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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9065

Mr MURPHY (Reid) (11:52): Labor believes all Australians deserve care and support if they acquire or are born with disability. We believe that no one should be left behind. We believe that accident or disability should not take away the chance for a decent life. That is why Labor supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The NDIS is good news for people with disability in our community, their families and carers. It will give them the support and care they need, when they need it, to help them lead good lives. I am proud to be part of a Labor government that is initiating this historic reform.

Under the NDIS these people, for the first time, will be assessed to receive individualised care and support packages. They will have the power to make decisions about their care and support, including choosing their service provider. They will be helped by local coordinators to manage and deliver their support. And they will have access to a system that they can easily understand and that will connect them to other services. This will give people with disability more opportunities to get involved in work, school and community life.

The government is providing $1 billion over four years to start rolling out the first stage of the NDIS. State governments are also contributing a modest amount to the costs of the launch, to make sure this reform becomes a reality. The coalition ignored people with disability and their carers for 12 years and stood by while demand for disability services grew and disability pensioners struggled with the cost of living. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are not high on the Liberal-National agenda. Some of their state counterparts had to be shamed into participating in the launches.

The former coalition government ignored the inadequacy of the Disability Support Pension and sat on its hands while demand for disability services increased. Under the former coalition government, federal contributions to disability funding grew at a mere 1.8 per cent a year, less than the rate of inflation—in other words, funding went backwards in real terms.

In the policy they took to the last election, the federal opposition proposed to assist just 6,000 children with disabilities and their families. But there are 164,000 students with special needs in Australian schools. The opposition leader had nothing to say to the other 158,000 students with disabilities.

Under the previous coalition government, people with disability had to wait up to a year to get help to prepare for work through Disability Employment Services. And, if they did, their access to their pension was reviewed. This discouraged people with disability from benefiting from work and did nothing to support people with disability to find work. The numbers of people on the Disability Support Pension kept going up after the coalition's Welfare to Work changes, which also failed to support the many disability pensioners keen to contribute more actively to their community.

The first stage of the NDIS will benefit more than 20,000 people with disability, as well as their families and carers. We will now work closely with the state and territory governments on the detailed planning to implement the scheme. This will include active engagement with local communities. The scheme will involve major changes in the way that we work with people with disability, their families, carers and service providers, and we want to make sure that we get this right so that we build a system that is sustainable over time.

We are building the NDIS in selected locations first, to ensure that the implementation of the scheme is informed by feedback from people with disability, their families and carers, service providers and community organisations. The lessons learned in launching the first stage will tell us when and how to proceed to a full scheme that is comprehensive, robust and responsive to the needs of people with disability. I commend the NDIS to the House.