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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 4015


Mr WALLACE (Fisher) (11:05): I thank the member for Lindsay for her motion. I know from our service together on the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme that this issue is important to her, as it is to all of us. The NDIS is one of the largest and most complex healthcare projects undertaken since Federation. That's why the government has been working soberly and proactively with stakeholders to get this right. It was, after all, the Turnbull government which reached agreements for the full rollout of the NDIS with all the states and territories. It was also our chairing of the COAG Disability Reform Council which saw it endorse the frameworks and strategies needed for rollout.

Last year we introduced the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, and properly resourced it with $209 million over four years and 300 staff. As a result, the overall story from the NDIS rollout is a positive one. When asked directly during our inquiry into mental health services under the NDIS, every one of the organisations involved stated that the rollout has seen a huge positive impact on the lives of a great many people. Service providers have taken on new staff, others have begun offering new mental health or disability services and some are expanding into new geographical sites. Many people are getting help that previously did not. Many have certainty and structure in their care, and many are enjoying the additional control they have over their own lives. As at 30 September 2017, when more than 112,000 Australians had NDIS plans, 84 per cent of participants surveyed rated their experience with the NDIS as either good or very good.

As we address what I acknowledge are emerging areas for improvement, we should not lose sight of the fact that, in general, the NDIS is already making a life-changing difference for tens of thousands of people. There certainly are challenges, but the government is acting to address them. There are concerns about people's ability to get continued access to services which are not covered by the NDIS or for which they will not be eligible. Last year, the government addressed that concern when it came to mental health, with $80 million for community health services to help people with severe mental illness who are deemed ineligible for the NDIS.

In this year's budget, the government has gone further, allocating a further $92.6 million for other existing clients of Commonwealth disability support programs who are ineligible for the NDIS. There are also concerns about the workforce capacity needed. Again, the government has responded in this budget with $64.3 million for a Jobs and Market Fund to support the growth of disability service providers and the disability-care workforce. There are concerns about the funding of advocacy services. Providers had been offering this support unfunded. But, last August, the government responded with a $60 million funding package to pay for that advocacy.

While the NDIS may face challenges, we must reflect on how much worse the situation would have been under Labor. This government has taken the decisions needed to fully fund the NDIS. While we waited for the results of our economy-building policies to flow through, we took the tough decision to raise the Medicare levy. Now that our jobs-and-growth agenda is having its effect, we are instead spending the dividends of our strong economic management on supporting our community's most vulnerable. In contrast, a Labor-run NDIS would have faced a budget shortfall of more than $5 billion a year, and a true budget black hole of $57 billion in the years to come. Labor claim, of course, that the NDIS was fully funded all along. But I'm afraid their track record of managing it does not give us any reason to believe them. It was Labor, after all, that dived into trials of the NDIS a year earlier than the Productivity Commission recommended, so that they could have it as part of their election campaign. It was Labor that signed the Commonwealth up to one-sided agreements which took 100 per cent of the financial risk with little or no control over the levers to manage that risk. And let us not forget that, in just one quarter of operation under Labor, the average cost of an NDIS package blew out by an average of 30 per cent.

Under this government, the NDIS is fully funded and on track to roll out on time. As with any project of this size there are challenges to be overcome and where they are identified this government is responding with swift and prudent action. Personally, I cannot wait for the NDIS roll-out on the Sunshine Coast, from 1 January 2019.