National Disability Insurance Scheme
Posted on Thursday, 16 February, 2017
Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:49): I rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016. This bill legislates for the establishment of a savings fund to allow the government of the day to properly manage what will be the biggest effort ever attempted to provide the kind of living support necessary to allow those among us who have a permanent and debilitating disability to live full lives, to their best capacity. It will provide the kind of help that we would hope would be available to any of our children if they were in that unfortunate position.
The NDIS of course has bipartisan support, and we all want it to be an enormous success. But it offers great challenges, such as ensuring skills are available to meet the funding increases. That will be a great challenge. If anyone places a pile of money into a space where it has not existed before, there will have to be a huge ramp-up of services, and there are risks around how people will qualify and register to deliver those services. But it is this government's duty to get that right. We will make sure that those who choose to manage their own funding have the assistance available that they need, and that others have the right mix of funding. It will also be a great challenge to get the administration right, making sure there are sufficient people with the skills, as I said.
But the NDIS cannot work unless we get the budget right, unless it is properly and fully funded, and that is what this bill is about. The previous, Labor government revelled in announcing the program, but, as in so many other cases, they did not work out how to fund it. They left that to the coalition. The shortfall has a number, a very scary number: $4.1 billion in the first year of full operation and rising year-on-year after that. Just think of that—$4 billion a year short and then eventually rising to $7 billion a year. This is just so typical of Labor. They promise the rivers of gold, say they have delivered the rivers of gold, and then never deliver.
Ms Husar: Rubbish!
Mr RAMSEY: Like the four years of surpluses—was that rubbish as well? Like WestConnex, which we just heard in this chamber in the MPI debate a few minutes ago was raised by the Minister for Urban Infrastructure. For WestConnex $1.8 billion was promised and $1.6 million was delivered—a rounding error of just a tad over a thousand per cent. Unbelievable!
Then we had their long-term projections on education and their so-called Gonski reforms. They promised the world and promised rivers of gold, and then put it on the never-never—well beyond the forward estimates and well beyond any possibility of the Labor Party still being in government. They provided no hint of how they thought the nation might pay for it because they knew they did not need to because they knew that they too were goneski.
It is a pretty regular modus operandi: make the announcement, build up expectation, tell everyone how lucky they are and how fortunate they are to have such a munificent government, and then push it out a few years beyond the forward estimates, do not fund it and then blame someone else. What a hollow empty shell they are!
In fact, the budget papers of 2013 indicate that Labor have developed yet another skill when it comes to money management. They can spend the same wad of notes not once, not twice, but three times. Savings from the private health insurance rebate of $1.1 billion were allocated to the NDIS by the then-Treasurer, the Member for Lilley, in October 2012. A few months later, when the MYEFO was announced, the same money had been allocated to the dental health reform package. Later, in the same document, the same savings were allocated to deficit reduction.
At least, if they believe in nothing else they believe in magic puddings. The Labor Party is indebted to the economic theories of Bunyip Bluegum, Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff as depicted by Norman Lindsay. I would think the member for McMahon has probably got a copy of that fabulous book by his bed at night. He must be re-reading it nightly as he seeks to justify his abandonment of support for reducing taxes for business, for instance—something he had championed previously.
So when it comes to the NDIS it is the coalition that has to do the heavy lifting, and we will. We will ensure the NDIS is funded completely and sustainably, and we will meet that challenge. All Labor can do is oppose, oppose, oppose—or, as the then-manager of government business, the member for Grayndler, used to say on such a regular basis, as you would remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, when he sat on this side of the chamber: 'Nah, nah, nah.' That is what the Labor Party tell us about funding the NDIS. That is what the Labor Party tell us about funding child care in Australia: nah, nah, nah. Labor should wake up. They should know Australia expects us to fund this scheme properly. They oppose on the strength that Australia is so rolling in cash that we can afford to send a Christmas bonus to welfare recipients. Really? Is that what they really think? The special fund account ensures that the savings and efficiencies made within the scheme are not lost to the scheme, and that the government is able to direct savings from other portfolios to the scheme where there is a mechanism to receive the support.
This bill also gives me an opportunity to talk about some of the positive stories I am starting to receive from families. Just recently a father of a very high-needs son high on the autism spectrum spoke to me about the enormous change support from the NDIS has made to his family. Both he and his wife work. They are both very talented people and certainly they have needed two incomes to provide the care that they have had to pay for for their child. Like many in the same boat, with the support of their employers, they stagger working hours and juggle school holidays. The father informed me their support package was in excess of $50,000 a year and that they were now able to access all the services and not just those they could afford. He is blown away by the difference it has made to all their lives.
Another who contacted me is a single mother with two autistic children. She says she has a life again—just a chance every now and then to not to be a 24/7 mother and a 24/7 carer. She even had the opportunity to have a short holiday by taking her children and a carer with her, which is something she says she could have never attempted before.
So many times we stand in this place and thank the volunteers of Australia for the great work they do helping those around them. It is difficult to say whether parents and caregivers are volunteers or whether they are conscripts accepting the extra responsibilities that life has thrust their way. Whatever it is, whether they are volunteers or conscripts, they work to help their loved ones. The effort they give without being asked saves the nation billions of dollars. That is why at the end of the day the NDIS fulfils its primary role, with as best as money and services can provide in maximising the life experiences of the individuals. However, despite its cost it is also the best value for money, assisting parents to do what comes naturally to maximise the period in which they can be the primary caregivers for their children, and it provides in the national interest. I commend the legislation to the House.