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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1445

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (13:32): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012. As we know, the concept of the NDIS was something that came out of the 2020 forum that took place in 2008. It is a concept that acknowledges how different the services and the support for people with disabilities are across this country. There are differences between states and differences based upon the manner in which the disability occurred—through accident or birth. It is clear that there are massive differences across the country. It is also very difficult in certain places to access support.

The NDIS is a scheme designed in a bipartisan manner. In 2010, there was a disability forum within the electorate of Cowan as part of the election campaign. I was there; my opponent at the time was represented by a senator, but I was there. I was very clear about our support for the NDIS because what needs to be done is clear. I find it amazing, though, that this is one of those policy areas in which most in the government have attempted to paint the questions and concerns that we have raised in our desire to make this scheme work and be viable as opposition to it. When I look back through some of the blogs at the things that have been said over time, the government created the false impression—an impression that has hopefully been resolved—for people in this country that the opposition are against the NDIS. Obviously, nothing could be less true than that. When we see the efforts that the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has made with things like Pollie Pedal, it is very clear that we are completely onside.

I am like many in this place, in that I am fortunate that my two daughters, aged 14 and 10, have developed without any disabilities. They are doing well at school. As with a lot of the issues that people bring to us, I see this with detachment—from a distance, really. What I hear in this place does not affect me. But when people come to your office and describe the lifestyle that a disability within the family brings with it, and the impact of that, you cannot help but be moved. The difficulties of trying to earn a living, trying to exist, trying to take care of other children in the family or adult children impact deeply upon people's lives.

Even though many of us here may not have felt the direct impact that a disability brings, when you hear the stories you know that something needs to be done. Whilst a lot of the disabilities we are aware of are often birth related, we must also remember that a stroke, for example, could completely debilitate someone. Through doorknocking over the last couple of weeks in my electorate of Cowan I have met two people that have had strokes. There are also car accidents and other incidents that could happen. We and our families are all potentially exposed to incurring a disability. The NDIS is something which we must deliver. We must do it because it is something that affects, or could potentially affect, everybody in this country. We all have a reason to back this initiative.

The trouble is that expectations have been built up. People are talking about full delivery of the NDIS. In some of the rhetoric that I have heard, it is delivered already. But the reality is that people in my electorate are not going to be part of this for some years to come. I know that the trials need to take place and that the trial sites have been selected. There is a lot of money required for this. Given the situation in the budget, the coalition are quite concerned about the ability of the government to put the money aside to deliver the NDIS. Having built expectations substantially, having talked about the delivery of the NDIS, ultimately it needs to be paid for. Taxpayers will need to pay for it, or money will need to come out of existing revenue—which, again, is taxpayer funded. Of course there needs to be value for money and it needs to be efficient. In the years since the disability support pension was first created, there has been a massive take-up of that pension. The Hon. Leader of the Nationals made the point very clear in his earlier remarks that, when a system, a process or this sort of support is available, it needs to be clearly defined so as to make sure that the value for money is there and that the people who really need it get it.

As I said, it is going to be very expensive. Given the inability of the government to manage things like the mining tax—the lack of revenue that has come out of their plans for the mining tax, not the lack of expenditure linked to the mining tax—there are challenges that they face and that the next government of Australia will also have to face. The Productivity Commission said that it will cost $3.9 billion a year to run an NDIS, and we expect that it is going to quite a bit more than that. The big challenge is to try and find the money and then to make sure that it is properly spent—that it actually impacts correctly, beneficially, on as many people out there as possible. As we know, there are some 400,000 Australians who have some form of profound disability. It is important that the money is generated and then properly spent.

At the moment there is a lot of need out there. Across this country, there are a lot of people who claim to be victims. There are a lot of people who say that their circumstances are beyond their control. But, if we are talking specifically about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and about the 400,000 people with profound disability, it is they who are exactly, absolutely, the victims of the circumstances that beset them, and these are the people who need to get access to the support that the NDIS will provide.

We all have had people meet us in our offices, in shopping centres and through knocking on front doors who have talked to us about their circumstances. Back in 2011, I met Anne and Mitchell Wood, from the electorate of Cowan, and Anne spoke to me about her son, Mitchell. He has a major intellectual disability and for years he had remained undiagnosed. It is a difficult life for Anne in looking after Mitchell, providing for him and making sure that the day programs, respite and support that she requires to get him through his day—and to have a life herself—are provided. It is very difficult for her. Anne and Mitchell Wood's story is an example of real people out there in the streets of our country who are in need of support. Provided we can find the money and be able to sustain the NDIS as an efficient and effective program for people, then we will proceed with it.

Recently I was at the Gladys Newton School graduation, which is a school for disabled young people within the electorate of Stirling, which is Michael Keenan's electorate. At that graduation ceremony I spoke with a 72-year-old lady called Trish. She told me about her daughter and her disabled granddaughter, Britney, who was one of the graduates that day. This 72-year-old lady told me that she was the second carer for Britney, who is almost my height and is about a foot and a half taller than her grandmother—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr Leigh ): Order! It being 1.45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.