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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2110


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (10:04): I rise to put on the record my wholehearted and continued support for progress of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 and to congratulate everyone involved in the process of getting it to this point. I am the son of a head and neck doctor and so grew up surrounded by many people with disabilities. I learnt to swim in a hydrotherapy pool at a rehab centre. My playground was the Lismore House With No Steps. Many Christmases were spent running off my father's shoulder, wandering around hospitals, visiting patients. I was not allowed a motorbike when I was a teenager because of the number of head and neck injuries my father had seen.

This bill is a wonderful acknowledgement by this parliament of the good work done by many people over a long period of time in making sure that we are a country that includes everyone. It acknowledges and celebrates that all Australians, regardless of physical or mental impairment, have a contribution to make. I do want to single out one person who is a great example of that. I hope that, as this bill is implemented into law, that person will be remembered as the father of this exercise. That person is John Walsh, who is known by many people involved in this process. I am told by the minister that he is now with PricewaterhouseCoopers. From my point of view, he is a great example of what can be achieved in spite of life's adversities. He should be celebrating that we have got to this point in a bipartisan way. He is someone we should be celebrating in a country like Australia. I know success in a bill like this will have many fathers—it is great that it is bipartisan; it is great that it is happening in a minority parliament—but it is the John Walshes who are at the heart of the actuarial and policy work that has gone into getting this bill to this point. He is a great example of why this should matter to all Australians. A big hats-off to him and his contribution.

I am really pleased with this, but it is one of the few examples of bipartisanship in a parliament that could have delivered bipartisanship on many policy issues important to the nation. Unfortunately, from my point of view, over the past three years we have not seen more of this. This agreement is a shining light of what could be and what can be achieved when bipartisanship occurs. It secures the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the long term across state and political boundaries and really ups the credibility of the bill before the House today. I had previously mentioned a minority parliament. Many people at the start of this parliament were saying that it would be shaky and would not be able to do anything. Well, this bill is a substantial reform that we are seeing passed in a minority-type parliament. That is a credit to the negotiation skills of the key stakeholders involved.

I congratulate the Productivity Commission for their work in getting the matter to this point. I congratulate the minister for driving it from there and the opposition for their willingness to put their hands across the table and make this one of those rare bipartisan moments. I recognise there is a lot more work in detail to go into this. In many ways the detail will be incredibly important, both on the economics and in making sure that this is a contribution to the economy of Australia rather than a burden. As well, the challenge of shaping the boundaries will be incredibly difficult. Even now there are anomalies in existing laws about entitlements or arrangements for younger people with disability compared to older people with disability. The age of 26 seems to pop up in a lot of legislation, with things like hearing aids versus speech processors, who is or is not a designated person and the changing nature of arrangements for individuals. Those are a few examples of the complexities that are going to be involved in shaping the boundaries. No-one should think that it is going to be an easy process. I am thrilled that public policy is not shying away from that and is not standing in the way. If those boundaries can be shaped well and if the economics can stand up to some great challenges that we have in mid-term and long-term budget forecasts, then this will be a significant contribution that this parliament has delivered for Australia.

It is probably only a new Pope being announced and celebrated around the world that would be of more significance today, but I reckon this bill is pretty close to it. It will probably not get the widespread coverage that a new Pope will get, but it should. It is good work, it does matter and it is going to mean a lot to many people's lives. From a social inclusion point of view, it will build a better Australia. Well done to all those involved.