House debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022


National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Participant Service Guarantee and Other Measures) Bill 2021; Second Reading

4:26 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move the amendment circulated in Mr Shorten's name:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House calls on the Government to:

(1) immediately stop the cuts to NDIS participant plans; and

(2) commit to full transparency around scheme costs".

We heard some big words in the Treasurer's budget speech last night, with the outrageous suggestion that under the Morrison-Joyce government the NDIS is always fully funded. We know that that proposition can be taken with a grain of salt. But what I want to talk about—and it is squarely in the middle of this second reading amendment—are the cuts to people's plans that are happening daily and that you can't see in the budget papers but that anyone who actually listens to their constituents surely must know are happening—the cuts like those to the NDIS plan of a young autistic man in my electorate, who is about 21. He has mental health problems. He has problems interacting with other people. His father came to talk to me at a coffee catch-up I had at Frankie's Cafe in Carrum Downs recently to tell me that when his son was in high school his life was going to a special school and then coming home and going into his bedroom and just sitting there at the computer screen until his parents made him come out to eat dinner, and then he would go back in and look at the computer screen again. He couldn't really have a conversation, even with his own family, and he was struggling to interact with other young people around him because of his disability. And the NDIS was a godsend, as the Gillard government always intended it to be.

Under the plan he had with the NDIS, this young man got to access not just social workers and support workers for when he was in the community but also counselling. He got to access psychologists, counsellors and allied health professionals, who helped him to know himself, to get confidence and to be able to interact. As his father said to me, the difference was like night and day. He not only was able to interact at school but would come home and talk to his parents about his day—not hide in his bedroom because he just didn't know how to handle social interactions. He got a job with a disability employment service in a warehouse and was so proud of himself.

So you can imagine the reaction of this young man's family when the NDIS plan for him was cut because he was doing so well, surely he didn't need any of these services that had given him that capacity to be able to do so well. That was the really skewed logic that was used. What happens when you have a young man whose access to counselling, social workers and people who can take him and work with him at the disability employment service is taken away from his NDIS plan because, under this Morrison government, that's the way the cuts that you can't see in the budget happen? What happens to this young man? He retreats back into his bedroom. His life becomes narrower and darker yet again.

The cuts to NDIS participant plans hurt NDIS participants and hurt their families. I received an email today at 2.08 pm, while we were in question time. Should anyone on the government benches think that this is not a real issue that is really happening to people in our communities, I received an email at 2.08 pm and I haven't had the chance to speak to the woman who emailed me, so I won't use her name, but I will read out the email:

'Hi, Peta. I just wanted to share my experience with you regarding what was supposed to be a routine NDIS review for my daughters. I have been emailing back and forth with the local area coordinator (for context, every review has been a different LAC) about the girls' upcoming expiry of their plans and what to do for their next plans. I had said I was looking to just roll them over for 24 months, and I was happy with both of their plans at this stage because their needs hadn't greatly changed. I was told that that just wouldn't be possible unless I had reports to back up a rollover. So I got what reports I was able to and I forwarded them to the LAC. I also sent her a statement about each girl, their disabilities and needs, and what they had been doing with their last plan. At this stage, the LAC said this was fine and she would look to roll over both plans. Then I got a phone call saying we needed to set up a phone plan to update the girls' details because the details were three years old'—

One would have thought the details of young girls who live with their family would have been pretty easy for the local area coordinators to be able to understand—

'So I did that, only to be ambushed and told that their swimming would no longer be funded, even though I provided evidence about the physical issues they both had. Then I was told my older daughter, Isabella, who has Down syndrome and autism level 3, support hours would most likely not be funded as the NDIS just wouldn't go for that many hours'—

She has Down syndrome and autism level 3 and had been receiving those support hours previously. My constituent goes on:

'I explained that I work two days a week. She can't be left alone at all, and in school holidays she obviously needs full-day support. The LAC said, "Why can't you just put her in a holiday program?" I found it quite extraordinary that there was a lack of understanding of the limited places in programs, or the fact that they don't run all day, or the fact that the activities are not always suited to all disabilities. I have to say this was a very different experience to every other NDIS review I have ever had, and I have to ask: what's changed? This felt like an ambush and me having to justify my girls' needs, which is just disgusting.'

What has changed since the NDIS was introduced in a nation-changing and life-changing reform by the former Labor government? Well, what has changed is the government. What has changed is the actual genuine attitude to maintaining and rolling out a program that is there to make the lives of people who have disabilities and their families and loved ones just that bit easier. After nine long years of a Morrison-Joyce government we have seen the creeping and unjustified attacks on NDIS participant plans through a lack of transparency and through cuts to programs that have helped people have the life that they deserve all under the guise of flowery rhetoric and the thumping of tables in speeches for budgets about fully funding the NDIS. It is not just not fully funded; it is not being run properly for the people that need it.

There are 500,000 Australians on the NDIS, but under this Morrison government their attitude is that there are too many people with a disability getting this help and that it costs too much to care for them, and that is not right. There is an economic impact of the NDIS for every Australian, for every community. The NDIS employs more than 270,000 people in over 20 different occupations, and it contributes to the employment of tens of thousands more workers indirectly.

In one of the final opportunities I will probably have to speak on something as important as the NDIS in this chamber what I want to give to my community is this message: I will always fight for you and your access to this life-changing, truly reformative scheme, and I will always fight for this life-changing and truly reformative scheme to be as strong as it was always intended to be and that it needs to be for you. The way that you can guarantee that you will have an NDIS that is not just fully funded but that is transparent and that is administered by a minister and a government that care more about people's lives than cutting budgets is to vote for Albanese Labor government at the upcoming election.


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