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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 4025


Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (11:46): First of all, I would like to thank the member for Lindsay for moving this motion this morning. The NDIS has really been the best social change that we've had brought in by this parliament since Medicare. It's made a huge difference for many of the people I've been caring for in my working career over the last 40 years as a paediatrician. It really has made a huge difference for many people, and at a level that really requires us to stop and think about what was happening previously.

Many of the people that I saw, as they got older, would have a constant worry about what would happen to their child as they approached adult life with a disability and when their parents could no longer look after them. Many parents who were elderly and who had children with, for example, Down syndrome were finding that, as their children approached adult life, it was physically difficult for them to care for them and they worried about what the future held for them. Many of them would save every cent they had by skimping on holidays, by not affording themselves the little luxuries of life to try to save for their child with a disability's future. The NDIS has now brought them certainty that we as a society will take over their role, that we will say to them: 'We are part of this journey with you. We will care for your child, whether with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome or an intellectual disability, and we will make sure that their future is secure.' That has been a huge change for them.

I can remember speaking to Julia Gillard long before she became Prime Minister, and it's my belief that we owe her a huge debt of gratitude, as well as the previous Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, who developed a bipartisan approach to the NDIS. It is very important to note that the NDIS, from its inception, had bipartisan support and commitment to funding. The attempt to politicise the NDIS has been a bit of a tragedy, and I won't have any part of that. The NDIS has bipartisan support. We should all accept that. It has bipartisan funding, and that should be the end of the argument.

There are many issues with the rollout of the NDIS. It was rolled out quite quickly, and I think it was important that we did roll it out as soon as we possibly could because the need in many cases—and the need for many of the people who I see—was urgent. So I don't think we should make any apology for the rapid rollout of this scheme. But there have been some problems. Some of them have already been mentioned. No. 1 is the lack of training of the planners; that has been a mistake and I believe it's now being remedied retrospectively. There has also been an issue with people trying to do NDIS plans over the telephone, which I don't think is appropriate. I think we've accepted that. Now that that's occurred and we've seen the problems that planning over the phone can cause, face-to-face planning is the rule rather than the exception.

We also know from talking to disability service providers, such as Macarthur Disability Services in my electorate, that there have been a number of issues with things like funding for transport. That is very important if you're disabled; trying to get to different services can be a major cost and time impost on getting appropriate intervention. That's one area. Personal care costs also have not been appropriately examined, and I think are something we're trying to fit retrospectively to make them fit for purpose.

A huge issue—and this has been identified today by the member for Gilmore—is the lack of appropriate funding for people with severe mental illness, such as one of my old patients, Nathan. He has severe schizophrenia, often medication resistant and with frequent relapses. If you ask Nathan if he has any problems, the answer, because of his fear of interaction with bureaucracies and medical and health professionals, is, 'No, I'm fine; I have no problems.' And yet Nathan has intractable problems: he sleeps on the street, he has epilepsy that's uncontrolled and he often has wounds and sores that are not being properly treated because he sleeps on the streets. So attention to people with severe mental illness is vitally important as part of the NDIS.

But I would stress that it's a wonderful program, it has bipartisan support and we support it. Thank you.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Bird ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.