Parliament: Interesting Speeches

National Disability Insurance Scheme

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Today I wish to talk about the concept of a national disability insurance scheme (NDIS), which is something of a focus in the disability community at the moment and which has recently found its way onto the fringes of the mainstream media. I hope to use this opportunity to talk to my fellow MPs, and indeed South Australians, about why d4d considers that an NDIS is the right way to go for the future provision of disability services in this country.

First and foremost, we clearly need a change. As my fellow members know, the current system for the provision of disability services is quite simply not working. This is evident when looking at the level of unmet need among people with disability in this state, which is deplorable. My fellow Australians expect a high level of health care, and I ask: why should disability care be any different?

What is wrong with the current system? We all know that the current system is starved of funds and needs more money now, but aside from that we have a short-term approach in which people with disabilities are basically drip fed services and treated like charity cases. We have an ad hoc approach from state to state which inadequately addresses crisis after crisis. We have a system under which people are unclear as to what their entitlements are, and here in South Australia we have a system that has little accountability and monitoring of services, so basically people make do with what they have with little recourse beyond the ballot box.

The current system is inequitable. If you acquire a disability in a car accident or at work, you are likely to have insurance. I know these systems are not perfect, but they do provide something. Yet those in our community who are born with a disability, or who do not have insurance to help manage their acquired disability, have to make do, and I ask: why shouldn’t all people with disabilities have some sort of insurance?

You may ask, ‘What is an NDIS?’ Good question. An NDIS could provide a different approach on so many different levels. While there are many different structures that an NDIS could take on, broadly speaking it is a no-fault insurance scheme that is akin to Medicare. So, if you need services and you are eligible, you will get them; you will not have to fight, as so many people have to do now. An NDIS, as the name suggests, is a national scheme which helps to ensure equity for all Australians.

An NDIS would first evaluate the risk of disability in Australia, calculate the costs of meeting the needs of those people with disabilities in Australia and then estimate the contribution required of the general populace to meet those needs. As such, an NDIS would provide a long-term, lifetime approach that is careful and considered, as opposed to the government’s ad hoc approach, which is driven by those who write the budget. An NDIS provides an equitable and individual focus on care and support needs which allows full participation in the community by people with disabilities.

I envisage that the NDIS would be governed by an independent statutory authority, with a board of directors who oversee the operation of the scheme, and with a stakeholder group that provides advice to the board. This model will encourage a considered approach that is focused on addressing need as supposed to politicians carving out scraps for disability service funding.

Some of you will be thinking, ‘Where have I heard of this NDIS?’ Well, the Productivity Commission has been asked to look at alternatives for a long-term approach to a disability care and support scheme and has been asked to specifically consider a social insurance model or NDIS. This comes from the idea that disability is indeed a shared responsibility, just like health or education.

So how should it look? Of course, there are lots of options as to how the NDIS would look when considering who would be eligible, what services and benefits people would receive (equipment, services, transport, etc.), and who would provide that care, and all of these elements will impact on the cost, which will be great in any event. It is not surprising that it will cost a lot to support people with disabilities in this country, particularly considering that there is currently a $5 billion shortfall in disability funding.

So who supports it? There is a huge amount of support out there for the NDIS. The Every Australian Counts website lists 308 organisations which support it. The major parties at a federal level seem to be holding their breaths for the Productivity Commission report. They all support the concept, but no-one is saying who should pay for it or how it should be paid for. According to the Financial Review, the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania all support an NDIS and an associated levy to fund it. Of course, there are still mean-spirited types such as the WA Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, who may support the NDIS but who does not support a levy to fund it.