House debates

Monday, 4 December 2017


National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017; Consideration of Senate Message

3:16 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand it's the wish of the House to consider the amendments together.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to thank members opposite for their cooperation in the Senate. I'm not going to speak to the amendments—they're well known—but I understand that my opposite number is.

3:17 pm

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the minister. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on these amendments that have been moved by the government to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Quality and Safeguards Commission and Other Measures) Bill 2017. I'm pleased to say these amendments are those that Labor has secured in agreement with the government and in consultation with stakeholders to improve this bill. I appreciate the willingness of the minister to work with Labor on these amendments.

Labor referred this bill to a Senate inquiry to make sure there was a chance for it to be properly examined. This is a major piece of legislation, a very complex piece of legislation, that required a lot of investigation by many, many different interest groups—disability groups, providers of disability services, unions and state governments—all of whom raised multiple and serious concerns about the bill. It is fair to say that some of the concerns that were raised by stakeholders could have been avoided with an earlier consultation process but, that said, this has begun during the period of the Senate inquiry and post that time. I understand the government does intend to continue consulting on the detailed development of the rules—on all of the issues—with people with disability, carer groups, advocates, providers of services, unions, and state and territory governments. The involvement of all these different groups is vital to the success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Labor has consulted intensively with stakeholders on this bill, working through detailed concerns and also seeking further information. I do want to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who were involved. They did a lot of work in scrutinising this bill—a lot of dedicated work to make sure we get this right—up against very tight time lines. It is right that the government has wanted to move this along and that's why we've tried to work with them to facilitate this, as I said, large and complex bill.

I want to take a little time to go through the amendments, because they are significant and they haven't been discussed in the House before. Disability organisations raised concerns that independent advocacy is not well understood in the context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There is confusion and, in some cases, marginalisation of this important role. Sometimes independent advocates are the only trusted support for people with disability, and National Disability Insurance Scheme providers need to acknowledge and facilitate access to independent advocacy. These amendments will make sure that the bill explicitly states that NDIS participants have the right to access independent advocacy, and the provisions are made to define and protect this role.

The bill will be amended to define an independent advocate under section 9 of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act, otherwise known as the NDIS Act, in a definition agreed with advocacy groups. These amendments will ensure that registered NDIS providers implement and maintain a complaints management and resolution system that, firstly, acknowledges the role of independent advocates and other representatives of people with disability and, secondly, provides for cooperation with independent advocates and other representatives of persons with disability who are affected by the complaints process and who wish to be independently supported in that process by an advocate or other representative. These are very important issues that do need to be recognised, and I appreciate the government's acknowledgement of that.

The bill will also be amended to expand actions that must be taken in relation to reportable incidents. They may include requiring a registered NDIS provider to provide people with disability with information regarding the use of an advocate in relation to an investigation into the reportable incident. The amendments will provide independent advocates with protection for disclosure and ensure that the commissioner must acknowledge, recognise and respect the roles of independent advocates in representing the interests of people with disability. (Extension of time granted)

On procedural fairness for workers—another section of amendments that the government is moving, which we appreciate—unions have raised concerns about the absence of provisions in the bill to ensure procedural fairness for NDIS workers who are subject to complaints or investigations. We have been able to secure amendments that will allow for NDIS rules in relation to the management and resolution of complaints arising out of or in connection with the provision of supports or services by NDIS providers to deal with requirements relating to procedural fairness in relation to the management and resolution of complaints and, secondly, to ensure the commissioner must have due regard to procedural fairness in performing his or her functions.

The third area that I want to refer to is restrictive practices, a very sensitive issue in the disability field and very important in this legislation. Disability organisations, including Disabled People's Organisations Australia, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Disability Advocacy Network Australia, National Disability Services, and Children and Young People with Disability Australia, have raised particular concerns that the bill does not include regulatory powers to enable the NDIS commissioner to prohibit certain restrictive practices. As Disabled People's Organisations Australia stated:

… current mechanisms at State and Territory level are varied and inconsistent, with some consisting of relatively weak policy functions within government departments and others having established regulatory bodies and mechanisms.

This already creates inequity and protection from practices that have been found to constitute torture and ill treatment and this bill should provide the highest level of protections equally across Australia. This amendment will expand the commissioner's behaviour support function to include assisting the states to develop a regulatory framework, including nationally consistent minimum standards in relation to restrictive practices that are consistent with both the National Framework for Reducing and Eliminating the Use of Restrictive Practices in the Disability Services Sector and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will strengthen the commissioner's role in this very important area.

In the area of governance and involvement with the states, an area that we've been particularly concerned about, we are worried that the Minister for Social Services is forcing governance changes that will reduce the role of the states. This is something that would undermine the success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It does need to be emphasised that the states and territories have a vital role in the successful delivery of the NDIS. It is a national scheme, not a Commonwealth scheme. It is a national scheme, in which each of the jurisdictions play a very important part. It is important that states and territories' perspectives are sought and genuinely listened to. It's something that Labor will continue to hold the government to account about.

Again, I cannot stress enough the need for the government to include stakeholders as the NDIS is rolled out. People with disability, advocates, unions, providers and the states and territories must all be genuinely listened to and involved to get the best results for the scheme.

I also want to state, again, that this legislation does not negate the need for a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability, as the government has claimed. Therese Sands, from Disabled People's Organisations Australia has said of the NDIS quality safeguards framework:

It doesn’t address the scale of violence and abuse against people with disability, its many different forms and the range of service and other settings where it occurs.

This bill does not address the need for a royal commission into abuse against people with disability.

Labor announced in May that, should we win the next election, we will establish a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability. The continued abuse of Australians with disability by people who are meant to care for them, demands a royal commission. People with disability experience much higher rates of violence than the rest of the community and, in many cases, this violence occurs in places where they're meant to be receiving care and support. Children with disability are at least three times more likely to experience abuse than other children. People with disability and their families have been campaigning for a royal commission for years and only a royal commission has the weight, authority and investigative powers to examine these horrific accounts of abuse and violence against people with disability. We call, again, on the government to establish a royal commission into the abuse of people with disability now.

As I said at the start, this is a very important piece of legislation and these are important amendments that will strengthen protections for people with disability as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We should never forget that the driving purpose of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is to improve the lives of people with disability, their families and carers. It is my hope that, with the passage of these amendments today, we will do exactly that.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the question be put.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the question be put.