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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2128

Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform) (10:37): I thank the member for Denison for his concern for the role of advocates. As he knows, we too understand the very important role that advocates play, as they work very, very hard to support the needs of people with disability.

As the member for Denison has acknowledged, the bill sets out a very clear function for the agency—to facilitate care and support for people with disability. If the agency provided funding to advocates as the member for Denison's amendment would effect, the agency would be administering funding to advocates with whom they may strongly disagree. We are concerned that this could lead to a conflict, and, as I previously indicated to the member for Denison, it is my strong view that funding for independent advocacy should remain separate from the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Of course there is funding that the government provides. That is in the budget—it is provided in the forward estimates—and I think it is very critical to the ongoing needs of people with disability. I think that this money should continue to be provided by the government but not through the statutory agency that we are establishing today. The independence of advocacy is absolutely critical and must be maintained, including in funding arrangements. This was the view put by the Productivity Commission. It is also the view that has been put by many advocacy organisations, both to me and to the Senate inquiry. They do not want to see advocacy managed by the agency.

What is also particularly relevant in the broader context of these amendments is that the amendment would have the effect of requiring the agency to fund advocacy services, and this is not to be core business for the agency. So, although I understand and respect the intention of the amendments being moved by the member for Denison, we do not share his view about the best way to achieve it. He understands my view. So we will not be supporting the amendments.