National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016

15 February 2017

It has been a long time coming for the NDIS since the first disability insurance model

was explored by the Whitlam government in the 1970s. But let's be clear: since then, people with a disability and

their families had to wait another 40 years and for another Labor government before they would finally get the

support they deserve. Since being established under Labor in 2012, successive Liberal governments have been

caught out, dragging their feet, to implement the NDIS. And this government is no different.

Labor opposes this bill as the government, again, wastes the parliament's time on a political stunt. It is clear that

it is just a transparent attempt to pretend that the NDIS is not fully funded. It is absolutely galling to listen to

speaker after speaker on the other side making outrageous claims that the NDIS was not funded. Of course Labor

absolutely funded the NDIS and, as we read in The Courier-Mail today, the editorial sums it all up: 'Brinkmanship

the lazy route to Budget cuts'—

and this is the quote from the editorial in today's paper in my home state:

Instead of rolling up their sleeves, Mr Morrison and Mr Porter decided to take a policy program with universal

and overwhelming support and hold it hostage.

On Monday the ministers made an indirect connection between future funding of the National Disability

Insurance Scheme and the proposed family benefit cuts.

This was too clever by half, and simply not true in the short term.

The NDIS is funded through the national budget for the forward estimates …

… … …

Firstly, no one should use funding for helping disabled Australians to make a case for spending cuts—it is stupid

politics and skewed policy thinking.

Second, the path to reform, including the never-ending work of finding savings and efficiencies in big-spending

portfolios like social services, requires smart thinking and hard work—

two things which elude the Turnbull government.

So I was disappointed but, more importantly, I was angry that whoever the geniuses within the government came

up with the idea of 'Well, you can support cuts to the elderly, the disabled, the most vulnerable Australians and

we'll use that money to fund the NDIS' should hang their heads in shame. Pitting disabled Australians against

vulnerable Australians—just once I would like someone from the government to get up and actually do the right

thing and stand up for Australians who need support. I am sick and tired of members of this government coming

after and attacking those Australians who need a hand. It happens day in, day out. Those opposite in my opinion

simply want to smash our safety net and they make no apology for it.

In the 2013-14 budget, Labor clearly set out, as we have heard, how the NDIS would be funded for 10 years—

well past the transition to the full scheme. This included reforms to the private health insurance rebate, reforms

to retirement incomes, the phase-out of the net medical expense tax offset and other long-term saving proposals.

This should not come as a shock to the minister at the table or the member for Flynn, who is in the chamber today,

because they voted for them. They supported them. And they supported every single savings measure, and now

the government, we know, has a $50 billion tax cut right up their sleeve to hand out—is it to the most vulnerable in

the community? Is it to those who need a hand? Is it to the so-called hardworking men and women whom we keep

getting lectures about all the time? No. It is to large corporations, large banks and large multinational companies.

As we have heard through speakers today, when you are in government, it is about priorities and that fact alone

says volumes about this government. But we know that the government has stooped even lower to holding the

NDIS to ransom over cuts to other programs for some of our most vulnerable Australians, as I said before.

We know that this is a disgraceful political game of brinkmanship and we have seen community advocates,

great Australians—Paralympians, like Kurt Fearnley, who said through the media that he was furious about the

government's move, accusing it of using the NDIS 'as a political football'. It is mischief. It is political opportunism

and it is just wrong.

We know that the Australian Council of Social Service head Cassandra Goldie rejected the linking of social

security cuts to disability funding. As we heard the member for Gilmore say about 20 times, she is right: this is

robbing Peter to pay Paul—pitting people on low incomes against each other in an unfair way. We know that the

NDIS has been funded, but that should not be at the expense of the poorest people in our community.

I say that the minister should be condemned for this shameful linking of funding for the NDIS with cuts to those

people who can least afford it. And we saw the walk back today a little bit through the media when, clearly, the

Prime Minister's office briefed out and said, 'Well, we didn't think it was a good idea, but the Treasurer did.'

So everyone we know we can see is slowly walking backwards from this ridiculous and shameful proposition.

But, more importantly, we should have a member of the government get in and apologise for even putting it on

the table in the first place.

We have said from day one that the NDIS is a bipartisan reform that should be above politics—the largest social

reform our nation has seen since the introduction of Medicare. We have heard from speakers today about the

inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. Labor referred the bill for inquiry. We have

seen in evidence provided to that Senate inquiry that disability organisations resoundingly reject this fund and

the government's planned cuts that will go into it. Multiple submissions to the inquiry raised significant concerns

about the fund, for which the government has failed to establish any evidence of the need to even establish the


The disability sector, just like Labor, are onto this government and will not have the wool pulled over their eyes

as to what is really going on here. But we know that cutting programs and funding for those who need them most

is in the LNP's DNA. The Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance said it best when they said:

The Alliance recommends that the Committee finds the NDIS Savings Fund, as proposed, to be unfit for purpose.

That is right: these are the advocates working in the disability sector. These are the experts. I pay tribute and

give credit to people who give up their time, work long hours and make sacrifices to make a career of helping

those Australians with disabilities.

In my own electorate I am privileged to have visited and supported organisations like Youngcare, located in the

south-west of Brisbane, and I have seen firsthand the difference that a dedicated organisation like Youngcare

can make to the lives of people living with a disability. The story of Youngcare began in my electorate when

they opened their first residence, at Sinnamon Park, in 2007. We are celebrating 10 years of Youngcare. This is a

wonderful facility which means young people with a disability do not have to go to nursing homes. They do not

have to live in aged-care facilities. They live wonderful lives and they contribute greatly to the richness of my

local community. The Youngcare Wesley Mission Apartments pioneered a new approach to independent living.

When I was a candidate running for office, the first shadow minister that came to the Oxley electorate was Jenny

Macklin. I deliberately wanted it to be Jenny Macklin, the member for Jagajaga. She has long been a dedicated

servant of our party, our great parliament and, of course, Australia. She is a person who has devoted her life

to social justice and fighting for those people who need it. I wanted to learn firsthand and speak to the people

who live in this wonderful facility in their homes. They were able to share all of their experiences, and what

a transformation that support is giving them. I want to be a strong voice for organisations like Youngcare that

are based in the Oxley electorate. It is also an important part of my work to support the transformation that is

happening in Darra in my electorate through the great work of Montrose in giving support to families and young

kids with disabilities. Making sure we are fully resourcing an effective NDIS is a pledge I give to those residents

and to the disabled families in my community.

We know that this bill will serve only to throw more uncertainty into an already plagued NDIS rollout. It is bad

enough that this government wanted to link cuts to those who can least afford it and put a hostage situation into

the NDIS, as we have heard from speaker after speaker. I will not stand for that and the people in my electorate

will not stand for it. All of Australia is opposed to what this government is planning to do.

We know that the government has a pretty poor track record when it comes to delivering and rolling out the NDIS.

We know that there were continual stuff-ups in Western Australia and that they led to the NDIS splintering,

with the news that the Western Australian government will go it alone on their own version of the NDIS after a

secret, last-minute deal between the Commonwealth and the Barnett Liberal government. We have seen similar

issues in the ACT.

We hear a lot from ministers on the other side saying, 'Don't listen to what they say; look at what they do.' We

hear these lectures over and over again. Well, you need only look at this government's mistreatment of the Chair

of the NDIA, the father of the NDIS, Bruce Bonyhady; at the disgraceful way, in my opinion, that a distinguished

Australian was treated. There was no reason given. I have got my own theories as to why the government took

action there. I do not think someone of Mr Bonyhady's standing should have been subjected to the disgraceful

treatment we saw at the end of last year. For the minister to use him as a scapegoat for problems with the scheme,

which ultimately should fall under his responsibility, is disgraceful.

My understanding and my strong belief is that the NDIS board needs people with a deep understanding of the

disability sector. It needs people with a lived experience of disability. That is what people with disability want

as well. That is exactly what someone of the calibre of Bruce Bonyhady brought to the table, which the minister

dismissed, in my opinion, in an attempt to blame anyone but himself for the problems in the NDIS rollout.

It is clear from the outset—and this is supported by multiple disability advocacy groups—that this bill is

further proof of the government's failure to deliver the NDIS. From the secret deal with the Western Australian

government and the blame-shifting in the ACT to the removal of the NDIS chair, there has been only confusion

and frustration for thousands of Australians who deserve better. I do not want any more lectures from those

opposite. I do not want any more platitudes from them about what happened 20 or 30 years ago. I want action.

The people in the disability sector want action as well. More importantly, they deserve action. They deserve a

parliament that is going to stand up, fight and make sure that it delivers the long-term care and support that they

have earned. As I said in my opening remarks, we started this conversation under the Whitlam government, and

it has now taken 40 years—more than my entire life—to make sure that we are finally seeing quality, dignified

care given to some of the most frail and vulnerable people in our country.

Australians will not accept more cruel cuts from the government under the guise of funding the NDIS. We know

that the NDIS is already well funded. Why do we know that? We know that because Labor delivers on what it

says, and Labor made sure that this transformational project not only was implemented and delivered but, more

importantly, was funded. We will keep fighting to make sure that the NDIS is protected from any attacks by

the Turnbull government. I will always stand up for those people who need a helping hand. That is what I was

sent to this place to do.