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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9057


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (11:16): I rise to support this motion moved by my good friend the member for Dawson. I congratulate him for it, for I know it is an issue dear to his heart. However, before I start, I must comment that it is most disappointing to hear that contribution from the member for Blair. We want this issue to be bipartisan, with every member of this House working towards delivering a national disability insurance scheme. That contribution shows exactly why we should support this motion.

I will go through this motion. It recognises that the proposal for the NDIS is a once-in-a-lifetime landmark reform that has the potential to deliver better quality-of-life outcomes for Australians with disabilities. It also recognises that the scheduled implementation for the NDIS as proposed by the Productivity Commission will take seven years to deliver, spanning the lives of three parliaments. It recognises that the NDIS is a reform that will involve the cooperation of the state and territory governments and the disability support sector and people with disabilities and their families. It notes—unlike what we heard in the member for Blair's recent comments—that this has bipartisan and cross-party support for its implementation delivery. It also declares in support for the policy that the stability of the NDIS is most important. Over the lives of these three parliaments and the full scheme's implementation over these seven years we need stability. We need to have bipartisanship going through those next three parliaments for the next seven years.

Therefore, this motion resolves to immediately establish a joint select committee on a national disability insurance scheme which will: (a) oversee the implementation of the NDIS; (b) be subject to the terms of reference to be agreed upon by the Prime Minister and the opposition leader and ratified by the entire House; (c) be comprised of four government members and/or senators, four opposition members and/or senators, one Greens member and/or senator and one non-aligned member and/or senator; (d) be jointly chaired by one government member and one opposition member; and—this is the most important point—(e) remain in existence until the full implementation of the NDIS is achieved.

This is a motion well worth supporting. This motion is a test. It is a test to see whether this government is truly concerned about a better deal for the disabled or whether it is just coming in here to play politics with the most vulnerable members of our society. Most importantly, it is the Productivity Commission's own timetable that said the implementation of the NDIS will occur over the life of three parliaments. So, if we as members of this current parliament are truly concerned with the welfare and opportunities of our disabled, it is our duty to support this this motion. The importance of this motion is that, should there be a change of government at the next election, the progress of the NDIS can continue smoothly.

This motion also commits the current opposition, should we form the next government after the next election, to the notion that the delivery of the NDIS will remain a bipartisan issue. Further, should the current opposition form government after the next election, this motion commits that government to maintaining a bipartisan committee, consisting of four coalition members, four Labor members, one Greens member and one non-aligned member. This motion will ensure that all parties are honest about the delivery of the NDIS for those with significant disabilities.

I hate to say this but the Productivity Commission called for $3.9 billion to be allocated to the trials over the forward estimates and yet, while the government talks this up, they have only delivered $1 billion. From day one, this parliament is short-changing our disabled by 75 per cent.

There are three major issues that this bipartisan committee on a national disability insurance scheme needs to consider—firstly, what services need to be provided and to whom they will be provided; secondly, how those services will be delivered because, although getting the framework right is very important, it is only one thing and we need to be very careful that the NDIS is not captured by bureaucracies and that the funding we are putting forward goes to providing resources to those who most need them; and, thirdly and most importantly, how we fund the NDIS. We can have all the goodwill in the world, we can tour the countryside talking up the NDIS and taking the applause of disabled groups, we can design the most efficient and effective scheme to provide those services, but, unless we determine how the NDIS can be paid for on a sustainable basis and clearly state how that extra $7 billion will be funded, the NDIS will remain nothing but a mirage and a cruel hoax upon the disabled.

That is why it is important that government members support this motion: so we show the disabled and send them the message that this is truly bipartisan.

The method of funding the NDIS must be sustainable. It cannot be funded on deficit spending. Without criticising this government, we have had the four largest budget deficits in our nation's history. We had a $20 billion surplus, net zero debt and $60 billion in Future Fund. By the end of the last financial year, we had borrowed $120 million every day and now our level of national debt is north of $140 billion. Because of the debt we have accumulated, next year, before we find one cent for the disabled, we in this parliament have to come up with close to $7 billion in interest payments, which will mainly go to foreigners. That is the equivalent of $300 for every man, woman and child, or $1,200 for a family of four. Those are the interest payments that we have to come up with. We have to come up with that $7 billion year after year for ever, until we start paying back the $140 million we borrowed.

That is the reason why we cannot fund the NDIS out of further deficit spending. The truth is there are only two ways that we can fund the NDIS. We must cut the waste. We must eliminate many of the indulgent, feelgood schemes, and we must do it by making sure our economy is running on all cylinders and by lifting our productivity. We cannot do that by introducing new taxes that raise the cost of doing business in Australia and make Australian industry uncompetitive.

This motion calls for a bipartisan committee and I would like to put my name forward as a member of the committee, for, as they say, I have skin in the game: I know how desperately we need an NDIS, because it affects me directly. My son Trent was born 16 years ago with Down syndrome and autism. He has no speech. My wife and I will need to care for him for our entire lives. This has made me appreciate how each individual has their real value and how the dignity of every individual must be respected, but most importantly it has awakened me to the fact that as a nation we need to do so much more for our children with disabilities and for their carers. It has made me personally aware of the unsung group of carers across Australia, who we may well call our neglected people.

I personally understand that for parents caring for a physically or intellectually disabled child it becomes a lifetime's task. I understand that for most carers there are no days off, there is no sick pay, there is no holiday pay and there is no superannuation. When carers grow old, they do so with the worry about what will happen to their children when they are too old or frail to nurse them. Many parents I know with kids with severe disabilities are on medication for depression. Divorce rates are high and studies show that single mums who have kids with severe disabilities have the same stress levels as soldiers in combat.

We are a wealthy and compassionate country. The time has come for us to find a way—a bipartisan way, without any of the old excuses—to provide a generous and practical response to the needs of people with severe disabilities and their carers. I call on members of the government, many of whom I know genuinely want to see the NDIS delivered over the term of these three parliaments, over these seven years, to show goodwill and to support this motion. Let us refocus on getting this done rather than scoring political points off each other. Also, showing support for this motion would be a great boost to our disabled people. It would show we really want to get this done. I hope as members of the government you will support this motion.