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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4030

Ms MACKLIN (Jagajaga) (17:56): I am pleased to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. This bill amends the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act to increase the number of board members of the National Disability Insurance Agency from nine to 12, including the chair. Labor is pleased to support the bill. The National Disability Insurance Scheme—designed, funded and introduced by Labor—is already transforming the lives of thousands of Australians with disability, their families and their carers. We are incredibly proud of the NDIS. It is one of Australia's biggest social reforms, in the same great tradition as Medicare. Once it is fully rolled out, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will support 460,000 people living with profound disability. This proposed legislation reflects an agreement reached by the Disability Reform Council earlier this year to increase the number of board members and extend existing board terms. As the scheme expands across the country, it is sensible to also expand the board. This will give the agency more stability as the NDIS continues to grow and as the terms of other board members progressively expire.

The transition over the next three to four years will be hard—nobody can deny that—and we know it will get more challenging as the scheme ramps up, not less. Of course, it was not going to be easy; reforms of this size and scope never are; but, three years in, we already have so much to celebrate. The NDIS is being delivered on time, satisfaction among participants is very high and, despite the many inaccurate claims to the contrary, the scheme is running on budget. The success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is due in no small part to the tireless work of the agency's staff and its board. I want to pay particular tribute tonight to Bruce Bonyhady, the father of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the agency's inaugural chair. For Bruce, the design and delivery of the NDIS is more than a profession; it is a life mission. There simply would not have been an NDIS without Bruce Bonyhady. I sincerely thank him and his colleagues for their work so far. They do a very difficult job and they do it so well. They deserve the support and respect of this government and the whole parliament.

Unfortunately, on too many occasions, this has been in short supply. Just imagine waking up one morning, opening the newspaper and seeing an advertisement for your own job. That is what the current members of the board were subjected to last year. There was no phone call from the minister, no consultation and no prior warning; just a none-too-subtle hint that this government considers them entirely expendable. This act effectively fired the starter's gun on a series of attacks on the governance of the NDIS.

In March of this year, it was revealed that the Turnbull government was pressuring the states and territories into sweeping changes to the NDIS. These changes would have allowed the Turnbull government to unilaterally decide who is eligible for the scheme and what support people would receive. The exposed plan proposed giving the Turnbull government the power to ignore the needs of people with disability, sideline the states and territories, sack board members and put its own conservative cronies in charge. Thankfully, this plan was rejected by the states and territories.

Labor does support the legislation before the parliament today, but we will continue to fiercely oppose any attempt by this government to undermine the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. If anyone opposite in this Liberal-National Party government tries to cut, cap or delay the National Disability Insurance Scheme; attempts another federal takeover or make more baseless claims about funding, Labor will stand with people with disability and defend the National Disability Insurance Scheme against any of these cynical attacks. People with disability, their families and carers have waited their whole lives for the NDIS. It is unforgiveable for the government to keep trying to mislead and frighten Australians about the future of the scheme.

Before the minister reveals his next round of cuts in tomorrow night's budget, he should remember this: people with disability are not the political playthings of the Turnbull government. Australians will not accept more cruel cuts from this government under the guise of funding the NDIS. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is already funded; the last Labor government made sure of it. Labor's 2013 budget set out a 10-year funding plan for the NDIS. This included an increase in the Medicare levy and also several other savings and revenue measures.

These budget measures, and the numbers underpinning them, were prepared by the Treasury. The Treasury secretary at the time was Martin Parkinson—the current secretary of the Prime Minister's own department. The coalition knows the NDIS is funded because they actually supported most of these budget measures. Not only did they vote for all but one of them, some of the measures even passed the parliament after the election when the Liberals were in government. To now say—as this government does—that the NDIS is not funded amounts to an effective theft of money that was always intended for people with disability.

Tomorrow night, when the government will claim it must yet again cut support from vulnerable people in order to fund the NDIS, Australians will see it for the falsehood that it is. We are entering a really crucial period for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and there are plenty of unanswered questions. We need answers from the government on housing supply; we need more action on preparing a high-quality, well-paid workforce; and more attention needs to be given to sector development. This is where the government's focus should be: not on trying to take complete control of the scheme, picking fights with the states and territories, fibbing about the funding or trying to sack the board.

No matter what the Turnbull government throws up tomorrow night and no matter what other attacks they have planned for the NDIS, people with disability know that Labor will always stand with them. Labor built the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We most certainly will not stand by and watch the Turnbull government tear it down.