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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4048


Mr PORTER (PearceMinister for Social Services) (19:19): I thank all the members for their contributions to this, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. The bill amends the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 to essentially increase the maximum number of members of the board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency, known generally as the NDIA, and also to make a number of minor consequential changes to quorum provisions for board meetings.

Under the amendments, the minister would have the capacity to appoint up to 11 members, aside from the chair. This change ensures that the government, in consultation with the states and territories, has the ability to provide the NDIA with a board that has the required range of skills, experience and abilities to manage the National Disability Insurance Scheme as it proceeds to full nationwide coverage. The government is, self-evidently, committed to the full implementation of the NDIS. This government is committed to the benefits that the NDIS brings for people with a disability, their families, their carers and the broader Australian community. Indeed, it is the coalition government that is successfully managing the rollout of the NDIS—and no small feat is that. We are doing that to ensure that it is going to be delivered on time and on budget—which is certainly the case do date. It is the coalition government that has concluded agreements to ensure that the NDIS will be rolled out across the country. The Commonwealth has now signed bilateral agreements for the transition to the full NDIS scheme, with New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Of course, in the ACT, the agreed eligible population will be fully covered by September 2016. So, together, these agreements provide certainty to date for around 85 per cent of the 460,000 Australians who are expected to be eligible for the NDIS.

Further, the comparative trial in Western Australia is also being extended and expanded until 30 June 2017 to give further certainly to around 10,900 current and future participants of ongoing support from the NDIS. The Commonwealth and the WA governments have also agreed to finalise arrangements for the state-wide roll-out of the NDIS by October 2016, with the full roll-out in WA to continue from 1 July 2017. Essentially, we are on the verge of finalising arrangements for the roll-out with the NDIS also across the Northern Territory.

This week, another very important bill will come before the parliament—that is, the bill to establish the NDIS savings fund to ensure that the NDIS is fully funded into the future. For those opposite who now claim the NDIS was fully funded, that is nothing short of a very clumsy attempt to rewrite history. The claim now that there were adequate, specific, clearly-identified savings set aside to fully fund the NDIS is simply incorrect. Indeed, that is a topic upon which there will be much more to say, no doubt, in the context of the NDIS savings account that will be debated later this week and which I might say here is a major test for the opposition in terms of their support and realistic and rational commitment to the full rollout of the NDIS.

But for present purposes, the measures in this bill simply increase the maximum size of the board and that is part of a limited number of measures, but important measures, that the government is working on constructively with the states and territories through COAG and its Disability Reform Council. We are discussing, through COAG and its Disability Reform Council, a number of limited measures designed to ensure that the NDIA governance structures are agile and are responsive as we commence the very critical steps in transition to full scheme and to ensure that the NDIS can continue to be delivered sustainably on time and on budget, as is presently the case.

I might add, with respect to the COAG and Disability Reform Council process, that contrary to some of the contributions from members opposite in this second reading debate, absolutely none of the governance changes that are being constructively discussed through COAG and the Disability Reform Council would provide the Commonwealth with the ability to limit eligibility to the scheme. Any assertion to that effect is simply incorrect. Nor do any of those discussed changes change anything with respect to the level of reasonable and necessary support that a participant requires. That is neither now nor will it ever be the government's intention. The NDIS Act clearly defines eligibility. It clearly defines what is referred to as 'reasonable and necessary support' and this government does not propose to change those matters at all.

The present measure is part of a range of matters being discussed through COAG and the Disability Reform Council as part of trying to make the governance of the NDIA best suited to protect and advance the interest of those who will be served by the NDIS. The present measure is simply to do with determining the size and constitution of the board. This bill, which would increase the board's size, has been informed by an independent review of the skills and experience required on the NDIA board for the transition to full scheme. That review concluded that the next iteration of the board would need to have stronger experience in ASX 50 or large government business enterprise level organisations, with particular experience in change and financial management, financial systems and controls, and considerable expertise in the operation and management of insurance based schemes. That is perhaps not unsurprising given that the board has oversighted what was the very early stage of the NDIS, but now will need to oversight the growth of the NDIS from around 30,000 participants right up to the figure of 460,000 in what will be a relatively short time frame.

Implementation of this measure has been agreed with the members of the Council of Australian Government's Disability Reform Council, with a staged approach being adopted that ensures that there will be continuity while also producing the best possible governance outcomes during transition to NDIS full scheme. It is for this reason that the government has reappointed the current chair and members of the NDIA board for periods of either six or 12 months as part of this continuity and reform process. The government does not consider the current NDIA board to be expendable, which is quite contrary to some of the comments made by members opposite. That is precisely why we have agreed to extend the current tenures of members of the members of the board and have made it clear that they will be fully considered in any future merit-based appointment process. The amendments before the House today ensure that the NDIA board, which is charged with the oversight of this significant social policy reform, continues to have the appropriate selection of skills, capabilities and leadership qualities to bring the NDIS to full scheme within the allocated budget and time frame.

I thank the members opposite for agreeing to support this bill. I also encourage them to continue their support for other measures that the government is taking to ensure that the NDIS is fully funded, properly governed and sustainable into the future. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.