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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 72

Ms BURNEY (Barton) (16:40): The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a truly historic and transformational reform. At its heart, the NDIS is about inclusion, fairness and equity—fairness and equity when it comes to access and fairness and equity when it comes to adequacy of support. It is not perfect, of course, and it has enormous challenges as it is continued to be rolled out to its full capacity, but none of these challenges are insurmountable. The NDIS can be all we want and need it to be with a government that is genuinely committed to its reform and success. The NDIS will never reach its full potential if it remains a low priority for government.

I have assumed the responsibility of the NDIS from my colleague the member for Jagajaga, Jenny Macklin. Since taking on the responsibility, I've met with many participants, their families, carers, advocates and service providers, and I still have many to meet. They have been extremely generous with their time and their views. This includes discussions last week with the VALID peer support group in Frankston, which I attended with the Labor candidate for the seat of Dunkley, Peta Murphy.

One point made crystal clear to me was the overwhelming red tape of the bureaucracy, particularly for people transitioning to the NDIS. This includes a planning process which should be more focused on the individual needs and goals of the person. It also means people having the opportunity to see a draft of their plan and work collaboratively and face to face to resolve issues, not a tick-the-box exercise over the phone. People want genuine flexibility in their plans to be able to get the support they need to take part in community life in ways that are most important to them. This point was made very clear—the connection to community and participation in the community—as I said, by people transitioning into the NDIS.

Delays in the approval of assistance technology—things like hoists and wheelchairs—was another big issue. The convoluted process for obtaining support from therapists, quotes and evidence is causing distress for many people. There is also the issue of having to submit a plan every 12 months. There are many conditions, in my view, that don't require this 12-month turnaround. There is also the issue of underutilisation and staff. We know from the most recent quarter, over 70 per cent of people are using less than 50 per cent of their plans. The NDIS needs well-trained staff with the capacity to assist in managing the complex needs of participants and their carers. Lifting the arbitrary staffing cap will go a long way to achieving this, and Labor made this announcement three or four weeks ago.

Labor also recognises the importance of advocacy and advocates. It is Labor's view across the board in the social services sector, including in the NDIS, that advocacy is incredibly important. It should not be seen as a difficulty for government. Labor will be supporting advocacy because advocacy keeps you accountable as a government and makes your work more pointed and more appropriate to the people that you're serving.

I believe that all the issues in the NDIS that have been raised with me can be fixed. With commitment and energy, we can make the NDIS work. There is absolute commitment from either side of the House and from everyone involved, from people working for the NDIA to participants in the NDIS. They want this to work. This isn't about a Labor government or a Liberal government. This is fundamentally about a genuinely committed government—a government that is genuinely committed to seeing the success of this scheme and improving the lives of people with disability and the lives of their families and carers. It is a truly historic reform, and I put on record our appreciation and recognition of the Prime Minister at the time the NDIS was introduced, who was of course Julia Gillard. It has its challenges, but none of these challenges are insurmountable and the NDIS can reach its full potential as long as it has a government willing to back it. The overwhelming thing that I have come to understand is that the bureaucracy and the processes involved are far too complex and they are layered and layered upon each other. We need to cut through some of that red tape, cut through some of that bureaucracy and remember that this is about people with a disability; it is not about government.