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Monday, 29 July 2019
Page: 1323

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (16:56): I'm pleased to be able to second the motion from the honourable member for Hughes and say some words in support of it this afternoon. The reality, as we all know, is that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a work in progress. About half the total number of expected participants are on the scheme. That means that there's going to be a huge ramp up in terms of participation over the next 12 to 18 months. There are challenges that we all recognise in relation to this. I say this from the perspective of having chaired the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the last parliament—I want to refer to one of those reports in a moment—but also of having had the privilege of being elected to chair that committee in this current parliament. I mention the committee because since the inception of that committee it has worked in a bipartisan manner. In the last parliament, all of the recommendations that came forward from the committee came forward with the support of all the members of the committee, regardless of their political background in this place. I pay tribute to the deputy chair in the last parliament, Senator Alex Gallacher, the Labor senator from South Australia; and other members, including the member for Fairfax, for example; the former member for Jagajaga; Senator Siewert and Senator Carol Brown, who will take over as the deputy chair in this current parliament. I mention them across the political divide because that's an indication of the extent to which, when a committee is sat down and looks at the challenges involved with the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the setting up and operation of the agency, we've been able to work in a very constructive and bipartisan manner.

I mention that because one of the first reports in the last parliament, tabled in December 2017, dealt with the very topic which the honourable member for Hughes has brought before the chamber today, namely the question of early intervention and early childhood services. It was clear that there was work to be done in that regard, and I commend the government's announcement in relation to the matters which the honourable member for Hughes has mentioned in this place today. The committee made some 20 recommendations in that report, all of which were accepted by the government and some of which we see in the matters brought before the chamber by the member for Hughes being implemented by the government in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We can certainly all agree on one thing: early intervention is significant, early intervention is critical and early intervention works. In that context, prevention is always better than having to deal with the consequences of failing to put prevention measures in place. When we're dealing with children, the earlier that those intervention measures can be put into place, the more likely is a successful outcome. You, Deputy Speaker Gillespie, would know that from your professional experience in a past life, a different life before coming to this place. We all know that intervention is important and that prevention is important. Often it is the poor cousin in terms of the services which are provided, but where we can intervene from a very early age can have important consequences. Take, for example, a child with hearing loss: the sooner services can be provided for that child with hearing loss then the more likely that that child is going to be able to function in their childhood, in their adolescence and, indeed, in their adult life in a way which is commensurate with anybody else within the society in which we live.

The measures which have been announced of putting additional resources into early childhood supports and of funding this with interim plans so that early intervention can take place from the very earliest time are very important in the matters which are before the parliament at the moment in this motion and which were examined in some detail by the parliamentary committee. I won't go through in the time available all the recommendations, which were made in a bipartisan manner in relation to this subject by the parliamentary committee, but we're all pleased that they were adopted in principle by the government and we see in the interventions by the government to improve the policy now to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme works in a way which we want it for. There is enormous goodwill for the scheme. It is a work in progress. There are still a great number of challenges to meet, but if we can work together in the way in which the committee has, and the government has done in this announcement, then we can bring about a better outcome for people with disability in Australia.