Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


National Disability Insurance Scheme; Consideration

6:37 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on document No. 13, the government response to the joint standing committee's examination of the transitional arrangements for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, known as the NDIS. Again, given that I'm often so critical, I should note when positive things happen—that the government response to this report was reasonably swift and reasonably thorough, and it's good to see those processes working well when they do.

I want to speak more broadly on the ongoing issues, and this report and the response acknowledges that the transitional arrangements for the NDIS are an ongoing issue. One of the things that struck me most starkly when I came back into this chamber at the end of last year was how many times people raised with me concerns about the NDIS, and they raised it spontaneously. Often when I was meeting and talking with them about other issues the problems that implementation of the NDIS arrangements were causing would come up. One area where that's particularly so is in regard to people from backgrounds where languages other than English are spoken. There's clearly an underrepresentation and so far a failing to adequately reach out to and connect with many people from migrant backgrounds to ensure that they get the services and support they need under these new arrangements.

The area of Brisbane is one where the NDIS is only just, finally, being officially rolled out from 1 July this year. I had a very valuable forum in Brisbane not too many weeks ago, which my colleague Senator Steele-John attended, along with some other advocates with direct experience with the NDIS and with disability issues more broadly, to examine ways that we can improve these transitional arrangements and the final arrangements and operations of the NDIS. Whenever you have something as large as the NDIS and such a significant transition and change in model, there will always be some issues there. But I think—in fact, I know—it is more than teething problems.

I also had the great experience of going and speaking with about 10 different families in Toowoomba a few months earlier. A fabulous local disability advocate, Alyce Nelligan, linked me up with and gave me the opportunity to hear from a range of families with a diversity of different issues, and from some service providers as well. Toowoomba had been one of the early rollout communities. In that sense, perhaps it was more likely to get the teething problems, but I think it also showed that those problems are still very slow to be resolved. It can be a lucky dip as to what service providers you get, and, the further away you get from the capital cities, the bigger those challenges are.

I spoke in this place a few times last week about the direct human cost of governments not being willing to invest adequately in social services in regional and rural areas and the fact that that can cost lives. We're talking about people with disabilities and carers with very complex and high needs. Proper delivery of support for them can be a matter of life and death. I don't want to be overly dramatic about it; it's just a simple matter of fact. So we need to look and listen to those people who are on the receiving end of the NDIS as the transitions roll out around the country and be directed by them as to what is going to work best and what needs to change.

I think there are issues with the whole model of how the NDIS is structured. It is too reliant on a market based model that will always deliver some problems when you're dealing with complex, highly individualised situations. It will also mean problems when you get into more regional and remote areas. Nonetheless, the fact that there has been a significant increase in investment in support for people with disabilities is to be welcomed. It goes back to the topic I was talking about previously, about the basic right for everybody to be able to experience and have a good life and to remove the barriers that society often puts in the way of people with disabilities.

It's an area, again, where I think we've got an obligation, as a community that seeks to be a united one, to make sure that every member of the community has an equal opportunity to participate fully. That core principle is something that I think needs to be embedded as we continue to assess and analyse how we can make the NDIS an effective mechanism for everybody. I think we still have a long way to go there, but certainly, the more we listen to people with disabilities themselves and, to a lesser extent, some of the service providers—particularly the not-for-profit service providers—the better we will do in ensuring this program, the NDIS, becomes the sort of transformational change that is often spoken of and that we would certainly all wish for.

Question agreed to.


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