independence in a way that they cannot when they are offered services and told, 'These are the services you can have.' So choice and control are very important for all of us.

This bill, with its objects and principles, also gives effect in part to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which sets a really good standard and a universal standard that we all subscribe to. But, importantly, it gives expression to the Australian value of a fair go. We talk about a fair go; that is an Australian value writ large in our nation. It is a bit of a hackneyed expression, but we do know what it means. It means fairness, it means access, it means inclusion—and all the things that flow from that to give people with disability that choice and control over the care and support they receive.

The bill also sets out a process for a person becoming a participant in the scheme, how they develop a personal goal based plan with the agency and how reasonable and necessary supports will be provided to participants. I am sure in the future there will be a lot of discussion about reasonable and necessary supports. It is important to have that language in there to work out just what sort of support will be available for people. People will be able to choose how they manage their care and support and how they can receive assistance from local coordinators should they wish to. A lot of people with disability are of course adults or growing into adults, and often they have families who assist them with their care and their daily lives. It is always about the balance of working their family and their carers into the care that they receive so they have still got their independence but there are other people involved in their life in providing that care. It is a perennial issue but one that we have to be mindful of as well.

There are a few other things I would like to say about the bill. There was a Productivity Commission report called Disability care and support. The Prime Minister released that report in August 2011. All governments agreed with the recommendation to establish a national disability insurance scheme. That was the easy part—everybody agreeing—and we are now facing the challenging part in rolling it out. But it is not beyond us. In Australia in public life we have done other great things, nation-building things that are about infrastructure—this one is about people's lives—so it is not beyond us. Also it is not beyond us to get the right mix with the states and territories to make sure that we have got the best scheme we possibly can. People with disabilities deserve the best. For too long, while there has been extremely good care and support in some places, in others it has been patchy. All of us need to be focused on that and not on some of the argy-bargy that can go on in this place.

There are a couple of other things and people that I would like to mention. Another person in my area who has been an advocate for this is Michael Lockrey. Michael is profoundly deaf. When Michael and I have conversations we do it by email, Facebook and all those other written forms. He recently met with me in my office to discuss some issues to do with people with disability, particularly the deaf community. He has his technical equipment with him so that when I speak it is converted into text and he can read it online. I use that technology as well sometimes. I have got it on my computer and I have been using it for quite some time—Dragon dictation. I think, for occupational health and safety reasons alone, a whole lot of people in this place would be better off if they used that technology as well—talking to their computer instead of sitting there writing all the time.

When Michael came to see me, we talked about the NDIS and we also talked about something that goes to the heart of this whole national disability framework, and that is the things we take for granted, like watching television. We watch television and we hear it, but people who are deaf obviously do not hear it. You see a lot of captioning on television now, and that is administered under ACMA. We had a big discussion about that. I put in a submission to ACMA on its draft Broadcasting Services Television Captioning Standard 2013. I said there were two main types of captioning services available to consumers and one is better than the other. The two types I referred to are block captioning and live scrolling captioning. The pre-prepared block captioning is essential for all non-live content as it provides the best possible outcome for people who are deaf or have a hearing loss. The live scrolling that you see is understandable for live events such as sport and live crossovers, but it is the worst way to go and it is disrespectful to consumers when used on non-live programs.

I just want to take this opportunity—I will not go through my whole submission—to say that that is a key issue affecting people in our community who are deaf.

Also, there is a process under ACMA for exemption, so media can apply for a whole lot of exemptions. Currently, I am in discussions with ACMA—I cannot cover that here—about the whole exemption process. I stand to be corrected, but my reading and the advocacy I am getting from Michael Lockrey and others indicate to me that exemptions are given too easily. I am taking up that issue directly with them on behalf of the community. I just have to do some more reading in that area to get right on top of it. But, as I said, at first look it does not excite me. It appears that those exemptions are given too easily.

In closing, going back to the bill, I would like to say a few things about its actual content. First of all, the scheme will consider the whole-of-life context of people with disability. It will respond to each individual's goals and aspirations for their life and will plan with each person to take account of their individual circumstances. This will include looking at how to support carers to sustain their caring role and will take account of their needs, goals and aspirations. It goes back to the issue that I discussed earlier in my contribution about how to involve carers but still give the person receiving care their independence. The bill will also cover other crucial elements of the NDIS, including interactions with compensation schemes, registration of service providers, appointment of nominees in certain circumstances and merits review.

Recently, I was lobbied by some senior people who are talking about the scheme. I have yet to have a look at that information and give that some consideration as well. I have received a few emails from some of my local people asking me to look into that.

The agency will be overseen by a board made up of people with extensive experience in the provision or use of disability services; in financial management and governance—both those are essential; and in the operation of insurance schemes. There will also be an advisory council made up of people with lived experience of disability and caring. That is absolutely critical to adding to the management and the success of the scheme, and the ability to review, and to ensuring that people are getting the services they need.