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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9255


Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (16:56): I rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017. This is a very important piece of legislation. Labor supports the development of a strong quality and safeguards framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. A strong quality and safeguards framework is required to protect and prevent people with disability from experiencing harm arising from poor-quality or unsafe supports or services under the NDIS. This is vital to the success of the NDIS.

The NDIS was, of course, created by Labor in 2013. The NDIS represents a dramatic shift from services delivered under largely block-funded contractual relationships between providers and Commonwealth, state and territory governments to one where people with disability are the purchasers and consumers of services from a diverse market under the NDIS. This bill establishes an independent national commission to protect and prevent people with disability from experiencing harm arising from poor-quality or unsafe supports or services under the NDIS. At full scheme, the commission will be responsible for overseeing quality supports and services for people with disability who are receiving NDIS supports and services, such as information, linkages and capacity—ILC.

The bill's explanatory memorandum states that the primary focus of the commission will be regulating NDIS providers to ensure that NDIS participants receive the standard of service they deserve. Schedule 1 of the bill relates to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. Specifically, it amends the act to establish the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission as an independent statutory body with the following integrated regulatory functions: registration and regulation of NDIS providers, including practice standards and a code of conduct; compliance monitoring, investigation and enforcement action; response to complaints and reportable incidents, including abuse and neglect of a person with disability; national policy setting for the screening of workers; and national oversight and policy setting in relation to behaviour, support and monitoring the use of restricted practices within the NDIS, with the aim of reducing and eliminating such practices and facilitating information-sharing arrangements between the commission, the National Disability Insurance Agency, the agency, and state and territory and other Commonwealth regulatory bodies.

It is a large and complex bill, but, at its core, this is about helping to empower and support NDIS participants to exercise choice and control at the same time as ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place and establishing expectations for providers and their staff to deliver high-quality supports. As I said, this is a complex bill and is fundamental to the successful rollout of the NDIS. Labor referred this bill to a Senate inquiry to ensure there was a chance for it to be properly examined. Through the course of this inquiry, stakeholders—including disability groups, providers, unions and state governments—raised multiple and serious concerns about the bill. It is fair to say that some of the concern amongst stakeholders could have been avoided with a more transparent and earlier consultation process. The government needs to consult better with people with disability and their carers, advocates, providers, unions and the states and territories on these issues. It is vital to the success of the NDIS.

At the time that submissions were due and hearings held, the majority of stakeholders had not seen the draft rules. This is particularly important, given that many key issues are delegated to be resolved within these rules rather than the primary legislation. As a result it was very difficult for stakeholders to be supportive of the bill, given that they had no visibility on how key objectives of the bill were to be approached. Labor consulted extensively with stakeholders on this bill, working through their concerns and seeking further information. I take this opportunity to thank stakeholders for their passionate and dedicated work on scrutinising this bill to ensure that we get this right, up against tight time lines and a large and complex bill on which the government should have consulted better. I'm pleased to say that through this process Labor has managed to work with the government to secure some important amendments to the bill. The government will—I might seek leave to continue my remarks.

The PRESIDENT: That would be very courteous of you.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I was waiting for the President to pull me up.

The PRESIDENT: You will be in continuation after this.

Debate interrupted.