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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14500


Ms BURNEY (Barton) (17:43): I rise to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill 2019. I move:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes:

(a) the longstanding calls from people with disability and their advocates, and the recommendation of the Senate Community Affairs Committee in November 2015, that a Royal Commission be established to inquire into the violence against and abuse of people with disability;

(b) this conservative Government rejected, in March 2017, the recommendation of the Senate Community Affairs Committee that a Royal Commission be established, and voted twice in the Senate against calls for a Royal Commission to be established;

(c) that children with disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than children who do not have disability, and that 90 per cent of women with intellectual disability have been sexually abused; and

(d) there is now commitment across the Parliament for a Royal Commission into violence and abuse perpetrated against people with disability; and

(2) calls on the Government to ensure a majority of Royal Commissioners have lived experience of disability and that there is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Royal Commissioner".

We know how important it is that people with disability receive high-quality care from the people they trust. This is one of the key reasons why, when Labor were last in government, we introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is why Labor committed to a royal commission into violence against and abuse and neglect of people with disability back in May 2017.

People with disability are significantly more vulnerable to abuse and neglect, and often they are simply unable to access the justice that they deserve. This bill establishes the legislative framework for the commencement of a national worker screening database for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, known as the NDIS. The Council of Australian Governments Disability Reform Council agreed to establish a nationally consistent approach to worker screening in which states and territories will collect and analyse worker screening applications for the NDIS and the Commonwealth will establish and maintain a national database.

Currently, individual states and territories are responsible for collecting and maintaining their own worker screening processes. This bill maintains individual state and territory arrangements for the collection of worker screening information, but it creates, importantly, a central national database to store and disclose that information as required. The database will disclose information to those who are employing staff to work with NDIS participants to confirm to employers whether a particular person does or does not pose a risk to people with disability.

Labor welcomes this legislation because we know that people with disability are at greater risk of abuse than others in our community. Too often this abuse comes at the hands of people whom people with disability should be able to trust the most. There are many horrific cases of people with disability being abused and assaulted in institutions, and residential and educational settings. According to Disabled People's Organisations Australia, 92 per cent of women with intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted. Sixty per cent of these assaults occur before these women turn 18. Further, children with disability are at least three times more likely to experience abuse than other children.

While the national worker screening database will be an important tool to prevent some abuse occurring in the future, it can never investigate the crimes of the past, nor will it address systemic failings in other sectors, including health, education, mental health and justice. The voices of people who have been abused must be heard. We cannot continue to allow these sickening incidents of abuse to be swept under the carpet. This is why Labor committed to a royal commission into violence and abuse of people with a disability, which the Leader of the Opposition, along with the member for Jagajaga, announced in May 2017. Only a royal commission will have the power, weight and authority to uncover the stories of injustice and deliver lasting changes for people with disability. It is good to see the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government finally take the royal commission seriously. People with disability and Labor have been calling for this for many years.

Labor has called on the government to ensure that the final terms of reference are broad and cover a range of contexts, including education, health, mental health and residential settings. Labor believes it is crucial that it also covers historic abuse and abuses. Above all, it is imperative that the government consult with people with disability and their advocates, not only in setting the terms of reference but also in the conduct of the royal commission itself. Labor has also called for the majority of the members of the royal commission to have lived experience of disability and for at least one royal commissioner to be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. Labor has also asked the government to consider assistant commissioners to make sure the voices of people with different experiences of disability, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and LGBTIQ people are considered at every stage of the process in the formulation of the recommendations.

I also want to take the opportunity to briefly discuss the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison's government neglect of the National Disability Insurance Scheme over the past five years. I have been absolutely gobsmacked and extraordinarily disturbed by the many people I have met with, both people with a disability and their families and advocates, to hear some of these stories. The government's last-minute announcement on prices for providers is an admission that it has completely botched the rollout of the scheme. The NDIS is recording a massive underspend. The scheme is running behind schedule, with the equivalent of 77,000 eligible participants missing out. Participants are continuing to experience lengthy delays and plans are being underutilised. This means that people with disability are simply not receiving the support that they need. The government should get the NDIS right, not use it to prop up its budget, and that is what we are seeing. Let there be no misguidance on that.

In 2014, the Liberals placed a staffing cap on the National Disability Insurance Agency which has stifled the agency's capacity to properly roll out the scheme and has placed unnecessary pressure on staff. Labor's plan, if we are afforded government, is clear. We will start by abolishing the Liberals' arbitrary staffing cap. This will give capacity for the NDIA to do its job properly. We have to make sure the NDIS fulfils its promise and improves the lives of Australians with disability and this means putting people with disability and their families back at the heart of the NDIS.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Howarth ): Is the amendment seconded?