House debates

Thursday, 16 February 2017


National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016; Second Reading

1:26 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Most of my generation, as we grew up, did not see people with disabilities in our communities. We did not see kids with disabilities in our schools, we did not see them in our sporting clubs—we did not see young people with disabilities. The truth was not that they were not there. They were in someone's back room; they were kept out of society. They were seen as being an impediment to a family. Mr Deputy Speaker, our generation—and I am talking about those who make up this parliament—are going to be judged on how we treat people with disabilities. They do not want compassion; they want inclusion. They want to make sure that they get all the opportunities to live the most fulfilling life that they possibly can and reach their potential. That is what we want for our children and that is what families of children with disabilities want for theirs.

This week the Prime Minister spoke about how proud he was to have been here when we had the apology to the first peoples of this nation—and it was; it was a very moving period. But can I say how proud I was—as, I would say, was every member who sat in this House—when we introduced the NDIS legislation. We knew we were making a change for the better for our community. We knew we were moving to do something about an issue that we had spoken about but that local families had always had to deal with themselves. Disabilities are not an issue for families; they are a matter for community. If you look at the distribution of disabilities in our community, you will see the pattern follows the same bell curve as the distribution of intelligence. That is why the NDIS was so important. And what we have seen this week is the government moving to change how we are going to fund it.

The member for Canberra mentioned robbing Peter to pay Paul. I would use another analogy: it is robbing the poor to pay the poor. When we talk about people with disabilities we are talking about people who need every bit of assistance they can get to live the most fulfilling lives they can. I can speak from personal experience. I want my grandson to have the best opportunities in life, but he is on the autism spectrum. I know what this might mean for my daughter and her family. We do not need to play politics with this. We do not need to go out and say, as those on the other side say, 'We are going to maintain a $50 billion tax cut for big business, but if you want to have these other issues dealt with we are going to take that out of pensions, we are going to take that out of disability support, we are going to take that away from some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community.'

That is not how you play politics in this country! What people expect is leadership. That is certainly not leadership. I think that Laura Tingle belled the cat when she wrote in The Australian Financial Review this week that the government's latest attempt to pass the savings, playing off the poor against the disabled, is just appalling.


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