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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8808

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:04): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by Senator Fifield today relating to a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

For me, this was a particularly disappointing question time. As you know, Mr Deputy President, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is something that I have championed and something that this side of the chamber is extremely supportive of. We have entered a strange period when a question seeking factual information in relation to the NDIS cannot be asked without getting a partisan barrage in return. This is extremely disappointing because most senators would have hoped that the issue of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is one that could have been elevated beyond partisan politics. In fact, to that end, I have previously submitted a motion to the Senate seeking to establish a joint parliamentary committee, to be chaired by both sides of politics, to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. The purpose of that joint parliamentary committee would be to have an oversight mechanism that would span several parliaments, because the implementation of a full NDIS would indeed span several parliaments. It would be a forum where questions in relation to design, eligibility and funding of the NDIS could be asked, and could be asked in a way and in a forum that was not seen to be partisan.

That is one of the problems at the moment. Any time a factual, straightforward question seeking information is asked, whether it be in this chamber or in Senate estimates, all that comes back is the accusation that the opposition is being partisan. We get the accusation that the opposition is being petty, the accusation that the opposition is seeking to treat the NDIS as a political issue—and nothing could be further from the truth.

Australians with disability and their families and the organisations that support them and advocate for them have many questions in relation to the NDIS. They expect those questions to be put in the Australian parliament and I am putting those questions on behalf of them. The question which they ask time and again is: how does the government reconcile the funding profile outlined in the Productivity Commission's landmark report? How do they reconcile that with the $1 billion in the last budget, which is a quarter of what the Productivity Commission said was necessary to establish the first phase of the NDIS? The budget is also silent about funding beyond the launch sites, silent about how the NDIS will be given effect through to 2018-19 and beyond.

This is a reasonable question to ask. In asking it, I should make clear that the opposition fully and warmly supports the $1 billion in the last budget. We fully and warmly support the five launch sites which have been announced. We hope that they are a success. We want the NDIS to be a success and we want it to happen. What we do not want to see are launch sites that are stranded because of lack of funding. What we do not want to see are hopes raised only to have them not fulfilled because of a lack of provision in the budget.

It is my earnest hope that full provision is made by the current government for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That is what my questions were directed to. We know that that funding was not there, the full funding of it in the budget. We know it was not there in the MYEFO. My question to the minister was quite genuine. It was: at the time when Minister Macklin introduces into the parliament the legislation to give effect to the national disability insurance transition agency, will the minister announce the full funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme? It would make sense that when you are introducing legislation to give effect to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, at the same time there would be a commitment and certainty about funding. That has not yet been outlined. I would expect and hope, and I call on the government to provide funding certainty at the time that that legislation is introduced into the parliament.

Australians with a disability and their families are looking for that funding certainty. The opposition want to see that funding certainty, and we hope that our hand at bipartisanship is not rejected again. (Time expired)