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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9307

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (19:11): I thank the member for Dawson for bringing to the House the very important issue of disability, and it is with pleasure that I rise to voice my support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the implementation of which has—contrary to what those on the other side say—bipartisan and cross-party support. I, along with my coalition colleagues, strongly support the Productivity Commission's recommendations on providing a better deal for Australians with disability and their carers. Earlier this year I pledged my support to and got involved in the Every Australian Counts campaign, the national initiative designed to raise awareness and support for a disability system for all Australians.

I have had a long association with people with disabilities. When I was in my early teens, my father was confined to a wheelchair almost overnight. Luckily for him, with intensive rehabilitation and sheer determination he was able to regain the use of both of his legs and to give away his wheelchair for the rest of his life—or so he says. In my early 20s I was involved—as you would probably surprised to learn, Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou—in the Miss Australia Awards, through which I raised $30,000 for Carpentaria Disability Services, which is a program for the families of children and adults with disabilities and high support needs in the Northern Territory. It was through this program that I became reacquainted with the pressures faced by the loved ones and carers of people with disabilities. It was also through the awards that I met Jeffery McCourt and Raymond Roach, both of whom, along with their extended families, still today have a special role in my life. My husband Paul and I provided respite care for Jeffery until his late teens, when he was too big for me to lift. Jeffery was born with cerebral palsy. His parents were grateful to Paul and I, knowing that we cared for Jeffery with as much love and care as we would have had he been our own son. Caring for Jeffery gave us great joy—particularly to our son, who thought that he had another brother. It also gave us a real insight into and appreciation of what it means to care for a person with disabilities 24/7.

Like many of my colleagues here, I am a campaigner for better support services no matter how severe a person's disability is. I have mentioned Tahnee Afuhaamango in this place before. She is another dear friend of mine. Tahnee is a world swimming champion who continues to break records. I understand that she is the first person with Down syndrome to be included in an Institute of Sport program in Australia—in fact, she is the first person to be included in such a program anywhere in the world. I admire Tahnee, Jeffery and Ray, who are all in their own way hardworking, tenacious, determined and courageous people who have never allowed their disability to hold them back.

As has been raised in this place before, the coalition is committed to delivering the NDIS—a program designed to provide people with a significant and permanent disability with support over their lifetime, regardless of how they acquire their disability. Earlier this year the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, spoke at the National Press Club, reiterating that the NDIS will be a priority for a coalition government. We have pledged to work with the Gillard government to implement the recommendations as soon as possible, and only bipartisanship will ensure that the NDIS proceeds smoothly.

Movement on this issue, however, appears to have stalled. Sadly, the only funding Labor has committed to is $1 billion over four years, which is almost $3 billion less than the Productivity Commission recommended over the same period. In the lead up to the last budget the coalition called on the government to provide funding certainty; to this date nothing has happened. To this end the coalition has proposed to establish a joint parliamentary committee chaired by both sides of politics to make it work. This is the only way, and it is time that the Gillard government stopped playing politics with this issue. Our communities have spoken and a clear message has been sent to all of us that we should provide proper support for people with disabilities and their carers. The coalition will continue to place this issue above politics and will work towards a better deal for people with disabilities. It is time for the Gillard government to stop playing politics, get serious and get this issue sorted. (Time expired)