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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1443


Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (13:20): In speaking on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012, let me be clear: I support the mothers and fathers of children with a disability. I strongly believe that we should support independent and driven young persons with a disability to achieve all they wish to achieve. I stand with them because I have seen what they have to live through, day in, day out. I have seen what constitutes good practice and bad practice. I am in full support and accord with those who cannot access a system where they get best practice.

But I cannot simply support them and not ask on behalf of the coalition the critical questions of the NDIS. I, and everyone in the coalition, want to see the best possible version of the NDIS. However, the bill at hand and in discussion today will have served only five per cent of the estimated 411,000 people with disabilities after five years.

Is this good enough? The total allocation of moneys for the bill in its current form, as per the parliamentary statements, of $1 billion, represents only 39 per cent of what the Productivity Commission reported as being required. That requirement was to end the treatment of people with a disability as, to quote Minister Shorten, 'being second-class citizens.'

Is it the case then that 61 per cent of people deserve to be treated like second-class citizens? Is that good enough? More questions arise when one asks what are the plans beyond four years? When will the full rollout be achieved? This is typical of Labor policy and financial and economic management, as can be seen by the MRRT and carbon tax debacles. The members opposite cannot even count. Mathematics is not their friend. The coalition and I, on behalf of those impacted by this legislation, are calling on the government to put aside partisan politics and work together for the Australian people. It is not beyond us, as political parties or as a parliament, to demonstrate a bold unity and a brave originality.

To the members opposite, it is time to accept the constructive hand of opposition and put in place a joint parliamentary committee to oversee the establishment and implementation of the NDIS. There are simply too many questions being asked by too many to keep it to the same few of government. It is abundantly clear that people want cooperation, they want consultation and they want the best possible NDIS because they deserve it. People with a disability in this country deserve certainty and dignity. Agreeing to establish a joint standing committee is a dignified action that removes the NDIS from ambit partisan politics. It is not a Labor issue or the Liberal issue, a Labor belief or a Liberal belief, but an Australian belief. To be an Australian is to believe that no matter who you are or where you come from you are entitled to a fair go. Today, I fear the government will not heed the better angels of its nature and will not heed the helping hand of the coalition.

I fear for the funding of disability services. I fear the NDIS will not create a bigger pie but become an exercise in how that pie is cut and, worse, under this Labor government the pie has got smaller. These are the fears of the thousands in my electorate of Tangey impacted by this bill. I want to be able to look the critics of the NDIS in the eye and say that the gross price tag of $14 billion is being optimally allocated and is value for money. I want to be able to tell the apoplectic voters in Applecross that the sort of rorting that happened in New South Wales will not be a problem when we get to the issue of naming approved providers and the implementation of the scheme.

To the members opposite, will you help us do this? Money is important but not most important. There are ways to make money smart and ways to make money dumb. This government possesses a unique ability to make everything dumb. Smart money invested in the NDIS would give a better return and a way from suboptimal allocations, a way from back-ending towards front-loading. Invest more, earlier and at a younger age. This is where close cooperation with the states is vital. State governments know their state better than Canberra. Therefore, trying to paint a picture of non-cooperation between Liberal state governments of WA and Queensland is both wrong and destructive. There are further economic-centric arguments that focus on the implementation of the scheme, such as the case of the treatment plans written by the individuals themselves or their carers. Is it possible that there could be asymmetries of information operating on all sorts of level. For example, is it not necessarily the case that the individuals will use their allocation of funding optimally? Similarly, for the approved providers, does this set up a marketplace for government funded oligopolies in the provision of services? These fundamental questions, which are to be laid out in the legislative instrument, would benefit from scrutiny and oversight of the coalition's proposed joint committee on the NDIS.

Ultimately, all in this place want to see a new day for all peoples with a disability. When nearly one in 50 Australians live with a disability, the time to act is now. It is true that right across our respective electorates we need to get to where we see ability not disability. Every day those living with disabilities are serving and contributing towards the country. If they are willing to answer their country's call, then surely our country can he hear them out. While we in the coalition commend any and all action taken to move forward in the area of disability services, we note the track record of the current Gillard administration—blunder after blunder, blow-out after blow-out. That is why the coalition want to help guarantee, through the establishment of a joint committee, the best possible outcome for the largest number of people. I take heart in noting that the Labor administration, in outlining the operation of the NDIS, have opted for a model long advocated by the coalition. Empowering the individual through individual care plans and funding, a voucher system ensures the most efficient social and economic use of resources. It minimises value destruction and makes for good policy.

As with most Labor plans, however, there are often overlooked areas—sometimes purposely overlooked. And in politics, as in life, no man is an island. For example, those developing a disability after 65 will not be covered, and there are scare stories relating to those with low vision. Certainty is something that these people deserve. Let the broadsword of history fall against those of small-minded vision for those with physical or mental challenges and all those differently abled. No-one in this coalition will speak against the amount of money it will cost, for as Wilde said: 'A cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.' Tony Abbott champions people with disability. The Pollie Pedal raised $540,000 in 2012 alone.

The challenge is real. The work must go on. We have to get this right. We have to get it right because, quite frankly, Labor have got so much wrong. They were wrong on the predictions of the revenues to be raised by the MRRT. They were wrong on Green Loans, pinks batts, solar schemes and school halls. They were wrong on the carbon tax. Were they wrong on Rudd?

I wish to thank all those in the disability sector in my electorate of Tangney in Western Australia who met with me, worked with me and inspired me. It must be noted that further expansion of the NDIS will be dependent on the Commonwealth negotiating and concluding further bilateral agreements with each and every jurisdiction. Having the coalition parties inside the tent would indubitably help the cause of getting agreement with the states.

The hyperactive nature of what is proposed in the bill causes me some discomfort. This stems from the one scheme providing advice, assistance and referrals, and also funding for individual treatment plans and block funding. The question is: where does the money come from and at whose expense? We have already seen defence spending cut. Today we are at a defence spend equal, in percentage of GDP terms, to that of 1938. We have seen commitments to reform education though the Gonski review of school funding, yet there is no commitment of funds until 2022; a decade will go by before an extra red cent goes in.

The undisputed big win in the bill is for the cause of personal liberty. No longer will the scarred hand of government bind the choice of a person with disability. Moving to self-directed personal plans of treatment is an immensely positive step. The bill talks about 'becoming a participant' and not just passively 'getting' but actively 'becoming'. In the final analysis, I am critical not because I disagree with NDIS but because I support it. I support the end of discrimination against our fellow Australians. I support knowing the price but also the value. Freedom is the birthright of the weak as it is of the strong. This bill is about hope. I certainly hope it delivers.