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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1416


Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (11:17): I thank the member for Kennedy for allowing me to speak first. Let me state clearly and unequivocally that, in the words of Tony Abbott, the NDIS is an idea whose time has come. All of us in this chamber know that the system of support for Australians with disability is, frankly, broken. The provision of disability services has long been the purview of the states. But unfortunately the states have reduced funding, failed to consult and work together, and failed to deliver a seamless, consistent disability support program.

The concept of a national disability insurance scheme has gained momentum over the last half-decade, due in large part to a grassroots campaign by carers, Australians with disabilities and the various organisations that support them. The idea was largely conceived by John Walsh AM, a partner at PwC, and progressed by Bruce Bonyhady AM, the president of Philanthropy Australia. It was first canvassed at the 2020 Summit in 2008.

It is important to note that in 2009 we the coalition supported the government's referral to the Productivity Commission of an inquiry into this important area. The final report of the Productivity Commission inquiry was subsequently released in August 2011 and received bipartisan support. Its conclusions are wholeheartedly endorsed by this side of the House. It is pleasing to see that agreements have been reached with five jurisdictions to host launch sites, including New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT. Queensland and Western Australia are not hosting launch sites but have both submitted proposals to the Commonwealth to be part of an NDIS. It is important to note that the Productivity Commission never envisaged every state hosting a launch site and never saw the absence of a launch site as a bar to taking part in a full national rollout. Indeed, Premier Newman has written to the Prime Minister with a proposal to be part of the national rollout, and Premier Barnett has written to the Prime Minister proposing a joint WA-Commonwealth NDIS.

The Labor government have sought to claim this idea as their own. They put it to the Productivity Commission, to their credit. But now is the time for bipartisanship. Again, this is an idea whose time has come. The coalition have enthusiastically supported each milestone on the road towards the NDIS. We supported the initial work by the Productivity Commission. We supported the $1 billion in the last budget. We supported the five launch sites. We supported the agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales for a full state-wide rollout after the Hunter launch. And we support this legislation.

We support a person-centred and self-directed funding model. It is aligned with the objectives of empowering the individual, removing government from people's lives and reducing red tape. This truly is a once-in-a-generation reform. It will unfold over several parliaments. It is therefore the property of the parliament, the 150 men and women who represent the country as a whole. This is the property of the Australian people, not of one particular political persuasion. We all know we need a new system of support based on need rather than state based rationing.

The individual needs to be at the centre of this. They need to be in charge. The individual must be able to pick the supports, aids, equipment and service providers of their choice—personal choice, personal empowerment. That links in with personal responsibility, with the people at the centre. I love it. It is classic liberalism, with government out of the way and individual choice front and centre.

I am personally committed to this mostly because the calibre of a nation is reflected by how it treats its marginalised, its elderly, its infirm, its disadvantaged and its veterans, and also because I watched as my Aunty Sue, my mother's sister, battled the system for decades and decades for her two children, my first cousins, Alex and Joel. These two little children were born profoundly deaf, unable to speak, suffering Down syndrome and suffering a range of other substantial conditions including severe autism. These combined disabilities would take the life of little Alex; through the grace of God, Joel still lives his life as productively as possible, considering the profound and multiple disabilities he suffers. And what about my dear Aunty Sue? She volunteers and works for and with kids with disabilities, and dear old Uncle Reg remains a champion by her side. Some people are true gifts. They epitomise what Jesus meant when he said: 'Whatever you did for the least of my one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Aunty Sue and Uncle Reg are two of those people.

There are other people in my electorate who are gifts. One is Mike Dwyer and his family, who live in Runaway Bay. They have two daughters, aged 22 and 20, both of whom suffer from Friedreich's ataxia, a neurodegenerative condition that has both girls in wheelchairs. It is a condition for which, currently, there is neither treatment nor cure. The two young ladies are intelligent, they are engaging, they attend university and they have an enormous amount to contribute to society, but they suffer a physical disability—physical only—and they need a reasonably high level of support.

Mike Dwyer is the President of Friedreich's Ataxia Research Association, FARA, which is a not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to fund research on FA. They have raised $4 million to date—impressive—for research into this condition that affects approximately 300 Australians. Every dollar FARA raise is put to work. Every research project they fund and every trial they sponsor represents progress. Small steps they may be, but progress it is. They are on a mission, with an objective that is realistic and that they believe, and I believe, will be achieved. Like all things, it is a question of time. Progress is made every single day, and researchers' continued commitment is explained by the sentiment: 'We think we can get this one done.' The work they do is important. Mike is quite rightly looking forward to the day when the current disjointed system of rationing is replaced with the full implementation of an NDIS. It will be a new deal for people with disabilities and their carers, and a new deal for his daughters, these two bright, intelligent and engaging young women, enabling them to make their own choices about their own care for their own lives.

The coalition have demonstrated a personal commitment in this space. Tony Abbott has demonstrated a personal commitment in this space. It is a commitment to Australians with disability. He has raised over $540,000, through the 2012 Pollie Pedal charity bike ride, for Carers Australia. Along the 1,000-kilometre route Mr Abbott met with people with disability, with carers, with disability organisations, with mums and dads and with brothers and sisters. He met with everyday Australians who would otherwise never have the opportunity to front up to a senior politician like the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. He met them in lycra, on his bike, on a journey through small country towns. The next two Pollie Pedals will also be in partnership with, and raise funds for, Carers Australia.

The coalition believe an NDIS can be delivered within the time frame recommended by the Productivity Commission by a prudent government that manages well. Any comments that should be made in this House about an NDIS must be offered constructively and in the spirit of helping to make the NDIS the best that it can possibly be. Let me state categorically that we stand ready to work with the government to see this delivered as soon as possible. This will require a very high level of consultation and attention to detail, not just in the launch sites, but from now to full implementation. The coalition still believe that a joint parliamentary committee, chaired by both sides of politics, to oversee the establishment and implementation of the NDIS is the best way to go. It would lock in all parties and provide a nonpartisan environment where the issues of design and eligibility could be worked through cooperatively. The NDIS is not owned by a party, by a side, by an ideology or by a belief. It is owned by the people of this nation. George Christensen has a motion in the House to establish this committee. I look forward to it receiving widespread support.

The NDIS is not an issue that we will draw swords on. We will draw swords elsewhere. I look across the table at Minister Clare, until recently a senior minister with Defence. He and I would draw swords regularly, although we would decide on the field of battle, like in times of old, to keep our bipartisanship to the fullest extent and only fight the issues that we had decided on, because defence is important. There is something else that is as important as defence in the public life of our nation, and that is the care of those with disability. Just like our strong bipartisanship in defence, just like the strong bipartisanship the minister across the desk and I have had on combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we offer that same bipartisanship on the NDIS, with the same strength and the same commitment, because we all just want to see it get done.