Parliament: Speeches on Bills

Disability Inclusion Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise to indicate that the Greens support this bill. We understand that there will be amendments. I have a particular question that I want to pose at this point, of which the minister is aware. I would like some clarity about the wording around the community visitors provision, as to why it says ‘may’ and not ‘must’ or ‘shall’ provide for the community visitors. With those few words, the Greens wish this bill a speedy passage so that we can conclude it before parliament concludes for the year.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise to place some remarks on the record in relation to this bill. As honourable members would be aware, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is currently being rolled out across Australia, including South Australia. Under the NDIS the state government will no longer directly fund disability services; instead, they will be administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which will work directly with eligible participants to establish personalised plans based on their needs and goals, and give them choice and control over their own lives, which I think is something that is universally supported.

Following the full implementation of the NDIS, the Disability Services Act 1993, which was designed to regulate services and provide funding mechanisms, will therefore become redundant. This particular bill promotes the rights and inclusion of people living with a disability in South Australia. It establishes a framework to ensure a coordinated and consistent planning approach is taken across state and local government to provide greater equality and access to services and facilities.

One of the key components of the bill is to require the state government to develop a state disability inclusion plan, which is part 4 of the bill, which will be reviewed once every four years and requires annual reports on its operation. It also requires all state departments, statutory authorities and local councils to develop disability and access inclusion plans. That is part 5 of the bill. The DAIPs must align with the six outcomes of the National Disability Strategy and adhere to those guidelines and regulations. Whilst many departments and a few local councils already have a DAIP, the bill prescribes that agencies produce an annual report from which a statewide summary will be presented to the minister. The plans can be updated at any time but must at least be reviewed, with a report submitted, once every four years.

Another key component of the bill is the establishment of an updated disability screening scheme which will apply to service providers operating under the NDIS, as per the national Quality and Safeguarding Framework. The details of what will be contained in this will be in the regulations, which will depend on negotiations at a national level. However, the state government has indicated that they are aiming for the standard that currently applies to working with children checks.

Under the bill, any person working with a person living with a disability who does not hold a current screening check will face a maximum fine of $20,000 for the first or second offence, and $50,000 or imprisonment for one year for a third or subsequent offences. Any person who has been deemed a prohibited person, which is someone who does not have a check, found working with a person living with a disability will face fines or potential imprisonment.

The bill also has a provision for the establishment of a community visitor scheme, which is in part driven by the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework. I note that in last year’s annual report, the Principal Community Visitor, Maurice Corcoran, had recommended that a disability component to the visitor scheme be established, so that is welcomed. Reviews must be undertaken of the act after the third and before the fourth anniversary of its commencement.

I am grateful to the new minister, the Hon. Katrine Hildyard, for the briefing, and in particular to Dr David Caudrey, who continues to provide advice to the state government on this, for his participation in the briefing. I have also sought the advice of our colleague the Hon. Kelly Vincent. Clearly, as she has a lived experience of disability and lives in this space every day, her advice will be important to us and we look forward to receiving any amendments that she might have for future consideration. With those comments, I commend the bill to the house and look forward to the additional contributions and debate on this legislation.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I simply want to place on the record that, while the Dignity Party does support the general principles of this bill in terms of allowing people with disabilities more choice and control and also ensuring that more state government agencies incorporate disability inclusion plans, we do have some concerns, particularly around the fact that there is currently no real onus on councils to implement those plans in terms of there being no oversight, for example, of how those plans are being carried out. It is all very well and good to require agencies to have an inclusion plan—which some already do, as other speakers have pointed out—but it does not necessarily lead to change unless you have someone overseeing and following up with those agencies. That is the kind of change we would like to see.

As the Hon. Ms Franks, I think, mentioned, we would also like to see the state government compelled to establish a community visitor scheme, rather than having the option to do so, in the wording of the legislation. That is the nature of the amendments that we are currently working on. We appreciate that it is late in the piece, but it has been a lengthy, complex and nuanced discussion, so I appreciate the patience and enthusiasm that my parliamentary colleagues have shown. I look forward to keeping them updated on those amendments.