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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2127

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (10:33): by leave—I move amendments (1) to (3), as circulated in my name, together:

(1) Clause 4, page 5 (after line 16), after subclause (5), insert:

   (5A) People with disability have a right to access independent disability advocacy support to promote, protect and ensure their full and equal enjoyment of all human rights enabling full community participation.

(2) Page 19 (after line 26), after clause 14, insert:

14A Agency may provide funding for advocacy services

      The Agency may provide funding to other government agencies, for the purpose of ensuring that people with disability have access to independent disability advocacy services.

(3) Page 19, after proposed clause 14A, insert:

14B Agency may provide funding for a complaints handling mechanism

      The Agency may provide funding for the establishment and ongoing operation of a national complaints handling mechanism that would have the purpose of resolving complaints made in relation to services and support provided for under this Act.

I will not take up much of the parliament's time explaining my amendments because, frankly, I think they are self-explanatory and also because I am as keen as anyone in this place to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme pass through the parliament as quickly as possible.

The first amendment would ensure that the right to access advocacy services is a fundamental principle of the NDIS—and so it should be, I suggest, because, even with the very best of intentions and the very best disability support arrangements, there will continue to be a pressing need for some people with a disability to be able to access independent disability advocacy support services that promote, protect and ensure their full and equal enjoyment of all human rights enabling full community participation.

The second amendment addresses the concern in the disability sector that some form of guarantee needs to be embedded in the NDIS that applicants for support, and participants, will be able to access advocacy support services. Yes, there are arrangements currently in place which provide for advocacy services nationwide. But the current Commonwealth block-funding arrangement is not guaranteed and is limited, providing currently only some $16 million annually, spread across all of the states and territories. This simple amendment will go some way at least to providing that certainty by giving the National Disability Insurance Agency the power to fund advocates should the need arise and, in doing so, also provide for another avenue of funding for any additional advocacy services that might be required, especially in the NDIS establishment years.

I add that I acknowledge that there is a widespread belief in the disability sector that advocacy services must be independent of the NDIA. This makes sense to me and I agree with it because advocates should not be put in situations where they are acting against their employer. For that reason, the amendment makes explicit that any funding for advocacy that the NDIA might provide is to be paid to other government organisations, the result being that advocates ultimately funded by the NDIA will not be acting simultaneously for the NDIA and an applicant or participant in the NDIS. They will be at arm's length from government, which is exactly the situation now.

The final amendment simply gives the NDIA the authority to establish a national complaints-handling arrangement, again if the need arises. This is important because currently the complaints arrangements in the states and territories are limited to those jurisdictions, which is obviously incompatible with a federally funded national disability support system. Moreover, I am advised that what does exist currently is inconsistent and inadequate in some jurisdictions, which reflects the very need for a National Disability Insurance Scheme aimed at bringing equity and certainty to the disability sector.

In developing these amendments I have relied on the advice of a number of people, in particular the Chief Executive Officer of the Disability Advocacy Network Australia, Andrea Simmons; as well the President of Advocacy Tasmania, Alderman David Pearce; and the Chief Executive Officer of Advocacy Tasmania, Ken Hardaker. To them and to the many others who informed my consideration of the NDIS, once again I say thank you. In closing, I say thank you to the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform for the tireless work she has done on delivering what history will record as one of the most important nation-changing reforms of this or any parliament.