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Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Page: 2068


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (17:42): I would like to start my contribution to the debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2013by quoting from the Community Affairs Legislation Committee report into the bill:

The committee heard overwhelming support for the introduction of an NDIS. The committee did not hear from a single submitter, be that an organisation or an individual, that did not support the introduction of some form of structural and funding overhaul of the provision of disability services and support. … none thought the status quo provided adequate and equitable access to services.

I also would like to quote from the evidence provided by DANA, Disability Advocacy Network Australia, who said:

The significance of the NDIS cannot be overstated. It has the potential to be the most important change to the provision of support for people with disability to occur in any nation, at any time.

This is a historic day in the history of our nation. For the first time, we will see the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. As many in this debate have said, and as Senator McKenzie said in her contribution to the debate, this is a reform whose time has come. It is a reform the government is proud to be delivering. As has been commented on, and as Minister Macklin said in her contribution, it is rare that a proposed reform strikes such a chord with so many of us across party lines. The consensus in the parliament reflects the consensus in the Australian community. It is indeed a historic day.

This is a scheme that will transform the lives of people with disability, their families and carers. The NDIS will provide people with the care and support they need when they need it by giving them greater control over the services they require to lead fulfilling lives. For too long disability support services have failed those who need them most, which is why we are implementing the NDIS. Many people are born with or acquire a disability; in fact, on average in Australia, every 30 minutes someone is diagnosed with a significant disability. In a modern Australian society it is beholden upon us to deliver care and support to someone with a disability that affords them the dignity and the opportunity to lead a full life. We want to provide support for people with a disability so that they can live in society and have the same opportunities as those without a disability.

Before I get into the detail of the bill we are debating today I want to take the Senate back to how we got to where we are today. The government, through the then Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, asked the Productivity Commission to hold a public inquiry and report on a long-term disability care and support scheme. The Productivity Commission's report on disability care and support was released by the Prime Minister in August 2011, and all governments agreed with its recommendation to establish a national disability insurance scheme. In last year's budget the government set aside $1 billion over four years from 2012-13 to help roll out the launch sites in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, the Hunter region in New South Wales and the Barwon area in Victoria. All together, the launch sites will make real the NDIS for around 26,000 people.

From July 2013 in South Australia the NDIS will be launched focusing on children aged from birth to five who have significant and permanent disability. From 2014 the age limit will be extended to 13. In the third year of the launch, children up to the age of 14 will be included. It is expected around 5,000 children will be covered under the first stage of the scheme.

In my home state of Tasmania the first stage of the scheme will cover young people aged 15 to 24 from 1 July 2013. This is expected to cover around 1,000 Tasmanians. I look forward to seeing the Tasmanian government reaching an agreement with the federal government so that people with disability across Tasmania can be supported by a full scheme. That age group has been selected as it is a highly important time in a young person's life as they are transitioning from high school into work and/or further studies. The NDIS will offer this age group the opportunity to receive greater levels of support and assistance to lead fulfilling lives as they leave school and are faced with options of work or further study.

I have to say that in Tasmania the news of the state being named as a launch site was met with significant optimism and excitement.People genuinely feel this scheme will change lives by providing a new way to care and support people with a disability. While I have this opportunity I also want to acknowledge the passionate advocates in my home state for tirelessly advocating for a NDIS not just since the Productivity Commission's report but for many, many years.

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I believe this passionate grassroots campaign, supported by the strong commitment and work of the state Labor government, played a key role in helping Tasmania secure one of the launch sites.

In the ACT from July 2013 the government will deliver enhanced services and commence preparations for a full launch , and in July 2014 the NDIS will fully commence in the ACT. The NDIS launch site in the ACT is expected to cover up to 5,000 people , an increase from the 1,400 who currently receive specialised disability services. In N ew S outh W ales the Hunter region will be used as the launch site , and it w ill be phased in over three years across the local government areas of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland. This is expected to benefit around 10,000 people with disability in N ew S outh W ales . I n Victoria the NDIS will commence from July 2013 in the Barwon area , covering the c ity of Greater Geelong, the Colac Otway s hire, the Surf Coast s hire and the b orough of Queenscliff e . These launch sites for the scheme are vital because th ey will play a key role in identifying what works well on the ground in practice and what we may have to look at tweaking to ensure that we get this highly a nticipated scheme working as it is intended.

The b ill will have two key purposes : to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the associated framework for the s cheme's operation and also to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency, which will operated the first stage of the scheme through the launch sites that I have just spoken about. The framework of the scheme will implement items such as eligibility, reasonable and necessary support s and goal based plans for participants.

This framework is reflective of the principles agreed at COAG between the Prime Minister and the s tates. It include s: g iving people with disability individual care and support s based on their needs ; g iving people real choice and control over these supports , meaning more control over their lives ; e nding a situation where people are not told what support is available, or how to access that support ; and f ostering innovative services that are delivered and coordinated locally. The scheme is designed to move away from the crisis model where families only receive support if they are unable to continue in their caring role and there are no other options. This scheme is designed to work with families before they reach this stage and make sure the valuable care they provide can be sustained by giving great er government support.

The scheme will also look at taking a lifelong approach to supporting someone with a disability by focusing on early intervention, particularly when there is good evidence that it will substantially improve a person's functioning. Of course , significant consultation and work was undertaken with states and territories and with people with disability, their families, carers, disability workers, service providers and advocates on the design, funding and governance of the scheme.

As I mentioned, the b ill also establishes the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency as a body that is independent from the government. It will be the responsibility of the a gency to deliver the scheme as well as performing a range of functions , including managing the financial sustainability of the scheme, building community awareness about disability and undertaking research about disability and the social contributors to disability. The agency will be overseen by a board that is made up of people with extensive experience in the provision or use of disability services and in financial management, governance and the operation of insurance schemes, as well as an advisory council made up of people who have lived with the experience of disability and caring.

As a member of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee I had the opportunity to be involved in the Senate inquiry into the NDIS Bill. The committee heard wide-ranging evidence on the benefits of the scheme and potential areas that required improvement. I am pleased that through this committee process and other means the government has made a number of amendments to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill. I am pleased that the parliament has been able to come together, leave past partisanship at the door and deliver a piece of public policy that will improve the lives of so many Australians.

Before I finish I want to acknowledge the passionate community campaign that has been running for many years to see the implementation of the NDIS run by the disability and carer community, providers and unions. I believe that the momentum generated by the thousands of passionate advocates from around Australia ensured that governments from all levels worked together to see that the scheme was put in place and launched, because we know the current support system is underfunded and unfair. We are now faced with the launch sites and then proceeding to the full implementation of the scheme. This NDIS Bill, as Minister Macklin has stated, has the rights of people with disability, their families and carers at its heart and:

The bill will implement a nationwide, demand driven system of care tailored to the needs of each individual and established on a durable, long-term basis.

Failing is simply not an option. The eyes of people with a disability and their families and carers are upon us. It is now our job as elected representatives to ensure that this scheme improves the lives of people with a disability.

I also want to acknowledge in my contribution here today the significant work of the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin MP, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas. They have both done an extraordinary amount of work as the driving forces behind ensuring this legislation has come to fruition. I am sure that this is an extremely proud day for Minister Macklin and Senator McLucas as this bill is debated and we see it progress into law.

As the Prime Minister said in her speech in the House on the NDIS Bill:

The NDIS will stand alongside the minimum wage, the age pension, Medicare and universal superannuation as one of the great Labor pillars of social justice and opportunity for all Australians. It will change our society in profound and lasting ways, enabling those who live with disability to fulfil their potential as valued and valuable members of our society.

I commend the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the Senate.