Time for the NDIS to be part of our national landscape

    Posted: Wednesday, 2 May 2012 | By: Barbara Perry

    The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a reform that is equal in significance to the introduction of Medicare and compulsory superannuation. It is a reform that clearly goes to the heart of the Labor tradition. I am proud to be part of a party that has been integrally involved in this reform from the beginning when it was first raised at the 2020 Summit to yesterday's announcement by Prime Minister Gillard at the wonderful rally at Homebush that the Federal Labor Government would start to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme from July next year. Launch sites will start a year sooner than the Productivity Commission suggested.

    It is important to note that because of the bipartisan approach in this State towards, in particular, Stronger Together initiatives that we are in a strong position to work towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Stronger Together has shown the importance of good planning and consultation and was the result of a lot of hard work by many groups, together with John Della Bosca, Brendan O'Reilly and the member for Heffron. The previous Government also brought in the no fault vehicle insurance scheme—a scheme that desperately needs to be expanded around Australia. I am pleased that this Government has continued to build and make strong the Stronger Together package.

    The National Disability Insurance Scheme—an idea whose time has come—is recognition that in the area of disability the overall system is in dire need of an overhaul. As the Productivity Commission pointed out, the system is underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient. Problems with the system are well documented. The 2009 Shut Out report, which related to the experience of people with disabilities and their families in Australia, told of the heartbreaking suffering of many of those with a disability, the strains on their families and what it is like to be left out educationally, socially and economically. It outlined the systemic issues that work against those with a disability being able to take their rightful place in society.

    The National Insurance Disability Scheme is essentially a safety net for those with a disability and will effectively double the existing funding and the number of people receiving support. Most importantly, funding will go directly to the individuals with a disability, giving them greater control and choice over the support they receive and the providers they use. Another benefit of this scheme is that those with a disability will be able to access intervention in a timely manner. As John Della Bosca told Anne Manne:

    Every day that passes without proper funding for early intervention is one more step away from the potential for independence in later life for a child with a disability.

    The National Disability Insurance Scheme is not just about long-term gains for those with disabilities. It also constitutes long-term gains for governments. By giving people the support they need when they need it, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will open up opportunities for the many Australians with disability who want to work but are currently locked out of the workplace. A recent study by Queensland University and National Disability Services found that if only 2 per cent of people with disability received support that enabled them to work the economy would benefit by $6 billion per year. The National Disability Insurance Scheme has not only united disability groups but it has also enjoyed bipartisan support at a State and Federal level. It is important that it continues to do so. There is good reason for this, as Anne Manne notes in her excellent essay in The Monthly:

    The NDIS is a proposition of unusual political deftness; a rarity in Australian politics. Embedded in the scheme are two powerful ideas more often in conflict than in harmony. One concerns the individual maximising opportunities in the marketplace, developing initiative and enterprise in a framework of economic prudence. The other centres on social justice, our capacity to stand together and utilise our nation's wealth to develop a strong safety net in order to care for those in need.

    In many ways, the different political parties are singing from the same page in relation to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, I note with some concern there has been some discord coming from Federal shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey. Mr Hockey's recent comments about funding show perhaps that he does not really understand the issues, and I call on the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services to educate the shadow Treasurer. The fact is we cannot afford not to have a National Disability Insurance Scheme. John Walsh, from PricewaterhouseCoopers, who has done so much to push for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, has calculated that a National Disability Insurance Scheme and related system change could lead to an additional $50 billion to gross domestic product in 2050.

    There is also a potential long-term gain of $1.5 billion in gross domestic product per annum as a result of increased employment participation by carers. I welcome the Prime Minister's commitment that the Federal Government will pay its fair share of the costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. At the same time, the New South Wales Government needs to stand firm on its commitment to disability services. I look forward to the New South Wales Government giving unqualified support to the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday in supporting the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2013. I conclude by acknowledging all those who have worked so hard to make the National Disability Insurance Scheme a reality. As Paul Keating said:

    It takes imagination and political will to get where we want to go and that depends on having not just a sense of injustice but also the ability to imagine a better life.

    Like all members of this Parliament, I look forward to when the National Disability Insurance Scheme is as settled and established a part of the Australian landscape as Medicare is.

    Tags: Barbara Perry, community, disability, health, Joe Hockey, NDIS, NDS


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