Senate debates

Monday, 27 November 2023


National Disability Insurance Scheme; Order for the Production of Documents

10:13 am

Photo of Hollie HughesHollie Hughes (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | Hansard source

Is there anything lower than what this government is prepared to do? Before the election all we heard was Bill Shorten, the member for Maribyrnong, out there saying what a great advocate he was for the disability community. That was complete and utter rubbish; just another broken promise, I guess, in the litany of broken promises that this government continues to deliver. What a cruel blow to some of the most vulnerable in our community.

The thing that absolutely gets me is that those on this side of the chamber have always reached out and always tried to work within the NDIS as a bipartisan issue because it is too important for it not to be. Yet, for those opposite, that is nowhere near their DNA. They cannot do anything in a bipartisan way for the benefit of Australians. Everything is about playing politics, and politics at the most base level. It is absolutely beyond comprehension. We joke when we have transmission Tuesday running—I think we might be up to week 8—bringing back the inquiry into the transmission lines that are going to destroy communities in rural and regional Australia. The contempt with which these ministers come into the Senate, refusing to produce these documents that the Senate itself has ordered; the contempt with which they treat this chamber; and the contempt with which they treat people with a disability puts shame on all you. Shame on you. It is absolutely disgusting. The thing is, though, the people that are most concerned about sustainability, the people that are so anxious when they read these reports, are the parents of children with a disability who need to know that this scheme will be there for their child when they can no longer care for them. Those opposite are prepared to do nothing, work with no-one, not be upfront and not be honest with anyone. Whether it's with the opposition, the Greens or the Australian disability community, they refuse to be open and honest. Now we know they're refusing to be open and honest with their own Labor state governments.

One would hope, having a Labor federal government and Labor state governments in every state on the mainland, that they could all get together with their ideological pot and stick into it what they think they can do to make this scheme sustainable. There have been suggestions made. I do think that there are too many kids going on the NDIS, but that's because the states vacated the playing field when it came to community health. Kids that needed a little bit of speech therapy or a little bit of OT, and some that needed behavioural supports and therapies or aids in the classroom, have been completely abandoned by the states. When we talk about the NDIS, I've heard Mr Shorten use the term 'the only lifeboat in the sea', and he's not wrong in many instances. But there's also been an attitudinal shift, because I can tell you, before the NDIS, parents put their hands in their own pockets. I know there's a cost-of-living crisis and everyone's finding it tough, but there are parental responsibilities sometimes that if your kid needs a swimming lesson, you pay for it. If your kid needs a couple of speech therapy sessions, it shouldn't always have to be at the expense of the taxpayer. That comes with being a parent, sometimes. This was promised by those opposite when they introduced the NDIS, 'Don't worry, you'll never have to pay for any of this ever again. There's community health at state level'—well, that's gone—'and, if it's not there, the NDIS will pick up the bill.' That's not what the NDIS is there for.

There are things that can be done. We know that there are subjective tests and objective tests, and we know how assessments are being made. Some people may be 'putting on' the NDIS so that they can get access to it. We can have a look at some tests that will actually define whether or not a child should be on the NDIS, and we can track their development, if they're in an early childhood pathway, to move them off the scheme. If that is what the government's looking at doing, looking to introducing a vineland or mullens scale test, I'd be there to support them. I think this would be a great thing: take the data, see what the kids are doing and how they're developing over a period of time, see what's working and what's not working. I'd be absolutely happy and happy to help. I think it's a great idea. But we don't know if that's what you're doing, because, instead of coming in here and providing your thinking behind the financial sustainability—how you're going to cap at eight per cent or rip $74 billion out of the scheme—rather than being upfront and honest about where that's going to come from, you're drip-feeding into different newspapers which diagnoses you want to see removed. You're drip-feeding which groups will be impacted and how it's going to work. You're drip-feeding what the states are going to have to pick up, without talking to them, and creating more uncertainty and anxiety for a cohort of people that should be the most protected by this place—because that is what we are here to do.


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