Tuesday, 19 October 2021
National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Improving Supports for At Risk Participants) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I spoke earlier today on the humanitarian aspects of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Improving Supports for at Risk Participants) Bill 2021 and the protection of participants from the kinds of disastrous and sickening deaths that we saw in the case of Ms Smith. I would like to continue now on one of the most important aspects of what we've been talking about today. We have been talking about participant experience of the NDIS, affordability and fairness. I'd like to speak for the remainder of my time on affordability and sustainability of the NDIS.
As you know, the NDIS was established on a multipartisan basis, and all governments continue to share a firm commitment to achieving positive outcomes for all people with disability. We cannot ignore the fact that there are serious sustainability pressures facing the NDIS. The NDIS is funded by all states and territories and the Commonwealth, and that's an important point. Disability ministers commissioned work in August 2021, at the disability reform ministers' meeting, to develop an NDIS sustainability work plan to address sustainability pressures.
The NDIS does need reform, but this can be done only by working together as a federation. We recognise that the scheme needs to continue to improve so that it can be fairer and more consistent for the future. The cost of the NDIS continues to increase at a much higher rate than was ever expected, which means that it's now facing sustainability challenges. All governments have made a commitment to tackling these issues, while ensuring that every eligible Australian who relies upon the NDIS continues to receive the support they need. This is about continuing NDIS growth but doing so sustainably. Both the number of participants and the scheme's overall budget will continue to grow, and NDIS participants with significant and permanent disability will continue to receive the reasonable and necessary support that they need.
I would remind the opposition of their calls to implement these recommendations. Now that opportunity is before them, and now they can support this bill. I suggest they do just that. This bill should be about participants and not about politics. We seek multipartisan support in enabling these key changes to be implemented as soon as possible, to better protect participants from the risk of abuse and neglect. The bill is most important. It's about implementing key recommendations from an independent inquiry into the tragic death of NDIS participant Ms Smith so as to better protect NDIS participants who are at risk of harm, and we now call for the bill to be implemented.
If there's one sector you'd think would require a dedicated, caring workforce, it would be disability support services. People living with disability, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, deserve the very best of care. That's why we agreed, as a nation, to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The NDIS started with great promise in 2013. It was going to answer a pressing need. Its game-changing promise was that it would give consumers living with a disability the funds to enable them to buy the services that worked best for them. The decisions were to be in the hands of people with disability first, and those of their loved ones.
The NDIS, as originally conceived, was to be the world's best practice, a generational shift in how disability care is managed. When fully rolled out, it was expected to support 530,000 Australians living with disability, through individualised funding packages. That's a wonderful thing. But the complex requirements in the disability sector surely require equally sophisticated solutions—not just gig-economy-style delivery, as though providing disability care is little different from having a couple of pizzas delivered to your front door on a Friday night after a few beers. Yet that's what's happening. The gig economy, like a virus constantly seeking out new hosts everywhere, has now latched itself well and truly onto disability services, and the government is allowing this digital Work Choices to spread unchecked. It's the introduction of AWAs, but this time via an app.
There's nothing wrong with improving the delivery of services wherever there's a demand for them. That's pretty basic stuff. But the gig platforms are more often than not the material of nightmares, both for recipients and for the people who try to make a living out of them. The Senate Job Security Committee inquiry even heard that it's unclear whether individual disability care recipients are personally responsible for the health and safety of gig workers engaged through online platforms. The inquiry has recommended that this be clarified in law. In disability care, there was always likely to be a problem of this sort. Since the NDIS has given people with a disability the funding and the ability to choose where their support comes from, that also means that there has been a rapid rise in online platforms in the sector. Supply follows demand like night follows day, or like dodgy operators selling unwinnable lottery tickets pursue the weak and desperate.
There are many thousands of support workers operating through these gig platforms. And guess what? The overwhelming number of them are engaged as independent contractors with almost none of the rights and entitlements of people who are employed as support workers by legitimate companies—no superannuation, no penalty rates, no sick leave, no long service leave, no compassionate leave, no domestic violence leave and, of course, no workers compensation. They are entitled to none of these things even though these contractors without worker entitlements perform the same roles under very similar conditions to other regular employees.
Boosters of the situation say it's a good thing that technology allows flexibility. They say it is flexibility for consumers to choose exactly what care they need, and flexibility for workers to choose how and when and where they provide care. But it is not reasonable that technology makes certain work easier to arrange, that the workers who perform it should lose their workplace rights and conditions.
The caring sectors overwhelmingly include work that was once universally regarded as middle class. Increasingly, we have suffered the holing out of the middle-class pay and conditions that defined it. Time and time again, at the job security inquiry, we've heard this story about workers simply being unable to sustain a living wage without being led along like ants by the gig platforms offering them crumbs, working two, three or more jobs just to make ends meet, often on low-hour or zero-hour contracts—a trick that labour hire companies use to brutally regulate the workforce. If you want to complain about your situation, it's fewer hours for you.
Catherine Dryden, a community care worker and a United Workers Union member, told the story of how exploitation occurs on the labour hire side of the care sector. She said: 'As a casual, I never knew if I had work or not. I worked for an agency in North Sydney. I would receive a phone call to work that day. I would have to drop everything and race up to Bankstown and cover a shift. I would do an active shift from four o'clock in the afternoon to eight o'clock in the morning with high-needs clients and then drive to Primbee and take a deaf client shopping at 10 o'clock for three hours. Sometimes I didn't work, because there was no work. A lot of people need a second job to survive. Our rosters are changing daily, even by the hour on some days. Workers are put on and taken off. We can't do overtime. It's frowned upon if it happens. Some care workers are doing six to seven hours a day domestic work. We can do a shower, for example, from seven to eight in the morning and then wait in our car for an hour, unpaid. It's classified as a meal break waiting for the next job at nine o'clock in the morning. We're having multiple meal breaks, unpaid, and working five hours on an average day over a 16-hour period.' That's a disgraceful situation. With the gig economy factored into the equation, the deal is even worse.
Mabel, a company that provides disability services, received $5 million last year in government assistance to help it provide COVID-19 surge capacity in the aged-care homes. That's the same Mabel that was criticised at the aged-care royal commission for not knowing how to use personal protective equipment as it provided that same surge capacity. That's the same Mabel that does not take responsibility for its individual workers. That's the same Mabel that claimed at the job security inquiry that it doesn't even set rates, that it relies—and I quote—'upon each and every service provider to individually assess the amount and/or hourly rate or fixed price that they need to charge customers or clients.' What tosh.
We know that these workers are at the mercy of the gig platforms. There is simply no accountability or transparency on how Mable and many similar firms conduct their business. They are just skimming off the top of the labour market. Just like gig economy juggernauts in other sectors—such as Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon Flex—these multinational industry predators do not even regard their disability-care workers as employees. But it's not like these workers are running their own lawn-mowing franchise or putting an ad for their services on Gumtree; this is not work where you just show up, get a pay packet in the hand, go home and put your feet up in front of the tellie. This is critical disability care. We're talking about it because it is so critical. It requires real and ongoing engagement from its workers.
And it's not as though it can't be done with a real and credible employment approach. The Senate job security inquiry has heard from some providers who directly employ workers, pay superannuation, pay tax, pay insurance and other entitlements, and cover them with workers compensation. Hireup told the Senate job security inquiry that 'people will say that it's too hard to create a platform that engages workers as employees'. I would say that we need to try harder so it can be done. If you want even more evidence, Hireup this week won a good design award for its employment model. The award recognised Hireup's redesign of its employment model, with eligible support workers having the option to be employed on a permanent basis while having choice and control in when they work and who they do work for.
But, even if we put to one side the pressure the system puts on workers, why should people receiving much-needed care under this new, evolving and impersonalised NDIS arrangement be subject to the whims of corporate cowboy app operators and the algorithms they worship? It is absolutely not reasonable that a person living with a disability receives care under the NDIS that is anything other than fulfilling, supportive and based on ongoing relationships with the caregiver, not a casual drop-in model where there could be a different person providing the care each time it's delivered—and this is what's happening right now across parts of the disability-care sector. Both workers and clients deserve respect.
Jordan O'Reilly, from Hireup, told the inquiry that the typical relationship through his firm was for nine months or longer and that a person is commonly engaging multiple times a week for many months at a time. But Hireup is the exception, not the rule. The Senate job security inquiry has clearly heard that the impact of gig work is different depending on whether transactional or more personal services are being delivered. It heard that the delivery of personal services is much more complex than a simple transactional approach that generally involves trust and a relationship between worker and client. But because the platforms-based provider model has flourished in the disability sector it has brought with it the greater likelihood of transactional, rather than personal, service delivery. It's easy to understand why this has happened. Platforms-based providers promoting a gig approach to disability care are rife, and the system encourages it. Here's what Lauren Hutchins, from the Health Services Union, said to the jobs security inquiry about it:
If you look at some of these platforms, they are a combination of Tinder and Uber. You put your profile out there and people with disabilities or their carers then make a decision based on the information that is provided. What you don't see is that these workers themselves often don't have access to workers compensation. They certainly don't have access to any form of leave and the arrangements in terms of their pay are often dodgy.
The Recruiting Consulting Staffing Association told the inquiry:
We're also somewhat concerned about the prevalence of these models in the health sector and especially in the disability care sector. We're very concerned that vulnerable clients, or representatives of disabled elderly clients, will not have the time to properly analyse or indeed understand that, when you source an individual through platforms as an independent contractor, you're not engaging somebody, even on a labour hire basis; you're simply being matched, introduced to them. We think that presents a large number of problems.
So there you go: even the employer organisation agrees that there's a huge red flag. People working in this sector want to give their all to the job. They do not deserve to be stymied by rip-off merchants. Natalie Lang from the Australian Services Union told the job security inquiry that the primary reason that workers come into the NDIS is because they believe in making a difference in the lives of people with disability. That's a good thing, but goodwill and commitment to people is not an excuse for exploitation, especially when you're talking about a $22 billion government funded scheme.
It's up to us to ensure that exploitation does not occur. The amendments in this bill are positive and the inquiry that prompted them was much needed. Tragic deaths like that of Adelaide woman Ann-Marie Smith must be avoided at all costs. The inquiry by former judge Alan Robertson found:
For each vulnerable NDIS participant, there should be a specific person with overall responsibility for that participant's safety and wellbeing …
That's what Mable doesn't provide. We don't yet have any guarantee about the change. The government's lack of consultation concerns me greatly. There wasn't even a formal response from the government to the Robertson review, which was triggered by Ann-Marie Smith's death. The Morrison government has failed to consult with people with disability on changes which directly impact their lives, and this bill is just the latest example. That's leaving aside the predatory effect of gig platform operators which are crowding out the space. In the process, they are creating the conditions for disaster for both NDIS workers and, just as importantly, the participants in the scheme. Those are the Australians to whom we owe the highest duty of care. It is our responsibility in this Senate to make sure that care is given by enacting legislation. It is also quite clear, if we want to make sure that we have a viable and ongoing system, that there need to be appropriate career paths, which Mable doesn't give but employee models do. Thank you.
Let's be under no illusions why we are debating this legislation. It is a sad indictment on us all that we are usually only moved to strong action to improve care for vulnerable Australians when appalling cases of neglect or abuse are brought to light. Australia was shocked by the story of Ann-Marie Smith when it broke in April last year. She is one of about 34,000 Australians living with cerebral palsy, a permanent, lifelong physical disability caused by brain injury for which there is no known cure. Living with cerebral palsy is not easy. One in two people with the condition suffer chronic pain, one in two is intellectually impaired, one in three cannot walk, one in four cannot talk, one in five is tube fed, one in 10 has severe vision impairment and one in 25 has severe hearing impairment. Many people living with cerebral palsy need full-time care. As an NDIS patient, Ann-Marie Smith received funding for six hours a day of care. She was not in financial difficulty, like many other participants. She had a nice home in Adelaide's affluent eastern suburbs. Her neighbours saw little of her but noted her carer's vehicle always parked outside the home promptly at 9 am. They, understandably, assumed this vulnerable woman in their community was being cared for properly. The truth was horrifying. Ann-Marie Smith died in hospital from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment. Police called it disgusting. It appeared Ann-Marie Smith had been confined to a cane chair for the last year of her life, living in squalor. Her carer has since been convicted of manslaughter.
Will any Australian, especially those with family members receiving NDIS support, ever be able to assume with confidence that vulnerable people needing care and support are actually getting it? I certainly won't be. Twenty years on from the kerosene bath scandal, it appears we have learnt very little about caring for vulnerable Australians. Ann-Marie Smith was failed by her carer, but, more importantly, she was failed by a system which did not independently verify she was receiving the care she needed. We must do all we can to prevent this from ever happening again.
This legislation is a step in the right direction and has One Nation's support. The bill aims to strengthen support and protections for people living with a disability. It seeks to achieve this by providing a clear legislative framework for powers exercised by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission in relation to at-risk participants in the scheme. The legislation also seeks improve outreach by the National Disability Insurance Agency and the commission to participants. It will cast a wider net to capture more reportable incidents. It seeks to ensure that the commission and the NDIA have clear authority to share protected information so as to better carry out their core functions. It will remove qualifiers like 'serious' and 'necessary' to ensure that any threat to the life, health or safety of a participant is sufficient grounds for recording, using or disclosing protected NDIA or commission information. It will clarify provisions for disclosing protected information, including making it clear that information published on the provider register is not protected and for purposes like screening workers or publishing historical compliance and enforcement action.
An important aim of the legislation, which has my full support, is the clarification and extension of the powers of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. It will empower the commissioner to place conditions on the approval of quality auditors and make it absolutely clear that the commissioner has the power to vary or revoke the approval of auditors. It will enable the commissioner's decision in this area to be reviewed. The legislation clarifies the commissioner's power to obtain information from other persons to ensure the integrity of the NDIS, specifically with respect to the present and past conduct of service providers and workers. It also clarifies that the commissioner can ban a person from providing NDIS services and support if they are not considered suitable. This is a critical part of the bill, which also includes a clear pathway for the review of decisions to ban a person, issue a compliance notice or revoke a provider's registration. It comes to late for Ann-Marie Smith, but I'm hopeful these strengthened powers will enable the commission to make sure that participants are being looked after properly and safely. I hope they will enable the commissioner to quickly detect when things are not right and to act swiftly and effectively to protect vulnerable Australians living with a disability. These safeguards must be robust. They must be an effective deterrent so as to ensure every single person providing support and services to disabled Australians under the NDIS is fully suitable and in strict compliance. Australians expect nothing less, and Australians living with a disability deserve nothing less.
One Nation will not be supporting amendments proposed by the Greens. We don't consider that there is a need to legislate a review of the framework, as this work is already being done and funds have already been allocated for it. We don't believe a sunset clause is appropriate, because it may risk these additional protections being dismantled. We don't support the playing around with the definitions of 'current', 'past' and 'future' threats to participants' safety. These amendments fail to meet the recommendations of the Robertson review. People who witness or become aware of noncompliance need to be confident they can make a prompt disclosure that will be investigated quickly or gather information that will help a participant avoid future threats to their safety. One Nation does not support the Greens' erroneous record-keeping requirements for people disclosing information. This would be a waste of resources and would leave the commission with limited time to carry out its important function of safeguarding NDIS participants. The proposal that disclosers must notify the person to whom the information relates creates the very real risk that critical information could be destroyed or hidden. There is no need for the Greens to put their personal stamp on this legislation. They should just let it through.
I remind senators that the NDIS was a necessary response to a situation where many disabled Australians were falling through the cracks. Operating properly, the NDIS should be able to look after the needs of generations of Australians. We need to ensure the NDIS is sustainable in the long term, but recent figures show that the costs of providing support and services to more than 466,000 participants are climbing fast. Total participation costs in the quarter to June this year were 33 per cent higher than for the same period last year. The projected total cost of the scheme is expected to rise from the current $25 billion per year to $40 billion in 2025, which is only four years away. And I must say that, in the next couple of years, the 466,000 participants in the NDIS will actually cost more than Medicare for the whole of Australia. We don't want participants receiving anything less than the care, support and services they need. However, One Nation is putting the government on notice—to address the rising costs of the NDIS, to ensure its sustainability.
Let me explain where some of the funding has gone, and you will be shocked and disgusted. There is no means test applied to receive NDIS funding, unlike every other taxpayer service, so a multimillionaire can receive NDIS. Of the 466,000 NDIS recipients, there are 450 people receiving $1 million each per annum, and 5,100 participants receiving over $500,000 per annum and less than $1 million per annum.
A barrister who lost his eyesight put in a claim to have his back deck extended to the river and a fence erected around his swimming pool. Thankfully, this has now been investigated. People buying homes that don't suit their needs apply for NDIS funding to add a room, an internal staircase or other improvements to their property, at the taxpayer's cost. A gentleman who made poor health choices lost his leg below the knee and now receives $190,000 a year. An obese woman with lipoedema received $653,000 for a six-month period. Some of these funds went towards a corporate box at the AFL grand final, $12,000 went on a week's holiday at a six-star penthouse on the Gold Coast, and she sent her sister $20,000 so she could return to Australia last year. In addition, her family were showered with expensive gifts, including a $300-plus bottle of whisky. In short, her funding only lasted three months before she applied for a review for more. Speech therapy for an adult with a mild speech impediment was funded at $40,000 a year. NDIS participants are also entitled to access the services of prostitutes, again paid for by the taxpayer. And that helping hand? It is costing millions. Oh, and there's more—but I think you have a good idea why I am furious.
I have been writing to the current and former ministers to rein in the blatant overfunding and poor policy attributed to Julia Gillard's Labor Party and supported by the states, who are somewhat reluctant to work with the ministers to rein in this spending. On the other hand, I am disgusted with the minister and the government for not backing my second reading motion, which states:
", and in view of the projected cost of the scheme, the Senate calls on the Government to do more to rein in costs so that the scheme is sustainable for those Australians who rely on its support to lead a reasonable quality of life"—
Also of concern are the wages paid to aged-care workers and nurses. A carer under the NDIS can be paid $90 to $100 an hour on a Sunday. Also, under the NDIS nationally, registered nurses can be paid more than $100 an hour on a weekday, which doubles if they're in a regional area and more if they're remote. Most nurses working in the public or private sector earn around $45 an hour on a weekday. These extraordinarily high wages lead to staff and skills shortages in the private and public sectors, taking away much-needed services from others not on NDIS. The wages, services and costings are excessive and unsustainable in the long term. It has become a milking cow for too many. The NDIS is top heavy, costing over $2 billion a year—and growing. That is just the administrative cost.
I am aware the minister's hands are tied by the states, so I am calling on Australians to register your concern and disgust. The NDIS will do no-one any good if it doesn't have a sustainable funding model and doesn't do what it can to rein in costs without compromising support and services. This must be a priority for the review work currently underway. The review must ensure the NDIS is meeting its original intention of helping people with a disability and helping only those who need it. One of the markers of an enlightened and compassionate society is how we treat the most vulnerable among us. Let's make sure the NDIS can deliver. As advised by a minister, if nothing changes in NDIS policy by the 2030s, it could cost $130 billion a year. I warn Australians: the NDIS in its present form has the capability of bankrupting our nation.
I rise today to make some commentary, in addition to that from those senators who have preceded me, on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Improving Supports for At Risk Participants) Bill 2021. I will just reflect on Senator Hanson's comments—I'm not sure if she's still listening in—about the need for an individual story to enliven our imagination about what the NDIS is and isn't delivering. The constant struggle for a party of government—such as the Labor Party and those in government currently, the Liberal-National Party coalition—is to make the system actually meet the reality of human beings. The power of story in enlivening the imagination of the nation is something that we really need to be mindful of, because systems should serve people, not force people to comply with them.
This particular bill is aimed at addressing several of the recommendations of the very important Robertson review into the heartbreaking death of Ann-Marie Smith, an Adelaide women. I acknowledge the presence in the chamber of my colleague from the great state of South Australia—not as great as New South Wales, of course—Senator Farrell. I'm sure that he is very much apprised of the kind of life that Ann-Marie Smith would have been living as an Adelaide woman who sadly, as all of Australia now knows, died a horrific death after being left in a cane chair for a whole year. She died in a state of complete and abject neglect. I really want to acknowledge the dedication of my colleague in the other place the Hon. Bill Shorten, former leader of the Labor Party, to unearthing this story and making sure it came to public attention in his active support for the NDIS, which accords so strongly with the Labor values of never leaving one of our fellow Australians behind and of lifting everybody up. That is where the heart of this piece of legislation comes from—the acknowledgement of that individual's sad passing and her demise at the hands of a system in Australia that should have enabled her to live a better life but ultimately took her life. Let me be clear: no-one should ever perish as Ann Marie Smith did. No-one should slip through the cracks of society like that and die alone in pain and squalor.
This bill before us attempts to rectify some of those issues, but, as many of my colleagues have already indicated, we believe this bill should go much further than it does in the protection of at-risk NDIS participants. As we have seen with this government, there'll be an announcement about support for reports, and then you have to look at the fine detail of what is really going on. This is yet another example of the song and dance from the Liberal-National Party government, who have now had three iterations over eight years. In 2013, they stood up and said, 'We support the NDIS,' but over the period of their government they have failed to enable proper governance of this important part of Australian society.
This bill, in response to the Robertson review, implements only recommendations 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the review. It's good that that is happening, but there are a few numbers missing in between. The recommendations that are being addressed in this bill are about ensuring that no-one ever suffers what Ann-Marie suffered and that all Australians, no matter how God created them, are able to live lives of dignity and safety, with the safety net that the NDIS is determined to provide.
The NDIS, I am proud to say, is one of Labor's greatest achievements, the crowning glory of the Gillard government. I recall, from my time as the member for Robertson in the other place, the celebration about what this potentially could deliver for people with a disability, who had for too long been sidelined and whose needs were ignored in this incredibly wealthy country that we call home.
The NDIS was slow to roll out but now services nearly 300,000 Australians. It helps them to live lives of fulfillment and dignity. But it needs reform. The sad reality is that the NDIS has been neglected and attacked by this Liberal-National government. They have inexplicably capped staff at the NDIA at 3,000 people. They also tried to cut $2 billion from the budget in 2016. Most recently they tried to ram through a process called 'independent assessments', which sounds innocuous enough when you look at it from a system point of view, but it was explicitly designed to cut costs via the method of cutting services to NDIS participants. Instead of establishing what the needs of an individual person are, which is at the heart of the NDIS, this was about saying, 'Give them all the same package and then just add a bit here and take it a bit there.' That is fundamentally flawed. People with disability are as unique and individual and have as varied needs as every person without a disability. There's no formula that you can ethically apply to the uniqueness of an individual person, and that is the genius of what's at the heart of the NDIS.
What the government were trying to do in that most recent attack was prop up the budget to help themselves get some sort of slogan for an election to keep themselves elected. But they were doing it by robodebting Australians who have a disability. It says everything about what's wrong with this government and its priorities and the people who they deem worthy of service and those who they deem should just take their turn and get what they're given graciously, even if that's way below what they need to survive.
I say to those listening to this debate this evening that the NDIS is not, and should not be, a political football. It can't be conceived of as a bank of savings that you make cuts to. This is about people, often with a degree of advocacy that might be contained because of their particular disabilities. The services of the NDIS are vital to the lifestyles and the dignity of all of its participants. We don't need, as in the words of the current minister, to get rid of natural empathy in the system. Minister Reynolds actually said that—'We need to get rid of natural empathy'—as if to care for a fellow human being is a flaw. Are we so incapable of designing a system that enables the proper care of people with disability that we've got to get rid of our empathy? That is absolutely, profoundly misguided. We need more empathy for one another. We certainly should expect more empathy from this government, more support and more services delivered efficiently, effectively, justly and with kindness to the people of Australia.
The bill addresses several of the recommendations of the Robertson review. It legislates a better exchange of information between the National Disability Insurance Agency and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, covering recommendations 1, 5, 7 and 9, as well as the disclosure of information to relevant state and territory bodies, which is recommendation 8. However, I do note that it was drafted without sufficient consultation with the sector or persons with disabilities. I mean, what would they know about what they need! A person with a disability surely is an expert in their own experience? Yet this government saw fit to proceed without proper consultation.
Let's be clear about what the NDIS was conceived as and against which standard it must always be considered: it's person centric in its approach, not system centric. I urge the government to conduct a more fulsome consultation on all future legislation in this space. This continuous failure to consult people with disability is glaring. I urge the government to engage with the sector and advocates in an empowering way to hear the voices of their knowledge, insight and wisdom rather than in a paternalistic way that serves the system over the people it's meant to serve. More specifically, the bill also clarifies the scope of reportable incidents and strengthens banning orders to ensure that those who have shown themselves unfit for the care of NDIS participants can never work in the sector again, and that means proper investment in record keeping and seamless coordination across the federation.
What this bill doesn't address is recommendation 2, and that's that vulnerable NDIS participants should have multiple carers so that the lives of these at-risk Australians are not held in one person's hand. That is not to indicate that there should be so many carers that no-one takes responsibility, which is sadly what can happen when you have a race to the bottom and you are just providing people with insecure work and they just shift around from place to place as the cheapest provider gets the job. We cannot descend into that, but there must be sufficient scrutiny provided by a range of carers to ensure people's health and wellbeing is at the core of anything that goes on and that they are properly cared for.
This bill also doesn't address Robertson's recommendation 3, and that was that vulnerable NDIS participants should have a specific person with overall responsibility for that participant's safety and wellbeing. Well, that's just commonsense. We all have somebody that we sign up as the person to be contacted if we are ever in an incident—the alarm on your phone, the indication that this is the person you should talk to: 'If there's anything wrong with me, you should check with this person.' It's just standard operating business for us. It should be happening for people with disabilities, but this government couldn't even be bothered to put that in the legislation. It's clear to me that an individual should be clearly identified by name and ideally introduced in person to the vulnerable NDIS participant and provide them with the care that they need. But, for whatever reason this government, which has so failed participants in our society who need the support of the NDIS, has deemed this important recommendation not worthy of their action.
Other recommendations that are ignored include recommendation 4, which suggests that a national commission creates an equivalent to state and territory based community visitor schemes to provide an individual face-to-face contact with vulnerable NDIS participants. And, aside from protecting the participants, this will give them regular socialisation and friendly faces. I'm sure it will do wonders for the participants' mental health, whether they're the receivers or the givers. In the end, what happens in relationships is we forget who is receiving and who is giving. That is really acknowledging the genuine equality of every human person and that disability is just another form of difference that we seek to embrace rather than position as something that sits outside our society, that's a burden rather than a natural part of the diversity of life that comes into being here on this great planet that we live on.
Recommendation 5 also urges the commission to conduct random check-ins and face-to-face assessments of vulnerable participants. That's just commonsense, but not to this government that chose to ignore it.
In light of sector criticism regarding the privacy provisions of the bill, Labor will move amendments to legislate a requirement for the commission to establish a process for the disclosure of information, as outlined by AFDO, and a sunset clause that treats the bill as an emergency measure by providing that amendments cease to take effect unless the government actually reports back to parliament after the conclusion of the safeguarding review in order to have the amendments re-approved by the parliament. This is like a brake and a check on a government.
If the government is really serious about protecting the lives and privacy rights of NDIS participants, then I urge them to support the amendments. Labor understands the genuine concerns of the sector and that their sensible recommendations should not go unheard. Labor is standing for this sector and for people ignored by this government.
In closing, I just want to acknowledge the amazing work of Save Our Sons, who are powerful advocates for young boys, in particular, who suffer the Duchenne muscular dystrophy disorder. I want to acknowledge the leadership in New South Wales of Graeme Kelly OAM, the president of the USU, who has adopted Save Our Sons as the charity that the union supports. I met young mums who had three little boys under the age of five, the first diagnosed at the age of five and the following two siblings also diagnosed with Duchenne. These are the families who need an NDIS to support them, and they deserve better than this bill.