Tuesday, 25 February 2020
National Disability Insurance Scheme, Infrastructure
I rise in this grievance debate to represent the interests of my constituents who are participants and carers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is these people who are worse off because of the government's plundering of the NDIS budget for the purposes of a marketing line to bring the budget back into black. What this perverse marketing ploy fails to realise, however, is that taking $4.6 billion from the NDIS has left thousands of Australians without access to products and services they need.
Last week I held a forum in my electorate with NDIS participants and their carers and loved ones, with the member for Maribyrnong, the shadow minister for the NDIS and government services; the member for Dobell, the shadow assistant minister for carers and mental health; and the member for Macarthur. Unfortunately for some, the term 'participants' is a misnomer. The systematic under-resourcing of the NDIS has left them frustrated and devastated, looking for a way to support themselves and their loved ones. It was tragic to see so many people affected by the disaster that this government has created by running the NDIS into the ground. Waiting on the phone, endless review cycles to prove the same information time and time again, and funding packages that are inconsistent and unfair from one person to the next are just some of the key themes that the participants have told me about over the past four years.
One of my constituents is a quadruple amputee. He needs prostheses to give him the ability to hold his son's hand to walk to school and work in a job that's fulfilling. He needs digitalised fingers and home modifications, the applications for which have been the subject of continual delays while waiting for decisions by the NDIA over several years. And, to add insult, he must prove every single year that he still has a disability. It's ludicrous.
Sadly, this is not the only situation I have seen. One of my constituents who came to the forum has a 13-year-old son who must get around in a wheelchair due to his disability. He needs car modifications to transfer his son between home, school and family events. His son also requires either adjustments to the existing wheelchair or a new one so that he can be more independent at home. He had to move him around using a manual wheelchair that was far too small for his son. It has taken the NDIS two years make a decision. But my constituent's son has a life-limiting illness, so therefore these delays could cost this family one-fifth of the time he has left—time that could have been spent outdoors at family events, seeing the country and making memories with his family. Bureaucracy should not deprive participants or their families of the best chance in life.
This is how the current shortfall in the administration of the NDIS is affecting participants and their carers, and it's not how it should be. Review periods are blowing out, placing people in an indefinite cycle of decision-making at the whim of the NDIA. In fact, even when trying to call the NDIS hotline to talk about these issues, participants are facing grossly inadequate service standards. The NDIS was created so that individuals and their carers could take control of their support and make meaningful decisions, but that does not seem to be happening. Everybody is being pushed into a bureaucratic matrix and given a certain level of support, regardless of what they actually need or even at times what they are looking for, particularly when they have complex multifaceted disabilities. One of my constituents contacted me recently about his 20-year-old twins, Seth and Stan. They have the same underlying medical diagnosis, yet one twin, Stan, has received more funding than the other twin, Seth. One would think, on the surface, they should at least receive the same funding. What's worse, all the evidence submitted by the family shows that, actually, it's Seth who requires more support than his brother. This is absolute madness. In one of the rare attempts to personalise the care, the person who requires more funding receives less.
The purpose of the NDIS is to provide the hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability the opportunity to live a full and fulfilling life. Like so many other important Labor reforms, it's about ensuring all Australians, regardless of background, social status, disadvantage or their post code, are able to be the best person they can. Labor governments build the great reforms of this nation for the benefit of everyone. Examples of this abound: Medicare, access to tertiary education, the NBN and the NDIS. Coalition governments neglect and destroy them, in favour of playing favourites and picking winners.
Another case in my electorate is infrastructure. Since the industrial revolution, cities and economic hubs have developed around transport hubs—in the 1800s it was rivers and ports, in the 19th century it was the railways and in the 21st century it will be airports, an aerotropolis with industries like aeronautics, advanced manufacturing, logistics supporting gate-to-plate agriculture and e-commerce fulfilment. World-class road, rail and telecommunications to support Liverpool and Campbelltown will provide for a far more efficient workforce and a better quality of life for all residents of Werriwa. That's why it's critically important to the success of Western Sydney Airport and the aerotropolis that world-class transport links are built and built now. The South West Rail Line Extension from Leppington through to Western Sydney Airport provides the quickest and most cost-effective solution. The land corridor is already preserved and would easily and quickly connect the airport to Liverpool, Campbelltown and the rest of Sydney via the existing rail network. It would also provide a direct link with Western Sydney Airport and Kingsford Smith airport. A north-south rail link from Western Sydney Airport to Macarthur would not just benefit the airport but provide much-needed public transport for the entire south-west growth corridor, as would a rapid-transit link along Fifteenth Avenue from the Liverpool CBD to Western Sydney Airport. The south-west of Sydney is one of the key growth areas of Australia and is on the cusp of realising its economic and cultural potential.
Despite being a key growth area and home to the Western Sydney Airport, do you know how much money Werriwa received from the Urban Congestion Fund? Nothing. To the north of the electorate, the marginal seat of Lindsay received millions of dollars from this government. Is the road rort the next rort we're going to uncover? Vital infrastructure must be funded and built so that the south-west's major populations centres such as Liverpool and Campbelltown are linked to the airport and aerotropolis from day one. Part of that infrastructure is the development of the M12 motorway. I note the NSW government's assertion that the M12 will be toll free, but for westbound commuters the only planned entrance for the M12 is through the existing M7, which is a tolled motorway. This is in fact tolling by stealth. It's another betrayal by the NSW state government which now has a long list of saying one thing before an election and another after.
Second is the RMS's questionable traffic modelling. Modelling assumes that by 2036 the M7 will have three lanes between Camden Valley Way and Old Wallgrove Road, and four lanes between Old Wallgrove Road and the M4 interchange. This is despite no commitment to construct these additional lanes and no modelling, meaning this project is based on false and flawed assumptions to ensure there is no gridlock at the M7/M12 interchange.
Last, and of most concern, is the proposed location of the southbound off-ramp onto the M7. The proposed location would take the road above and across the ridge line at Cecil Hills, exposing an entire suburb to light and noise pollution. This will have a devastating effect on the amenity of residents, not to mention being a huge blow to their property prices. I have launched a petition and the local community has already reacted strongly to support that petition, despite it only being available for a couple of days. There were four community consultation sessions held, but they were well away from the suburb which is most affected—the most densely populated area affected by this project. Furthermore, all the glossy brochures and promotional videos obscure from view the part of the project that encroaches on the suburb of Cecil Hills. As with most things that come from state and federal Liberal governments, this short-sighted proposal only concerns itself with the next electoral cycle.
The Western Sydney Airport is a once-in-a-century project that has the potential to transform the region through employment, education and economic opportunity. The project must not be hamstrung by short-term electoral prospects and penny pinching to the detriment of current and future generations. If the government wishes the Western Sydney Airport to be a success, it needs to stop playing politics with it. There is no point in committing millions of taxpayer dollars without the infrastructure that goes with it. I call on the government to fund the required infrastructure properly and promptly.