House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


National Disability Insurance Scheme

7:37 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Today we face issues that affect Australians as they have affected Australians for decade after decade. These issues impact people of all walks of life, all income brackets, all regions, all cities, all religions and all ethnic backgrounds. If left alone, unaddressed, the discomfort or outright suffering of members of our community will only continue and become more widespread across our nation.

This Labor government is a responsible, forward-looking government. We continue to confront and address the great structural issues that affect our people. Today, as for last year and the decade before that, we have people in our communities right around the nation who have no real choice but to care for their disabled children and loved ones. These carers have been fulfilling their parental or spouse roles with love and infinite patience for they know that with things being as they are they have no alternative; neither they nor their children have any choice.

Through the decades they have cared for their disabled loved ones, during the manifestation of congenital problems, psychiatric illnesses and many other forms of disability which make their children helpless or, at worst, a potential danger to themselves and possibly even others.

As these parents age they ask the questions, 'Who will look after my child when I am too old to provide effective care? Who will look after my child when I am gone? What is to become of my disabled child?' These are the questions that these people ask themselves all the time, every single day of their lives. These concerns are not new and, regrettably, these concerns are not uncommon. Equally regrettably, they have been left unaddressed by governments for far too long. I am pleased to say that this Labor government is prepared to take up this issue head on.

Of course, I am speaking of the need for a system of care that does not depend on the longevity and ability of parent carers. I am speaking of a system that overarches the care of family members, providing the support that is needed as it is needed and for as long as it is needed, irrespective of a disabled person's immediate environment. I am, of course, speaking of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This scheme is national in its composition and application, in its values and its principles and in the relief it gives to the disabled person and their loved ones and carers.

This is truly an ambitious government, intent on prescribing a sustainable and an eminently supportable policy for the ongoing betterment of Australians in most need of assistance. Of course, such reform is not straightforward. We have multiple tiers of government involved, multiple jurisdictions to reach agreement with, complex financing to simplify, costly support to fund this into the future and the citizen guidance, acceptance and ultimate ownership of the reform as it is developed, implemented and then embraced.

The process of this reform will take considerable time. I regret that, and I think that all of us would like to see it come to fruition much quicker—but that is fact. But I most regret the fact that this was not done a decade or more ago. As this reform will take more time than the full term of this current government, and will probably only be implemented in the term after next—well into an uncertain future—it would be best if we had some level of agreement within and outside of this place, across all political parties, to take a degree of ownership of the outcome towards which many, many people will work over time. We will have very different state governments involved, as I said. Different parliaments in both state and federal tiers of government will be asked to change their existing systems, their budget allocations and forward estimates, and all will be asked to make positive contributions towards an eventual outcome.

And we will have a public which, as with other issues, is likely to have a moving opinion, changing perspectives and, importantly, increasingly firm and expanded hopes as the architecture of this scheme is thrashed out and debated, and there is evidence of the system being put together. I would ask that all current and future parties to this great work approach the outcome with positive expectations. This reform and the needs of our fellow Australians which it will address are too great. (Time expired)