Monday, 2 May 2016
National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016; Second Reading
I am pleased to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. This bill amends the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act to increase the number of board members of the National Disability Insurance Agency from nine to 12, including the chair. Labor is pleased to support the bill. The National Disability Insurance Scheme—designed, funded and introduced by Labor—is already transforming the lives of thousands of Australians with disability, their families and their carers. We are incredibly proud of the NDIS. It is one of Australia's biggest social reforms, in the same great tradition as Medicare. Once it is fully rolled out, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will support 460,000 people living with profound disability. This proposed legislation reflects an agreement reached by the Disability Reform Council earlier this year to increase the number of board members and extend existing board terms. As the scheme expands across the country, it is sensible to also expand the board. This will give the agency more stability as the NDIS continues to grow and as the terms of other board members progressively expire.
The transition over the next three to four years will be hard—nobody can deny that—and we know it will get more challenging as the scheme ramps up, not less. Of course, it was not going to be easy; reforms of this size and scope never are; but, three years in, we already have so much to celebrate. The NDIS is being delivered on time, satisfaction among participants is very high and, despite the many inaccurate claims to the contrary, the scheme is running on budget. The success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is due in no small part to the tireless work of the agency's staff and its board. I want to pay particular tribute tonight to Bruce Bonyhady, the father of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the agency's inaugural chair. For Bruce, the design and delivery of the NDIS is more than a profession; it is a life mission. There simply would not have been an NDIS without Bruce Bonyhady. I sincerely thank him and his colleagues for their work so far. They do a very difficult job and they do it so well. They deserve the support and respect of this government and the whole parliament.
Unfortunately, on too many occasions, this has been in short supply. Just imagine waking up one morning, opening the newspaper and seeing an advertisement for your own job. That is what the current members of the board were subjected to last year. There was no phone call from the minister, no consultation and no prior warning; just a none-too-subtle hint that this government considers them entirely expendable. This act effectively fired the starter's gun on a series of attacks on the governance of the NDIS.
In March of this year, it was revealed that the Turnbull government was pressuring the states and territories into sweeping changes to the NDIS. These changes would have allowed the Turnbull government to unilaterally decide who is eligible for the scheme and what support people would receive. The exposed plan proposed giving the Turnbull government the power to ignore the needs of people with disability, sideline the states and territories, sack board members and put its own conservative cronies in charge. Thankfully, this plan was rejected by the states and territories.
Labor does support the legislation before the parliament today, but we will continue to fiercely oppose any attempt by this government to undermine the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. If anyone opposite in this Liberal-National Party government tries to cut, cap or delay the National Disability Insurance Scheme; attempts another federal takeover or make more baseless claims about funding, Labor will stand with people with disability and defend the National Disability Insurance Scheme against any of these cynical attacks. People with disability, their families and carers have waited their whole lives for the NDIS. It is unforgiveable for the government to keep trying to mislead and frighten Australians about the future of the scheme.
Before the minister reveals his next round of cuts in tomorrow night's budget, he should remember this: people with disability are not the political playthings of the Turnbull government. Australians will not accept more cruel cuts from this government under the guise of funding the NDIS. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is already funded; the last Labor government made sure of it. Labor's 2013 budget set out a 10-year funding plan for the NDIS. This included an increase in the Medicare levy and also several other savings and revenue measures.
These budget measures, and the numbers underpinning them, were prepared by the Treasury. The Treasury secretary at the time was Martin Parkinson—the current secretary of the Prime Minister's own department. The coalition knows the NDIS is funded because they actually supported most of these budget measures. Not only did they vote for all but one of them, some of the measures even passed the parliament after the election when the Liberals were in government. To now say—as this government does—that the NDIS is not funded amounts to an effective theft of money that was always intended for people with disability.
Tomorrow night, when the government will claim it must yet again cut support from vulnerable people in order to fund the NDIS, Australians will see it for the falsehood that it is. We are entering a really crucial period for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and there are plenty of unanswered questions. We need answers from the government on housing supply; we need more action on preparing a high-quality, well-paid workforce; and more attention needs to be given to sector development. This is where the government's focus should be: not on trying to take complete control of the scheme, picking fights with the states and territories, fibbing about the funding or trying to sack the board.
No matter what the Turnbull government throws up tomorrow night and no matter what other attacks they have planned for the NDIS, people with disability know that Labor will always stand with them. Labor built the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We most certainly will not stand by and watch the Turnbull government tear it down.
I did not realise that the member for Jagajaga was a clairvoyant who can predict what is going to happen in tomorrow night's budget! Before I begin to focus on the legislation at hand, which is the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016, I want to provide the chamber with some background on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the Northern Territory. To do this, I am quoting from the NDIS Barkly progress report from last October, which assesses the first year of the scheme's operation in the Northern Territory.
In his foreword to the progress report, National Disability Insurance Agency—or NDIA—Chairman Bruce Bonyhady recalls that:
When it was first decided to trial the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in locations around Australia, we knew that trials in metropolitan sites would tell us very little about how the Scheme should work in rural, remote and very remote areas.
And so, in 2013, the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments agreed to trial the NDIS in one of the least densely populated regions in Australia, the Barkly region.
The Barkly Regional Council is the second largest local government area in Australia, an area 42 per cent larger than the state of Victoria.
While Victoria has a population density of 2,431 people per 100 square kilometres, the Barkly region contains two people in that same area. Centred around the junction of the Stuart and Barkly highways, the region stretches from the old telegraph station at Barrow Creek in the south to the historic droving township of Newcastle Waters in the north and 620 kilometres east to the Queensland border. The largest town in the region is Tennant Creek, which is approximately 1,000 kilometres south of Darwin and 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs.
The resident population of the Barkly region is estimated at approximately 8,100 people, which includes 3,560 people in Tennant Creek—the largest concentration of residents. The next largest urban area is the town of Elliott and its surrounding district, and then there is an assortment of communities and outstations, including Ali Curung and Canteen Creek. There are also 49 pastoral stations, mining operations and commercial properties in this district. You can see that the Barkly was an ideal place to trial the NDIS. As Bruce Bonyhady says, 'It provides an exciting opportunity for improving the lives of people with disabilities in remote parts of the Northern Territory.' Through the trial of NDIS in the Barkly region, the NDIA is learning a new way of working with remote and very remote communities and about the best ways to spread the NDIS through these communities.
During a trip to Tennant Creek last year with colleagues from the NDIA and the scheme's independent advisory committee, Mr Bonahady said he was once again struck by the size of the challenge and the opportunities it presented. The NDIA in Barkly is working with a range of groups, including disability organisations in the Northern Territory, to find the right solutions to the challenges of building the NDIS in remote and very remote areas. I will go into that in a bit more detail shortly.
They said in the progress report that they are taking a community development approach, building capacity directly with communities and working closely with Aboriginal corporations and service providers in health and other allied sectors. For example, they are partnering with the First Peoples Disability Network to establish local support groups and working closely with other government agencies and departments. The progress report focuses on what has been achieved in the Barkly region over the past year and what lessons have been learnt. And I can say it provides a very interesting snapshot of progress so far. As at 30 June 2015, 61 people with disability have approved plans in place; 24 providers have registered to deliver services as part of the NDIS in the Barkly; additional options for shared supported accommodation for people with disability have been delivered; and almost half of the NDIS staff on the ground in the Barkly trial site are Aboriginal people. Of the 61 people with approved plans, 44 per cent are female and 56 per cent are male. As of July last year, the total amount of support committed was $3,061,377. Sixty two per cent of participants have early intervention support in their plans. To summarise: people with disability in the Barkly region are receiving support such as new equipment, and providers new to the area are registered and are delivering support.
Community engagement is a significant part of how the NDIS is increasing its profile in Tennant Creek and around the Barkly region. In July 2015 the NDIA joined locals in Tennant Creek to celebrate the 26th annual Desert Harmony Festival. With a $60,000 sponsorship from the NDIA the festival celebrated all people with disability, showcasing their strengths and talents. Staff attended events throughout the festival to talk to the community about the NDIS and what it means for people with disability in the remote Northern Territory. One of their ambassadors was three-time Australian Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, who visited the local high school to talk about his experiences living with disability. Participants, families and carers were also invited as VIPs to the NDIS football match between local teams in partnership with the Barkly Australian Football League. The BAFL agreed to schedule a local game between the Sporties Spitfires and the Elliott Hawks, which was a 2014 grand final re-match to celebrate people with disability. NDIA representatives spoke directly to participants, families and carers about how the scheme is working for them and met people who may become part of the scheme in the future. NDIS General Manager Anne Skordis attended Desert Harmony and said the agency is completing more plans for people with disability every week. She said it is not just about what each person needs in their plan, but about how all of the pieces of a person's life work together. It is about how a person's plan works alongside school, community, family and other services that are already an important parts of people's lives.
One of the successful partnerships reached by NDIS is with the Barkly trial site local advisory group, which consists of representatives from local Aboriginal organisations, community representatives, participants and providers. The advisory group is providing the NDIA with local advice to ensure the NDIS is rolled out effectively in the Barkly region. As I mentioned earlier, the alliance with First Peoples Disability Network aims to support more effective and enduring engagement with local communities in the Barkly. Through this project, the First Peoples Disability Network is establishing strong relationships and networks with communities to raise awareness of the NDIS.
Through the NDIA's connection with Barkly Regional Arts, art is being used to build awareness of the NDIS and disability. The successful Story Plates project has encouraged five communities to explore what disability means to people living in the Barkly region and convey these discussions visually through creating painted ceramic plates. The Story Plates were exhibited at the National Rural Health Alliance Conference in Darwin in 2015 and at the Desert Harmony Festival.
The NDIA understands that developing the local workforce is critical to the delivery of the NDIS in the Barkly region. While this continues to be an area of development for the NDIA, progress is being made. A new service provider in the region, ITEC Health, recently trained 17 people as potential disability support workers for additional assisted living and supported accommodation services. Sixteen of these people are local Aboriginal people. The NDIA wants to see as many local Aboriginal people as possible delivering services to people with disability in the community. In response to the question 'What has been learnt?' the progress report states that 'service delivery requires agile, responsive, innovative and flexible solutions that are tailored to address community challenges and take account of cultural differences', and that 'developing trust with remote communities is key to the successful implementation of the NDIS'.
Strong partnerships with mainstream agencies that already have a presence in a community can help to develop innovative solutions and options for delivering supports. Ensuring sufficient time to build relationships with the communities is key to increasing awareness of disability services and the rights of people with disability.
We have also learnt that culturally skilled workforces will enhance the acceptance and involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in using disability support services. A 'one size fits all' approach does not work in Aboriginal communities. What will work well in one community will definitely not work with all communities. A tailored approach is absolutely needed. As most Aboriginal languages in the Barkly do not have a word for 'disability', it is key that the NDIA works closely with communities to build an understanding of what the scheme is about and who it can assist. Additional effort is required to attract and retain providers in remote regions, acknowledging the challenges of workforce availability, service delivery costs and the need to ensure a reasonable level of support for participants.
So I am hopeful that the NDIS trial in Barkly is yielding positive results, and I can report that from July 2016 the NDIS will progressively roll out across the Northern Territory and that by July 2019 all eligible residents will be covered. To people with an interest in the NDIS rollout in Darwin and Palmerston, I say 'Watch this space.' As for the legislation at hand, this bill amends the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 to allow for up to 11 members to be appointed to the board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency and to change the quorum arrangements for board meetings so it is clear that a quorum is the majority of members of the board. The Council of Australian Governments agreed in April 2015 that there was a need to strengthen the governance arrangements of the board of the agency. This was to ensure that the board was best equipped to administer the challenges associated with managing the transition of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the full scheme.
When the trial site in Barkly was first announced, I was really delighted, because of Tennant Creek's remoteness. I thought that if the trial site was successful in Tennant Creek then it would highlight all the issues and that the scheme could be implemented right across Australia, and the lessons would be learnt. If anyone can do anything, it is we Territorians.
I am pleased to rise to support this legislation here tonight—the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016—and basically to lend my support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme generally. During my time in parliament I do not think I have had much of an opportunity to comment on it, but I will say that this is an incredibly important scheme. I guess I became very much aware of this as an issue when quite some years ago—probably more than a decade ago—I was adopted as part of an 'adopt a politician' scheme in Western Australia that the Disability Services Commission was running there. A family with a child with a disability would adopt a politician and invite that politician into their lives to have them understand exactly what managing the disability meant for the child and for the family. I have to say, I thought it was a brilliant scheme. In my generation particularly, people with disabilities were shunted away to special schools. We had very little exposure to people who had disability, and I think it led to an entirely unhealthy 'us and them' culture and reduced the empathy and compassion between people with disabilities and the rest of the community. It was very good when we reversed those sorts of policy settings. But still, if you have not really had a personal experience, very often you fail to understand just how profound the problems are.
So, a family from Seville Grove adopted me. Watching as they did their absolute best to provide for their son, Daniel, who was a severely autistic young boy, and seeing him grow into a young man, and watching the difficulty they had in trying to get him into appropriate schooling and then to provide appropriate opportunity for him to do something after he left school, really opened my eyes to the nature of the problem we had, and indeed those of many of the politicians in Western Australia and around Australia. I am very pleased that under Labor, with bipartisan support—and I particularly acknowledge the role of Bill Shorten and Jenny Macklin in this—we did grasp the mettle and say that we have to do something here, that this cannot be a case of pass the parcel where one group of people has this problem and the rest of us do very little to contribute to help them. So, I think the fundamental principles are right.
I want to use this occasion to express my concern about what is happening in Western Australia. I am aware that sometimes schemes that are developed in the east are not necessarily suited to particular circumstances, such as our population structure in Western Australia. So, I thought it was very interesting and appropriate that two different models were allowed to be trialled in Western Australia: the state model and the federal model. The understanding was that there would be a report—an independent evaluation of both of these systems—which would be made public before a decision was made in respect of Western Australia as to which model would be put in place.
So I was deeply concerned when just a couple of months ago, before the trials had finished and certainly before any independent report had been released, the state government made a final decision to go with the WA model. Our concern is that people with disabilities and their families deserve to have a say about their future and they deserve to have the opportunity to look at these independent evaluations and comment on them before a final decision is made. I call upon Minister Porter to bring WA into line in this regard.
I also want to use this brief opportunity to talk about some of the problems that the NDIS would not resolve. There is the need, notwithstanding this rollout—and it will be a rather slow rollout of the NDIS—for us to have a vaccine injury compensation system at the same time. I am working on behalf of the Hammond family in Kalgoorlie. I think I have mentioned them before. The father, a FIFO worker on a mining site, was advised by hospital staff that he needed to have a pertussis booster before he could see his baby in the neonatal ward. He did that and, within three days, he suffered a permanent impairment. He went through a period of quadriplegia. I am glad to say that he has recovered somewhat from that, but there is no doubt that he is left with a permanent incapacity. It has now been acknowledged by the hospital in the negligence case that it was unnecessary to have the vaccination and that it would have been entirely ineffective because it would take at least two weeks to have any impact. To give him the injection and then admit him to the neonatal ward within two minutes was completely ineffective treatment.
The real point is that no-one really wants to necessarily even argue negligence in these matters. It has been commented on time and time again that, in a mass immunisation scheme, there are people who will have to take one for the team. There is absolutely no dispute that the science tells us that there are rare cases where there will be a severe adverse reaction. There is more and more evidence suggesting that might be linked to particular genetic factors, but obviously there is no doubt there will be rare cases.
In the immunisation community here in Australia, people like Clare Looker and Heath Kelly have had a variety of functions in public health, including when they prepared a very important paper on this issue. They were at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory. Esteemed people within the immunology community, including the most eminent Western Australian, Fiona Stanley, and Dr Peter Richmond, the immunologist who wears many different hats in Western Australia, believe that we need to have a compensation scheme. They have looked around the world. Contrary to what the Department of Health unfortunately tell the Minister for Health and other people—that these schemes are only introduced where they have mandated vaccination—is simply not correct. In addition to that, one might argue that, given the latest provisions that we have introduced through the No Jab, No Pay provisions, there is indeed an element of economic compulsion. Most of the schemes that have been introduced in 19 countries around the world have not been mandatory but on the active promotion of immunisation. Doctors Looker and Kelly in their report went through the 19 schemes and found them very effective and found that they have had a very significant role in helping to build trust. We know that a great deal of vaccine resistance and vaccine hesitance arises out of a failing of trust. Around the world is a preparedness to introduce a no-fault compensation scheme so that individuals who are disproportionately asked to bear the burden of a mass vaccination scheme and the development of herd immunity are not left carrying the burden alone.
We would certainly argue for a scheme, particularly the one that Heath Kelly tells me he believes is perhaps most suited for Australia, which involves a levy on the pharmaceutical companies. In the United States, this scheme has been in place since 1987. The levy per vaccine is less than US$1, and that has been able to entirely fund the scheme. We must look seriously at introducing this. It is a question of fairness. We talk about fairness with our No Jab, No Pay scheme—that you cannot take from the community unless you are prepared to get your child immunised. We know that has a particularly strong impact on people on low to modest incomes who are reliant on government subsidies. Vaccines have been a great benefit for this community, but we need to ensure that there is trust and there is fairness by ensuring that a person who is unintentionally harmed by a vaccination is not left to walk alone and that there is an expression of solidarity from the community for the introduction of access to a no-fault compensation scheme. I think this is entirely in accordance with the principles of the NDIS.
Vaccine injury is viewed as a special circumstance, different from other injuries. This is a case where individuals bear a burden for the benefit to the rest of the community of a recommended medical procedure designed to enhance public health. It is something that needs to be addressed conclusively and not simply left to the long-term rollout of the NDIS. I do hope that the minister is prepared to listen to the views of the immunology community. This is something that can be done in a way that is cost neutral. It would certainly save a lot of heartache and prevent a lot of the unnecessary and, at times, very difficult medical negligence cases that are currently undertaken. This really is not a situation of negligence. We are trying to shoehorn circumstances into negligence in order to get just compensation for people who have been injured by these vaccines.
I think the NDIS is a fantastic program. I hope we stick with it and ensure that it is introduced across this country, including in my state of Western Australia, in a way that will deliver real quality of life for people with disability.
It is a wonderful electorate, thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker Broadbent. You should have come and visited. It is my great pleasure to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill. I am going to speak only for a couple of minutes, but I just wanted to reiterate my support for this bill. We know that the bill is going to vary the number of board members and change some quorum requirements. In terms of the changes that have been made—and we are very pleased it has bipartisan support—the bill reiterates the full commitment of the government to rolling out the NDIS.
As the member for Corangamite I am so incredibly proud of the Barwon trial rollout of the NDIS. Some 5,000 participants are now being supported under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are also incredibly proud to be the home of the National Disability Insurance Agency. The headquarters are very much up and running, and a tender is underway at the moment to build a brand-new building to house the NDIS headquarters. There will also be some 400 employees from the Department of Human Services in that same building. So we are seeing an incredible change in our landscape in the Geelong and Corangamite regions as such an important agency as the NDIA establishes itself and grows there.
As we have heard in this debate, the full rollout is now underway in a number of states—New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Bilateral agreements have been signed. Across Victoria, 105,000 people will now receive the individual support they need, including the people of Golden Plains, who, regrettably, were excluded from the Barwon trial, under the previous government. I am very pleased that the people of Golden Plains will now be coming into the full rollout as of 1 July 2017.
The NDIS is an incredible creator of jobs and opportunity, as well as transforming the lives of those with a disability and the lives of their families. The NDIS headquarters in Geelong alone is employing over 270 people, with the number of jobs rising to well over 350 by July 2017. Three hundred and thirty of these employees will be based in Geelong. There are also 160 people currently working in the Geelong Barwon trial site office and the Colac Barwon trial office. So we are seeing an incredible commitment from our government for the NDIS, with a lot of bipartisan support of course, across the Geelong and Corangamite regions.
I was at the great football match on Saturday night, when Geelong absolutely smashed the Gold Coast. It was a great game. One of the guest speakers at that game was an incredibly impressive man by the name of Richard Colman, a Paralympian. Richard is in a wheelchair. He was such an inspiration. He talked about the importance of Geelong as a centre of excellence for disability, saying, 'I don't want to be known as someone with a disability who can do ordinary things; I want to be known as someone with a disability who can do extraordinary things.' And he certainly is doing extraordinary things. It is wonderful to see that level of passion and energy and to see people like Richard Colman achieving so magnificently on the world stage.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the opening of the Eastern Hub. It is a $6.5 million facility funded in part by Karingal and by the previous state Liberal government, with a lot of philanthropic support as well. It is a magnificent building. It is a community hub. It is also a hub for disability services. The level of commitment, excitement and investment that we are seeing from the likes of Karingal and St Laurence and the other disability service providers across our region is wonderful.
That is not to say that there are not still some challenges. For example, Pathways provide services for those with a mental illness, and they have told me that they have concerns about the funding model in relation to whether payment for clinicians and those who work with people with a mental illness, who are people with a permanent disability as defined under the NDIS, falls under the funding model. I have absolutely committed to assisting Pathways navigate some of the complexities involved in the current costings of the NDIS. That said, the NDIS is a wonderful scheme. It will be $22 billion commitment when it is fully rolled out.
I fully support and commend this legislation to the House. As I said, I am incredibly proud to represent the region which is the home of the National Disability Insurance Agency—a fine government agency making an incredible difference to our region, to those with a disability and to their families.
You are very kind, sir. This could be my last utterance on this floor, so I hope it is a worthwhile contribution. I want to begin by thanking Bruce Bonyhady, all of the board, the executive and all of the staff at the National Disability Insurance Agency. Rolling out the NDIS is an extraordinary challenge of grand proportions that represents one of the great social ambitions of our generation. It is not straightforward, the moving parts are immense and this is a very extraordinary enterprise we are all a part of to see that it is done well. I have characterised it as a bit like building an aircraft while we fly it: things are going okay; there is a need to refine, adjust, extend the range and be able to bring further people on board on this journey, but it is a challenge.
I admire the way in which successive ministers—very much so, including our current minister, Christian Porter—have navigated the policy framework and the way in which the parliament has embraced this very important initiative. I also want to thank my friend and colleague the member for Fisher. He is my predecessor, and I have large shoes to fill in his wake as I take on my role as the committee chairman of the joint parliamentary oversight committee of the NDIS. I want to thank the member for Fisher for his great insights and the great policy perspicacity that he has brought to that task and in the earlier reports of the oversight committee.
This bill is another instalment in that journey. It reflects a very heartfelt and genuine commitment of the government to fully implement the NDIS, and I am pleased to say that that long-term and enduring commitment carries over from similar ambitions held by the previous Labor government. This recognises that we need to get this right for people who have needs for lifelong support that are reasonable and necessary supports for them to achieve a full life—a fulfilling life—a life where ambition and potential, that is a part of everybody's journey on this planet, is also a part of the journey for people with disabilities.
Whilst we are very successfully managing the rollout of the NDIS, we always need to make sure we have a close eye on what we are learning along the way. I was pleased to hear colleagues talk about the Barkly trial, and I know, again, my friend the member for Fisher has been amongst the Barkly community, talking about their experiences and the insights that can be drawn from that early stage of the rollout. From my recent visit to Palm Island—an Indigenous community; quite remote and off the coast from Townsville—I am pleased to say that a lot of the learnings out of the Barkly trial are now being picked up and embedded as business as usual on Palm Island. One of the great insights—particularly if you are wanting to engage with Indigenous community—is to have one of the community elders actively involved in raising awareness and giving people confidence and competence to navigate the support that is available. There is a direct insight and learning from the Barkly trial, and this is what we are seeing throughout the trial sites: new insights on how to make sure we do this incredibly significant challenge for our generation—that we do it well and we learn from our experiences.
The Commonwealth has now signed bilateral agreements for the full transition of the scheme in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. In the capital, here in the ACT, it has been agreed that eligible populations will be fully covered by September this year. Together, these agreements provide for around 85 per cent of the anticipated 460,000 Australians expected to be eligible for support under the NDIS. We know we have a parallel comparative trial operating in Western Australia, and that is being extended and expanded as well to ensure that the little under 11,000 current and future participants know of the ongoing support available to them and their families through the NDIS. The Commonwealth and the Western Australian government have agreed to finalise a state-wide rollout of the NDIS by October, this year, and a full rollout in Western Australia will continue on from 1 July. There is lots going on, and we are working to finalise arrangements in the Northern Territory as soon as possible.
Let us look at the Northern Territory. We know the Northern Territory has one of the challenges that we face—what is known as thin markets. We have a dispersed population and nowhere near the dozens and dozens of service providers you might find in a capital city, but we have this ambition to ensure that, regardless of your place of residence across this vast continent, you will get the support that you need. That is one of the insights. That is why working through and mapping out how to successfully make the NDIS available for Northern Territorians is very important.
It is one of a range of issues that our second report from the joint standing committee touched on: how we tackle thin markets. These are communities where the idea of empowering participants is to select from a range of service choices and providers available to them—to make sure a full life and full ambition is given full opportunity through the NDIS. That is a difficult proposition in more-remote locations. Other insights were: how do we build the workforce? This is an extraordinary ramp up. That is $22 billion annually, when it is fully operationalised, for just under half a million of our citizens. How do we make sure we have the workforce that can provide top-quality care at an efficient price and enable participants and their carers to exercise the choice that is at the heart of this scheme?
Another area we have been looking at is participant engagement. I touched on the Barkly trial insights and our learnings that are being applied in Palm Island but, for those living with a disability, how do we make sure that they are aware of the opportunity and support that is available for them as the scheme is rolled out? And then, being informed of those choices and opportunities, how do we make sure that the capacity is there to choose, access and analyse the array of options available—whether it is directly by the participant or through their families and carer network? These are important challenges.
For the NDIA itself, we need to get its systems right. You can imagine there are all these moving parts. It is an immense assignment to have quality embedded in well-priced services that are being delivered in the way in which they were intended, representing good outcomes for the participants and good value for the taxpayer. This is a challenge that is also being faced.
But also in building capacity we need to understand that the service providers themselves are on quite a journey. If you are used to block funding through whatever level of government to provide an identified level of care or service for an identified group of consumers, clients and participants and that money is paid up-front and then you make sure that you are doing what is asked of you to the standard that is expected, that is a very different concept to being a service provider needing to enchant and delight customers who have no obligation to draw the service from you. This is a real transformation in those businesses.
I was pleased to be part of the Australian Institute of Company Directors' briefing workshop in Melbourne just last week where it was all about social enterprises. Social enterprises are inspired by a purpose and community vision, but they cannot run at a loss. Just because you are a not-for-profit that does not make it okay to lose money. You are not for loss and not for profit.
Many of the agencies, organisations and service providers in the NDIS enterprise and endeavour are facing their own challenge. For a business to be told, 'Here's a chunk of money. Here's what's required of you. Do the right thing with the client group we've identified. Everything is sweet, and we'll do it again next year,' is different from them saying, 'Here's what I think I as a service can do for you within your eligibility funding envelope that has been assessed. Here's how this will help pursue the ambitions and goals you have for fulfilling your life and here's where we think we can make a difference and use that allocation of resources wisely.' That is a different proposition. What if the service provider is not meeting their clients' needs? What if there was an experience in an earlier year where someone was not quite at the top of their game and the participant is looking for another person to be their provider? This whole idea of being customer driven is quite a cultural transformation that is not easily navigated. These are some of the challenges we are facing.
This complexity is in part why this bill is before the chamber today. What was understood and recognised quite early by governments, not just this government but all governments in the Federation, was that there was a need to make sure the board that oversaw this great enterprise had the skill set, insight and wisdom to navigate these charges that I have described. And there are a whole bunch of others, such as transitioning organisations, strategy, risk, insurance, governance and implementation. It is not a small challenge.
That is why there was an independent review of the skills, competencies and experiences required on the board to support this post initial transition phase into a full rollout and then embed good systems and good value, meeting the ambitions of governments, participants, service providers and the broader community in the longer term. That is what triggered this bill. That review identified that there was a need for a broader range of experience on the board to talk about change management. This is a transformation of very substantial proportions. Navigating that requires skill sets that might not ordinarily be the first that come to mind when you are putting together the governance structure and board of an organisation like this, such as financial management and deep embedded expertise in management of insurance based schemes. This is why there was a need to revise the board, specifically its membership but also its configuration. That is why we have this bill before us today.
This is a sensible move. This is part of what we are learning on this journey that we are seeing with the rollout, understanding what government and policymakers need to do to give the scheme the very best chance of success. As I mentioned earlier, 460,000 people are counting on us getting this right.
I want to go back to where I started. There is a group in our community of carers and parents who have selflessly given up their lives to care for their loved ones. We know of the stories about mature-age parents who have spent 50 or 60 years caring for a loved one with a profound intellectual disability. We know that the care and support available and the impact that has had on the metabolic rate of such participants sees those parents being called to do things well into what should be retirement age. I have spoken with such parents. We all have in this place. They want to know that they can look forward with confidence to a scheme that will provide all of the support that is reasonable and necessary for their loved ones. Why? It is because they have done that selflessly right throughout their lives.
That is what inspires and animates the NDIS. That is why getting it right is important. That is why this bill is in this House—to make sure that the skill set, talents and competencies on the NDIA board support that very virtuous ambition and recognises that families and carers have given all you could ever ask of them in the love, care and support of family members living with a disability. That is why I commend this bill tonight.
I am pleased to tonight to rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. This bill makes a small administrative change. It changes section 126 of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 by amending the number of members from eight up to 11 and giving the minister the flexibility to decrease the size of the board at some point in the future when it is considered appropriate and prudent to do so. It is important to have board members on the National Disability Insurance Authority board who have wide experience from all different walks of life and management of finances and involvement with the disability sector in this economy. To go from eight to 11 is an important change.
I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the National Disability Insurance Scheme with a little bit of a wider scope. I do so as someone who has an intimate relationship with what is required. I have a son who was born with Down Syndrome and who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. He is now 21 years old. I have seen with my own eyes the need we have in our society for greater care of people with disabilities. Most of all, I have seen that we really need to put our resources into assisting carers. I have found that many of the people who are afflicted with some sort of disability, which they have inherited through birth or which has come about by accident, are generally happy people at heart. The greatest lesson I have learnt from my relationship with the disability sector is that their lives are valuable; that teaches us about the importance and preciousness of everyone's life and the importance of not prejudging people.
We really need the resources to go to help those carers—those people who have sacrificed the greater part of their lives to look after a loved one, whether it is a son or a daughter or a relative. They are the ones to whom we need to give greater resources, but we have to do this in a sustainable way. I know the member for Jagajaga comes to this debate with a good heart and wants to do as much as she can for people with disabilities, but when she says that the National Disability Insurance Scheme was funded by Labor, we need to tell the truth. The levy for the National Disability Insurance Scheme is half of one per cent and it raises $3.3 billion a year. It is estimated that, when we finally get the scheme rolled out to 460,000 participants, the cost will be $22 billion.
The truth is that at the moment with all the other burdens on government expenditure—with the ageing of the population, greater demands on health care and on the educational sector—we do not have a way at the moment of funding and annual expenditure of $22 billion in a sustainable way. We cannot fund it from continuing government debt and borrowings. Over the past 8½ years, this nation has borrowed money at the rate of $100 million every single day and it will most likely continue with that borrowing next year as well. If we are going to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it cannot be done from borrowed money; it has to come from a balanced budget. The only way we can do that is not to increase taxes and tie people up in red tape; rather, we have to do the opposite. We have to release the wealth creators of this nation and tell those people, 'If you want to get out there to start a business and create wealth, we in this parliament will back you.' We cannot do it if we are lock up developments or if we mandate higher energy costs. We cannot do it if we are attacking small business people, as we saw recently with the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. It is things like that that undermine our ability to finance or afford the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
If we are worried about governments undermining the future, we have to release the wealth creators of this nation. Let them get out there and build businesses. Let our farmers get out and farm their land without stopping them from clearing that land. Let's get the mines of this country into full operation; let's get off the backs of entrepreneurs and let them have a go. That is what we need to do if we are going to get this economy moving and fund the NDIS. We must fund it in the years to come in a sustainable way; otherwise we are holding out on the people who need the greatest assistance in our community. No matter which side of parliament we sit on, I hope that when we consider legislation we ask: how it will affect the wealth creators of our society? How will it determine our ability to finance the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the long term. That is our challenge as we go ahead. It is a huge change for this nation, but I believe the people of this nation are up to it. We have shown in the past that we are rich and wealthy nation, but our wealth does not come from the coal seams that run down the eastern seaboard or the iron ore in the outback or the gold. It comes from the entrepreneurial skills of individual citizens, and that is what we need to release to ensure that we have the wealth to give those carers and those suffering from a disability everything they need and they deserve. With that, I commend this bill to the House.
I am a bit like the member for Dunkley in that this is a post-valedictory speech, but this is such an important subject—the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I was a previous minister in this portfolio, and I recall quite vividly a meeting in Brisbane of all Commonwealth ministers where, as the Howard government minister, I had a blank cheque. This will sound incredible to some members, given the financial situation that the Commonwealth finds itself in today, as the previous member said, of borrowing $100 million a day. I was given the authority to approach all Labor ministers—as they all then were in the states—and say, 'For every new dollar that you put on the table, the Commonwealth will match it dollar for dollar to help improve the lives of the families who live with and support a person with a disability.' Sadly, that meeting was closed down in a flash because the states were not ready to step up the plate at that point.
I commend the Labor Party for bringing on the NDIS and making it a reality. Again, as the previous member said, unfortunately it has not been fully funded and this has created a great deal of unnecessary angst amongst the public. They have watched the coalition here dealing with the reality of a 22 thousand million dollar-a-year program, of which we all see the need—both the economic and the social need—but recognising that someone has to pay the piper at the end of the day. The Medicare payment that we are all obliged to pay does not go close to addressing that financial need.
Unless you have lived with someone with a disability, unless you are very close to families that have dealt with that struggle or unless you have had the privilege—and I call it a privilege—to sit as the chairman of the Joint Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as the member for Dunkley, who succeeded me, has and to hear firsthand the stories of families dealing sometimes with multiple cases of severe disability over many, many years, you cannot appreciate just how lucky you are. I want to bring to the House's attention just one woman who, in closed session, came to us. Obviously, I will not identify her. She only wanted to say one thing—and it was in the member for Corangamite's electorate; she just wanted to say thank you. The woman had severe disabilities, which she had had since birth, and one of those was incontinence. Not being able to afford incontinence pads or aids as an adult woman and having to deal with the challenges—I cannot even come up with the words—the indignity of not being able to have the appropriate aids to meet her needs spoke such volumes to this all-party committee. She wanted to say thank you for such a simple thing, which was: 'Today I now have that dignity that comes with having appropriate aids, and that is because of the NDIS.'
The member for Dunkley pointed out, and rightly so—and I want to support and echo his words—that the challenges that lie before us with the NDIS are massive. The sector is not ready. This does not mean we should not go ahead. What it says is that the boards—who are often comprised of people whose own families have had a child, generally, or even an adult with a disability—have formed groups to support those families over sometimes many decades and now many are growing old, but the market is changing. It is changing from one where governments, state and federal, provided block funding and people gave what support they could and gave as much care as they could to one of a market force—and that market force being that the power is for once being put into the hands of the individual. These people are the least empowered people in our nation, who, through no fault of their own, do not have the same 'abilities' as the rest of us. Many have extraordinary abilities, so I do not wish that comment to be seen as being disparaging in any way, shape or form. These people who need assistance beyond what the rest of us consider normal levels of support need to know that those supports are going to be there for them. If we cannot do that as a nation then we have to have a long, hard look at ourselves.
The organisations that will ultimately deliver those services, which are generally the not-for-profit sector, need to be able to change. This is a call from me tonight to capable people throughout the business community to get on board with the national disability scheme by supporting your local, your state and your national disability organisations. They are going to need your expertise in financial management, in service delivery and in being able to operate in a competitive market. They have to be able to find staff, to train staff, to make sure that those staff obtain the sorts of standards that we would all demand of someone looking after a vulnerable person in our community. Then they have to maintain those standards moving forward and do it in a cost-efficient manner. These are big tasks, massive tasks, but they are tasks that this nation is up for, if we all pull together and make it work.
As I said, I compliment the member for Jagajaga, who came into this place 20 years ago, with me, and who I think has been in that same portfolio for 20 years—but the work is not done. The work is only just beginning. We have got over the threshold. We have had the Every Australian Counts campaign, but now we have to make this scheme deliver on the ground. Let us have a look at the figures. Today, there are roughly 30,000 people in the system. The last time I looked, about 20 per cent of the services that they were entitled to avail themselves of they had not used. The funding has been there but they have not used the services. The questions have not been answered: why is that the case? Is it because there are inefficient people delivering the services? Is it because their information to connect with the services in an area is not satisfactory? What is it? We need to know that if we are going to fulfil those lives. Most importantly, we are going to need a disability sector—which is going to control and expend on behalf of the Commonwealth and the state governments 22 thousand million dollars a year—capable of stepping up to the plate, training the people who will deliver those services and making sure that they do not hurt people along the way.
Given that this will be my last contribution to the parliament, I did not really want to bring to the parliament's attention what I am about to say, but, because these people are so often so vulnerable, the parliament needs to be alerted to what can happen to them. I saw firsthand on Bribie Island, in my former electorate of Longman, a particular organisation who have gone to court. They came with all the best intentions, so it seemed, to help people with disabilities, but because of poor governance, because of no oversight by those who were given an authority to look after people with the greatest of disabilities, we saw, as a form of punishment, young people put in cages, those cages hoisted off the ground and the sides of the cages hit. There was sexual abuse of males and females. I reiterate to the parliament: people have been convicted. These things were not allegations. They happened. I recall to this day looking into the eyes of an adult male whose elderly parents had finally built up some trust whereby they felt there was somewhere where their son could live in peace and have a quality of life only to have it torn from him because others had taken that trust away. These are the real tests of the NDIS. Yes, we can deliver the services and we must, but we must also protect those who cannot protect themselves. The governance needs to be in place—the checks and balances, the quality of the people, what they are doing and how they are doing it—to make sure that not only the money is well spent but also that the services are delivered in such a way as to protect those who we seek to protect.
None of us, in this place, who have been part of big projects underestimate the challenges that lie ahead for everyone from the CEO and the board of NDIA through to the service providers, the parents, the siblings, the careers and the wider community. But if we all pull together we can show what passion this nation has for compassion—compassion for those who have drawn the short straw in some respects. Some of the previous speakers said there are many talents amongst the people who we will be seeking to help. What we need to do is draw out that talent. We need to give every individual the capability and the capacity to live life to its full and to be a contributor to the nation's future, because it is only when we realise what people are capable of and when we see past what can be the visual nature of a disability that we will recognise how much more people can offer.
Let me finish by talking about the person I know best with a disability—that is, my father. My dad, at four years of age, went into hospital in 1931 and contracted polio while he was there. He spent the next four years of his life in and out of hospitals. They actually built his coffin. They ripped open his chest and broke every rib to give him what was then called heart massage. He is a tough old bugger. He is now 89. In fact, he was in palliative care 18 months ago and the doctors were trying to kill him, but they failed. He is now playing chess again.
The organisation that he recounted to me only last week was the great Queensland charity then known as Montrose Home for Crippled Children, today known as MontroseAccess. He recalled the story of a man who then owned a business called Metropolitan Motors, in Brisbane. He gave my dad a toy on his seventh birthday: a little car with a light on it. He never forgot it. This same man also donated the house that became Montrose House that my dad spent 12 months in, allowing him to recuperate from this dreadful disease, polio.
When dad was a young adult with a family and struggling because of his polio—they did not have the services we have today—that same man gave him a job. It is that same passion that brings people to MontroseAccess today. It is our duty to work with MontroseAccess and all of those organisations around this country to support them, to encourage them and, in our professional roles outside of this parliament, to give our skills and expertise to ensure that they flourish, that they have the governance and that they have the skill set to make sure that we continue to deliver for people with disabilities. They are equal Australians and they deserve the same rights, to enjoy the same possibilities that this great nation has delivered for me and for every single person in this chamber. I commend this bill to the House.
I rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. Before I address the bill, I have to say how disappointed I was in the comments made by the member for Jagajaga. I always understood that this was a bipartisan approach to helping the most vulnerable in our community, and yet the member for Jagajaga sought to be political. She echoed the comments of her leader, that:
…the National Disability Insurance Scheme was properly funded when Labor left office and what we did is we increased the Medicare levy.
As you know, that is far from the truth. The truth is that the NDIS was not properly funded when Labor left office in 2013. Labor claims any savings were to be directed to the NDIS, but they were simply returned to consolidated revenue. They were not set aside to fund the NDIS. It is for this reason that the coalition government is required to find an additional $5 billion, which it is doing. Whatever Labor might choose to believe and whatever smoke and mirrors they use, you cannot spend the same dollar twice.
Australia is on the threshold of one of the most significant changes in social policy that this nation has seen in many years. The Productivity Commission report Disability care and support, released in July 2011, found that most families and individuals cannot adequately prepare for the risk and financial impact of significant disability. Indeed, it found that the disability support system across Australia was underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient. It also found that the stresses on the system were growing, with rising costs for all governments. Consequently, the coalition government has embraced the national disability insurance scheme as a means of providing support to eligible participants over their lifetime. This approach is expected to assist people with disabilities, their families and carers to increase their independence and improve their social and economic participation.
Importantly, this is not a welfare measure. On the contrary, it takes an insurance approach to supporting and investing in people early to maximise capacity and minimise long term costs. There can be no doubt that the scope and extent of the scheme is unprecedented. It is a major undertaking that must succeed not only in meeting its objective of assisting those with a disability but also in maximising the broader social and economic dividends that will flow from this type of investment.
Since taking on responsibilities as Assistant Minister for Disability Services I have met with more than 250 significant stakeholders. They have conveyed to me their experiences of the NDIS and the way in which they would like to see it administered over the next three years before full roll-out and into the distant future. These meetings have been productive, and I have learnt much from those at the coalface as they meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities that this new system provides.
I was also privileged to visit the national headquarters of the NDIA, the scheme's administrative agency in Geelong. The enthusiasm and dedication of the board, executive and staff was inspiring, and I was impressed by the professionalism that I encountered. On the same day, I visited the Barwon trial site, also located in Geelong, and I met representatives of disability agencies, NDIS participants and, with the member for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, the site staff and their families. Again, the commitment of these staff members to the success of the NDIS was inspiring.
The fact that the enthusiasm that I encountered on this occasion is being replicated throughout the country makes the success of the NDIS even more critical. The scheme is a shared venture between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. Its success depends on a close relationship between the Commonwealth states and territories, and it depends on mutual respect and utmost good faith. It is a matter of personal regret to me that the Queensland government chose to play politics with the NDIS before it, ultimately, agreed to sign a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth government. As the Minister for Social Services pointed out, the Commonwealth had reached agreements with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. It is beyond comprehension why Queensland decided to indulge in juvenile behaviour before agreeing to sign the document and join the NDIS. The minister indicated that, in each of these cases, an orderly and cooperative process was followed that would best benefit people living with disability. Any independent observer would be entitled to ask why Queensland, of all the states and territories, had such difficulty in behaving in a responsible manner. I can only assume the pressures of minority government are imposing such a burden on the Premier that standards of decent behaviour have flown out of the window with Labor's wafer-thin majority.
The second important element in the governance of the scheme is the independent board, which was established under the NDIS Act. It is the board's responsibility to ensure the proper, efficient and effective performance of the NDIS functions. The board is responsible for determining the NDIA's objectives, strategies and policies. The NDIS is a major undertaking. It is a multimillion-dollar scheme. It is entitled to the most qualified and competent leadership as possible at board level. The board must be composed of the broadest possible cross-section of the community. Board members must bring skills and experience which will contribute to the leadership of this crucial scheme.
The current size of the board does not allow for the diversity and strength required for the management of the NDIS. The Council of Australian Governments agreed in April last year that there was a need to strengthen governance arrangements. This is particularly critical in administering the challenges associated with managing the transition of the NDIS to the full scheme. Indeed, an independent review of the skills and experience required on the board for the transition stage found that the board should have strong ASX 50 or large government-business enterprise level experience in operation and financial systems, and controls. Accordingly, this bill seeks to increase the maximum number of board members from nine to 12, including the chairman. At the same time, the bill changes the quorum arrangements to make it clear that a quorum is a majority of board members
I believe these changes will make an important contribution to the effectiveness of the entire NDIS apparatus. Residents of every electorate in Australia, including the division of Ryan, are looking forward to the successful implementation of the NDIS. They are acutely aware that the needs of people with disability, some of the most vulnerable people in our community, must be met. However, they are equally conscious that the scheme must have effective leadership to ensure that its objectives are met. The measures in this bill will go some of the way to doing that.
I commend the bill to the House and look forward to the improvements in governance arrangements that this bill will bring.
I thank all the members for their contributions to this, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. The bill amends the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 to essentially increase the maximum number of members of the board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency, known generally as the NDIA, and also to make a number of minor consequential changes to quorum provisions for board meetings.
Under the amendments, the minister would have the capacity to appoint up to 11 members, aside from the chair. This change ensures that the government, in consultation with the states and territories, has the ability to provide the NDIA with a board that has the required range of skills, experience and abilities to manage the National Disability Insurance Scheme as it proceeds to full nationwide coverage. The government is, self-evidently, committed to the full implementation of the NDIS. This government is committed to the benefits that the NDIS brings for people with a disability, their families, their carers and the broader Australian community. Indeed, it is the coalition government that is successfully managing the rollout of the NDIS—and no small feat is that. We are doing that to ensure that it is going to be delivered on time and on budget—which is certainly the case do date. It is the coalition government that has concluded agreements to ensure that the NDIS will be rolled out across the country. The Commonwealth has now signed bilateral agreements for the transition to the full NDIS scheme, with New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Of course, in the ACT, the agreed eligible population will be fully covered by September 2016. So, together, these agreements provide certainty to date for around 85 per cent of the 460,000 Australians who are expected to be eligible for the NDIS.
Further, the comparative trial in Western Australia is also being extended and expanded until 30 June 2017 to give further certainly to around 10,900 current and future participants of ongoing support from the NDIS. The Commonwealth and the WA governments have also agreed to finalise arrangements for the state-wide roll-out of the NDIS by October 2016, with the full roll-out in WA to continue from 1 July 2017. Essentially, we are on the verge of finalising arrangements for the roll-out with the NDIS also across the Northern Territory.
This week, another very important bill will come before the parliament—that is, the bill to establish the NDIS savings fund to ensure that the NDIS is fully funded into the future. For those opposite who now claim the NDIS was fully funded, that is nothing short of a very clumsy attempt to rewrite history. The claim now that there were adequate, specific, clearly-identified savings set aside to fully fund the NDIS is simply incorrect. Indeed, that is a topic upon which there will be much more to say, no doubt, in the context of the NDIS savings account that will be debated later this week and which I might say here is a major test for the opposition in terms of their support and realistic and rational commitment to the full rollout of the NDIS.
But for present purposes, the measures in this bill simply increase the maximum size of the board and that is part of a limited number of measures, but important measures, that the government is working on constructively with the states and territories through COAG and its Disability Reform Council. We are discussing, through COAG and its Disability Reform Council, a number of limited measures designed to ensure that the NDIA governance structures are agile and are responsive as we commence the very critical steps in transition to full scheme and to ensure that the NDIS can continue to be delivered sustainably on time and on budget, as is presently the case.
I might add, with respect to the COAG and Disability Reform Council process, that contrary to some of the contributions from members opposite in this second reading debate, absolutely none of the governance changes that are being constructively discussed through COAG and the Disability Reform Council would provide the Commonwealth with the ability to limit eligibility to the scheme. Any assertion to that effect is simply incorrect. Nor do any of those discussed changes change anything with respect to the level of reasonable and necessary support that a participant requires. That is neither now nor will it ever be the government's intention. The NDIS Act clearly defines eligibility. It clearly defines what is referred to as 'reasonable and necessary support' and this government does not propose to change those matters at all.
The present measure is part of a range of matters being discussed through COAG and the Disability Reform Council as part of trying to make the governance of the NDIA best suited to protect and advance the interest of those who will be served by the NDIS. The present measure is simply to do with determining the size and constitution of the board. This bill, which would increase the board's size, has been informed by an independent review of the skills and experience required on the NDIA board for the transition to full scheme. That review concluded that the next iteration of the board would need to have stronger experience in ASX 50 or large government business enterprise level organisations, with particular experience in change and financial management, financial systems and controls, and considerable expertise in the operation and management of insurance based schemes. That is perhaps not unsurprising given that the board has oversighted what was the very early stage of the NDIS, but now will need to oversight the growth of the NDIS from around 30,000 participants right up to the figure of 460,000 in what will be a relatively short time frame.
Implementation of this measure has been agreed with the members of the Council of Australian Government's Disability Reform Council, with a staged approach being adopted that ensures that there will be continuity while also producing the best possible governance outcomes during transition to NDIS full scheme. It is for this reason that the government has reappointed the current chair and members of the NDIA board for periods of either six or 12 months as part of this continuity and reform process. The government does not consider the current NDIA board to be expendable, which is quite contrary to some of the comments made by members opposite. That is precisely why we have agreed to extend the current tenures of members of the members of the board and have made it clear that they will be fully considered in any future merit-based appointment process. The amendments before the House today ensure that the NDIA board, which is charged with the oversight of this significant social policy reform, continues to have the appropriate selection of skills, capabilities and leadership qualities to bring the NDIS to full scheme within the allocated budget and time frame.
I thank the members opposite for agreeing to support this bill. I also encourage them to continue their support for other measures that the government is taking to ensure that the NDIS is fully funded, properly governed and sustainable into the future. I commend the bill to the House.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.