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.