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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10216

Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform) (16:43): by leave—In a week when our eyes have turned to the achievements of the Paralympians in London, and we celebrate the progress of the Paralympic movement since the first Stoke Mandeville Games more than six decades ago, I am very pleased to be able to report on progress towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

It has been just over 12 months since I last made a statement to the House on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And I am very pleased about the progress that we have made since then. We know that people with a disability, their families and their carers have waited far too long for this change. Over the past year, I have spoken to so many people who have had to wait years for a suitable wheelchair, most recently to a mother in Brisbane on Sunday about exactly that. Also to carers who are desperately worried about the future, because they do not know what will happen to their son or daughter when they get too old or are unable any longer to care for them. These are just two of many examples I could give, which led to the Productivity Commission labelling our current system 'unfair, underfunded, fragmented and inefficient'.

We are making the National Disability Insurance Scheme a reality. We will launch the first stage of our National Disability Insurance Scheme from mid-next year. Starting to deliver better care and support to people with disability a year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission. More than 20,000 people with disability in five states and the Australian Capital Territory—so across the country—and their families and carers, will benefit from this first stage. Of course, we know that an NDIS is a substantial and fundamental change. As it needs to be. That is why we are building the scheme step by step. We will learn valuable lessons from this first stage. From people with disability as well as their families and carers, service providers and community based organisations. So that as we build the scheme, we will be using what we learn to make sure we get it right.

I will be regularly updating the parliament about our progress as we implement this major reform. I undertake to keep the parliament informed about our progress as we design and deliver the NDIS. I make this undertaking because I understand very well the strength of support in our community—in communities right across the country—for this very important change. And I understand the need to keep this place—as representatives of these communities, passionate for progress, up to date. I understand as well how important it is that progress—real progress—is made.

Working with the states and territories

The states and territories are central players in this reform because, under current arrangements, they are responsible for disability care and support. The Gillard government have made clear our willingness to shoulder our share of the weight, as is necessary to see this important reform become a reality. We made this clear with our commitment, in the budget this year, of a billion dollars of extra support for the first stage of an NDIS. But to deliver this first stage, and to deliver a National Disability Insurance Scheme, we need to work with the states and territories.

The NDIS has taken pride of place on the agenda of the Council of Australian Governments, and that is appropriate. A Select Council on Disability Reform, comprised of disability ministers and treasurers from across the country, has been established. And work is now progressing. I am very pleased to inform the House that we have reached agreement with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory to host launch sites for the first stage. This will see the NDIS become real for more than 20,000 people with a disability, their families and carers. It will see the framework established, it will see service providers start to make the changes that are needed, and it will see people able to exercise choice and control over the care and support they receive—and for many of those people that will be for the first time. The contributions these states are making to the launch of an NDIS recognise the importance of all governments’ taking shared responsibility for delivering this fundamental reform for Australians with a disability. We are working closely with all the host states and territories on the details of the first stage so that we will be ready for the launch. This includes important work like developing governance arrangements, common assessment tools, and building workforce capacity.

As well, we are working through COAG with the states and territories on the design and the delivery of a full NDIS. Because let me be clear here—we have started work to build a national scheme. We do not want to see anybody left behind. While we work to build this scheme, while we work to build a national scheme, we also do not want to see anyone fall further behind. This is particularly important in the state of Queensland, where we see that state providing the least amount of disability funding per person of any state. And where other states are making great strides, allocating funding to people on an individual basis and personalising their services. Where other states are working with us to build an insurance scheme, that balances the cost of care over the lifetime of a person with disability, I am very sorry to say that Queensland is standing still. This really does have to change. Queenslanders with a disability deserve nothing less.

Establishing the NDIS Launch Transition Agency

As part of getting ready for launch of the NDIS in less than a year's time, this government has established a new NDIS Launch Transition Agency. The agency will run the delivery of care and support to people with disability, their families and carers. The agency’s chief executive officer, Mr David Bowen—formerly of Lifetime Care in New South Wales—started in July. Mr Bowen was also a member of the independent panel which provided expert advice to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry on disability care and support.

The agency’s primary focus over the coming months will be working to develop the operational policy, systems and processes for the successful launch of the scheme in the five first-stage locations. Every element of what the agency does will be informed by the views and advice of people with disability, their families, their carers, workers in the sector and also service providers. Because it is true that we are talking about a new way of working. Where people with disability have their needs assessed, develop individual plans, and are provided with individual support packages. Where the questions we ask are designed to understand what people with disability, their families and their carers actually want out of their lives—what changes might lie ahead for them. Where, for the first time, we ensure that people with disability have choice and control over the way in which their services and supports are provided. At the same time, the insurance approach will mean that we invest in activities that will give the best possible outcomes for people with disability over their whole life. And, to ensure that people have a local point of contact, the agency will have staff on the ground in launch sites well in advance of the start of the scheme.

Engagement with stakeholders

As we get ready for the launch of a National Disability Insurance Scheme, we will continue to engage with both experts and many, many stakeholders, whether it is people with disability, their families and carers, or others. Right now we are seeking community feedback on COAG’s draft outlines of eligibility and reasonable and necessary support. I have been to a range of public forums and have had countless conversations with interested people, who of course keep asking me, ‘Who will be eligible?’ and, ‘What will I get from an NDIS?’

That is fair enough. For a person with a vision or hearing impairment, or a person receiving some support with personal care today, they want to understand better what this new system means for them. For a person with a disability or for a carer who currently has inadequate or insufficient support, they want to know what extra support they can expect to receive.

So together with our state and territory counterparts we have been working to further define the eligibility for an NDIS and the kinds of supports that an NDIS will provide. This, of course, is based on the advice of the Productivity Commission, and we have now developed drafts to work from.

We now need people with the lived experience of disability to provide their input so we can make sure eligibility criteria and care and support packages work not just in theory but in practice. And this is the key—the eligibility criteria need to be clear, and they need to work. People with disability, of course, will be able to tell us that. Anyone who wants to help in designing these important details of an NDIS can go to—and this is the website address— and do just that: have your say.

Building workforce and sector capacity

We also recognise that bringing about this fundamental change in disability care and support means we will need a strong and quality workforce. That is why we are working to build the future workforce for an NDIS, as well as building community sector capacity.

Through our $10 million Practical Design Fund we are supporting the development of practical projects that will help the sector get ready for an NDIS. It might include projects that identify the best ways to support people with disability to exercise choice and control over the care and support that they receive. Or helping disability services to build new skills for their staff so they can better respond to the choices of people with disability. Or to find new ways to deliver services to people with disability in regional and remote areas through new technologies.

The applications for the Practical Design Fund closed at the start of this month and we are working through them now. We look forward to progressing these so that this work, this real, practical work, on the ground, can inform what we do to get ready for the first stage of the NDIS.

In conclusion

The government of course realise that people with a disability, their families and their carers have waited much too long for us to get to this point. We will now be launching the NDIS from the middle of next year.

There is a lot of work going on—with people who have a disability, within the disability and care sector and with the states and territories. We certainly recognise that an NDIS will give Australians that peace of mind to know that, if they or somebody that they love is born with or acquires a disability, they will get the care and support they need to live the life that they deserve. We do not want to see people left behind—as well as making sure that we get on with it, and that is exactly our intention.

I thank the House, and I present a copy of my ministerial statement. I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the honourable member for Menzies to speak for 13½ minutes.

Leave granted.

Ms MACKLIN: I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent Mr K. J. Andrews speaking for a period not exceeding thirteen and a half minutes.

Question agreed to.