Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Joint Select Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme; Appointment
I move general business motion No. 820 standing in my name and in the name of Senator Boyce:
(1) That a joint select committee, to be known as the Joint Select Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme be established to oversee the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
(2) That the committee be subject to terms of reference and reporting dates, to be agreed upon by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition and agreed to by both Houses of Parliament.
(3) That the committee consist of 10 members, two Government members and two Opposition members, two Government senators and two Opposition senators, one Australian Greens member or senator and one independent member or senator.
(4) That every nomination of a member of the committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(5) That the members of the committee hold office as a joint select committee until the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time, whichever is the earlier.
(6) That the committee elect as its joint chairs a Government member appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Government Whip or Whips or the Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and an Opposition member appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Opposition Whip or Whips or the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
(7) That three members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government member of either House and one Opposition member of either House.
(8) That the committee have the power to call for witnesses to attend and for documents to be produced.
(9) That the committee may conduct proceedings at any place it sees fit.
(10) That the committee have the power to adjourn from time to time and to sit during any adjournment of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
(11) That the committee report to both Houses of Parliament from time to time.
(12) That the provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
(13) That a message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur with the action accordingly.
This motion from the opposition is more about politics than outcomes for people with disability. It is about the opposition trying to find a place in the political sun rather than doing the hard work to design an NDIS to deliver real outcomes for people with disability, their families and carers. Irrespective of the words of the motion, the coalition does not have a clear position on supporting an NDIS. Our Labor government is getting on with the job of building a national disability insurance scheme. We have delivered $1 billion to fund our share of the first stage of a national disability insurance scheme. Twenty thousand people with significant and permanent disabilities, their families and carers will benefit from the first stage in up to four locations around the country. The first stage will start in the middle of next year, a full year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission. We are getting on with the job because we know how long people with disability have been waiting for change. They waited for change for 12 years under the Howard government while disability funding went backwards. We asked the Productivity Commission to look into care and support for people with disability because we knew the system was letting people down. This motion from the opposition is about politics. It is not about doing the right thing for people with disability.
I thank the chamber. This short statement is essentially on behalf of Senator Siewert, who is on leave of absence this week and who has carriage of this matter. The Australian Greens do support the obvious need for cross-party support for the NDIS and increased transparency for the rollout process, so this is a measure brought forward by the coalition that we support in intent but not in effect. We do not believe that establishing a joint select committee is the best way of achieving the kinds of transparency and broad cross-parliamentary support that this measure is going to required. We have spoken to a broad range of stakeholders who have voiced concerns about today's attempt by the coalition to form a joint committee. They are wary of action which adds further unnecessary oversight to an already very complex process. Other mechanisms, such as an improved Senate estimates process, would help ensure that the NDIS rollout can be examined closely without adding an additional layer of bureaucracy to the process. We have reached an agreement with the government that additional information on the rollout will be provided through regular briefings to the parliamentary friends of people with disability group, which, of course, has coalition members.
Senator Fifield interjecting—
We believe that this is an effective first step, Senator Fifield, in improving transparency. What we clearly need is an improved flow of information to stakeholders and to the community and we believe a clearer estimates process and improved briefings from the government is the best way to achieve this. I thank the chamber.
To say that I am extremely disappointed and the coalition is extremely disappointed with the decision of the government and the Greens in relation to this motion is an understatement. The assertion by Senator McLucas that the opposition does not support an NDIS is outrageous. The government are quite happy to say from time to time that there is bipartisan and cross-party support and they willingly supported the previous motion but when it actually comes to a concrete demonstration that they genuinely support bipartisanship, that they genuinely want bipartisanship and that they genuinely want cross-party support they reject that at every opportunity. The opposition has extended the hand of bipartisanship in relation to this motion. Mr Abbott has written to the Prime Minister three times proposing the establishment of a cross-party committee. Because the implementation of an NDIS will span several parliaments, there needs to be a mechanism to lock in all parties over several parliaments. But there also needs to be a mechanism that will elevate the implementation of an NDIS above partisanship. The government have rejected the mechanism that would do just that. They are very happy to pay lip service to bipartisanship and they are very happy to pay lip service to cross-party support but when it actually comes to a practical demonstration they say no. I have got to tell you, Mr Deputy President, that the groups in this sector that I have spoken to think that this committee is a good idea. They want this committee and they will be extremely disappointed by the decision and the response of both the government and the Australian Greens. I expected better and, quite frankly, I am appalled.