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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9309

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (19:16): As someone who has had a longstanding interest in disability issues broadly, I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion regarding the National Disability Insurance Scheme. For too long people with a disability, their families, their carers and the people who work within the sector have been sidelined and neglected. The result is that today we have a serious deficiency in the services available to people with a disability—services vary from one state to another, and it depends on which state you live in as to what kind of service you can access. It is a system that needs an overhaul and that has too often pushed people out of sight and out of mind. That seems to have been the mentality and the mindset of people in the past. It is time that is changed, because people with a disability should be treated no differently to anyone else. Every Australian counts.

I have listened to speakers from both sides of the chamber on this debate and I do not question for a moment the sincerity with which members have spoken with respect to the motion before us. The reality, however, is that if you are going to speak to this motion it is one thing to talk about sincerity and the issues that are of concern to you and it is another to have a look at the facts. I want to raise some of the facts with respect to this matter, because members opposite have consistently used the word 'bipartisanship' with respect to the motion.

Let us look at some of the facts. Fact 1: it was this Gillard Labor government that put the National Disability Insurance Scheme on the agenda, that commissioned the Productivity Commission inquiry and that received the report back in August last year—almost a year ago. Fact 2: this government has committed $1 billion over the next four years and, while the member for Solomon says that is a relatively small amount of money, it has in fact brought forward the starting time for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Fact 3: it was the South Australian, ACT and Tasmanian governments that immediately embraced and committed to the trials proposed. All of those governments are Labor governments. Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia initially made no such commitments. Fact 4: in fact, New South Wales and Victoria only came on board after widespread public backlash caused those governments considerable embarrassment. We needed the public to get on board before the governments of New South Wales and Victoria made caring commitments. Fact 5: the Queensland government continues to walk away from this scheme. Campbell Newman cannot find $20 million for a National Disability Insurance Scheme but he can find $120 million for the Gold Coast racetrack.

Let me put an additional fact on the table. The South Australian government, a smaller government than the Queensland government, found its $20 million up-front without debate, without argument, in order to get on with the job of bringing in a national disability insurance scheme. If you want to talk about bipartisanship, you do not do it simply by words; you have to match the words with your dollars, as South Australia, the ACT, Tasmania and now Victoria and New South Wales have done.

The substance of this motion is to form a committee of federal parliamentarians. The fact is that disability is a joint responsibility between the federal government and the states and territories. The federal government acknowledged that and quite properly has formed a state and federal government select committee on disability reform, with the state and federal disability ministers and the treasurers of each state being part of that committee. That is the way it should be, because they are the people who will ultimately carry responsibility for the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme across the country.

As I said earlier, people with a disability, their carers and the support workers in the sector have waited long enough. They want to see the government getting on with the necessary reforms. They do not want to see more committees and hear more talk about what might or might not be done. They know what is being proposed—and it is being proposed, I might add, in conjunction with a number of consultative committees that have been established to help the government work through this, with people who come directly from industry and know exactly what is needed and how best to achieve it. It is time to get on with the job. It is time to make a national disability insurance scheme real.