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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4038


Mr BILLSON (Dunkley) (18:37): It is a post-valedictory contribution that I hope does not cause too much grief. I am very conscious of the shot clock.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You are very welcome on the floor of the parliament.

Mr BILLSON: You are very kind, sir. This could be my last utterance on this floor, so I hope it is a worthwhile contribution. I want to begin by thanking Bruce Bonyhady, all of the board, the executive and all of the staff at the National Disability Insurance Agency. Rolling out the NDIS is an extraordinary challenge of grand proportions that represents one of the great social ambitions of our generation. It is not straightforward, the moving parts are immense and this is a very extraordinary enterprise we are all a part of to see that it is done well. I have characterised it as a bit like building an aircraft while we fly it: things are going okay; there is a need to refine, adjust, extend the range and be able to bring further people on board on this journey, but it is a challenge.

I admire the way in which successive ministers—very much so, including our current minister, Christian Porter—have navigated the policy framework and the way in which the parliament has embraced this very important initiative. I also want to thank my friend and colleague the member for Fisher. He is my predecessor, and I have large shoes to fill in his wake as I take on my role as the committee chairman of the joint parliamentary oversight committee of the NDIS. I want to thank the member for Fisher for his great insights and the great policy perspicacity that he has brought to that task and in the earlier reports of the oversight committee.

This bill is another instalment in that journey. It reflects a very heartfelt and genuine commitment of the government to fully implement the NDIS, and I am pleased to say that that long-term and enduring commitment carries over from similar ambitions held by the previous Labor government. This recognises that we need to get this right for people who have needs for lifelong support that are reasonable and necessary supports for them to achieve a full life—a fulfilling life—a life where ambition and potential, that is a part of everybody's journey on this planet, is also a part of the journey for people with disabilities.

Whilst we are very successfully managing the rollout of the NDIS, we always need to make sure we have a close eye on what we are learning along the way. I was pleased to hear colleagues talk about the Barkly trial, and I know, again, my friend the member for Fisher has been amongst the Barkly community, talking about their experiences and the insights that can be drawn from that early stage of the rollout. From my recent visit to Palm Island—an Indigenous community; quite remote and off the coast from Townsville—I am pleased to say that a lot of the learnings out of the Barkly trial are now being picked up and embedded as business as usual on Palm Island. One of the great insights—particularly if you are wanting to engage with Indigenous community—is to have one of the community elders actively involved in raising awareness and giving people confidence and competence to navigate the support that is available. There is a direct insight and learning from the Barkly trial, and this is what we are seeing throughout the trial sites: new insights on how to make sure we do this incredibly significant challenge for our generation—that we do it well and we learn from our experiences.

The Commonwealth has now signed bilateral agreements for the full transition of the scheme in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. In the capital, here in the ACT, it has been agreed that eligible populations will be fully covered by September this year. Together, these agreements provide for around 85 per cent of the anticipated 460,000 Australians expected to be eligible for support under the NDIS. We know we have a parallel comparative trial operating in Western Australia, and that is being extended and expanded as well to ensure that the little under 11,000 current and future participants know of the ongoing support available to them and their families through the NDIS. The Commonwealth and the Western Australian government have agreed to finalise a state-wide rollout of the NDIS by October, this year, and a full rollout in Western Australia will continue on from 1 July. There is lots going on, and we are working to finalise arrangements in the Northern Territory as soon as possible.

Let us look at the Northern Territory. We know the Northern Territory has one of the challenges that we face—what is known as thin markets. We have a dispersed population and nowhere near the dozens and dozens of service providers you might find in a capital city, but we have this ambition to ensure that, regardless of your place of residence across this vast continent, you will get the support that you need. That is one of the insights. That is why working through and mapping out how to successfully make the NDIS available for Northern Territorians is very important.

It is one of a range of issues that our second report from the joint standing committee touched on: how we tackle thin markets. These are communities where the idea of empowering participants is to select from a range of service choices and providers available to them—to make sure a full life and full ambition is given full opportunity through the NDIS. That is a difficult proposition in more-remote locations. Other insights were: how do we build the workforce? This is an extraordinary ramp up. That is $22 billion annually, when it is fully operationalised, for just under half a million of our citizens. How do we make sure we have the workforce that can provide top-quality care at an efficient price and enable participants and their carers to exercise the choice that is at the heart of this scheme?

Another area we have been looking at is participant engagement. I touched on the Barkly trial insights and our learnings that are being applied in Palm Island but, for those living with a disability, how do we make sure that they are aware of the opportunity and support that is available for them as the scheme is rolled out? And then, being informed of those choices and opportunities, how do we make sure that the capacity is there to choose, access and analyse the array of options available—whether it is directly by the participant or through their families and carer network? These are important challenges.

For the NDIA itself, we need to get its systems right. You can imagine there are all these moving parts. It is an immense assignment to have quality embedded in well-priced services that are being delivered in the way in which they were intended, representing good outcomes for the participants and good value for the taxpayer. This is a challenge that is also being faced.

But also in building capacity we need to understand that the service providers themselves are on quite a journey. If you are used to block funding through whatever level of government to provide an identified level of care or service for an identified group of consumers, clients and participants and that money is paid up-front and then you make sure that you are doing what is asked of you to the standard that is expected, that is a very different concept to being a service provider needing to enchant and delight customers who have no obligation to draw the service from you. This is a real transformation in those businesses.

I was pleased to be part of the Australian Institute of Company Directors' briefing workshop in Melbourne just last week where it was all about social enterprises. Social enterprises are inspired by a purpose and community vision, but they cannot run at a loss. Just because you are a not-for-profit that does not make it okay to lose money. You are not for loss and not for profit.

Many of the agencies, organisations and service providers in the NDIS enterprise and endeavour are facing their own challenge. For a business to be told, 'Here's a chunk of money. Here's what's required of you. Do the right thing with the client group we've identified. Everything is sweet, and we'll do it again next year,' is different from them saying, 'Here's what I think I as a service can do for you within your eligibility funding envelope that has been assessed. Here's how this will help pursue the ambitions and goals you have for fulfilling your life and here's where we think we can make a difference and use that allocation of resources wisely.' That is a different proposition. What if the service provider is not meeting their clients' needs? What if there was an experience in an earlier year where someone was not quite at the top of their game and the participant is looking for another person to be their provider? This whole idea of being customer driven is quite a cultural transformation that is not easily navigated. These are some of the challenges we are facing.

This complexity is in part why this bill is before the chamber today. What was understood and recognised quite early by governments, not just this government but all governments in the Federation, was that there was a need to make sure the board that oversaw this great enterprise had the skill set, insight and wisdom to navigate these charges that I have described. And there are a whole bunch of others, such as transitioning organisations, strategy, risk, insurance, governance and implementation. It is not a small challenge.

That is why there was an independent review of the skills, competencies and experiences required on the board to support this post initial transition phase into a full rollout and then embed good systems and good value, meeting the ambitions of governments, participants, service providers and the broader community in the longer term. That is what triggered this bill. That review identified that there was a need for a broader range of experience on the board to talk about change management. This is a transformation of very substantial proportions. Navigating that requires skill sets that might not ordinarily be the first that come to mind when you are putting together the governance structure and board of an organisation like this, such as financial management and deep embedded expertise in management of insurance based schemes. This is why there was a need to revise the board, specifically its membership but also its configuration. That is why we have this bill before us today.

This is a sensible move. This is part of what we are learning on this journey that we are seeing with the rollout, understanding what government and policymakers need to do to give the scheme the very best chance of success. As I mentioned earlier, 460,000 people are counting on us getting this right.

I want to go back to where I started. There is a group in our community of carers and parents who have selflessly given up their lives to care for their loved ones. We know of the stories about mature-age parents who have spent 50 or 60 years caring for a loved one with a profound intellectual disability. We know that the care and support available and the impact that has had on the metabolic rate of such participants sees those parents being called to do things well into what should be retirement age. I have spoken with such parents. We all have in this place. They want to know that they can look forward with confidence to a scheme that will provide all of the support that is reasonable and necessary for their loved ones. Why? It is because they have done that selflessly right throughout their lives.

That is what inspires and animates the NDIS. That is why getting it right is important. That is why this bill is in this House—to make sure that the skill set, talents and competencies on the NDIA board support that very virtuous ambition and recognises that families and carers have given all you could ever ask of them in the love, care and support of family members living with a disability. That is why I commend this bill tonight.