Speech by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Preparing for an NDIS and an NIIS Attendant Care Industry Association Forum, Sydney

Location: The Menzies Hotel, Sydney


Thank you Michael (West) for your warm introduction and for your welcome to country.

Firstly, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we are meeting today, the Gadigal People of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • John Walsh AM—Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Productivity Commissioner
  • David Bowen—Chair of the National Injury Insurance Scheme Advisory Committee, inaugural CEO of the NSW Lifetime Care and Support Authority and newly appointed CEO of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Transition Agency – and starts in that role tomorrow
  • Suzanne Lulham—Acting Executive Director of the NSW Lifetime Care and Support Authority, and member of the Eligibility and Assessment Expert Group for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.


Thank you for the invitation to be part of today’s forum – Preparing for a National Disability Insurance Scheme and a National Injury Insurance Scheme.

Looking at the information on your website promoting today’s event, one sentence says it all I think.

It describes the forum as an opportunity to explore ‘the most significant reform to the disability services sector in Australia’s history.’

And all of you in this room – committed to achieving dignity and equality for people with disability their families and carers – have played and will continue to play a role in this great social reform.

As home carers, you are on the frontline supporting people with disability reach their potential; helping them participate in their local communities, enabling them to live in their homes as long as possible.

Across the needs of daily life, from nursing to home maintenance; from child care to respite and palliative care, you are the mainstay in the lives of many, many Australians with disability.

Our Government understands that your continued commitment as carers and trainers is fundamental to the success of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

And I want to say to you today that we will support the disability sector, its workforce, its carers and people with disability as we implement change.

Why do we need an NDIS and NIIS?

On average, every 30 minutes someone in Australia is diagnosed with a significant disability.

The risk of disability is universal — anyone can be affected at any time in their lives.

Disability doesn’t discriminate – anyone can fall off a ladder, have a stroke or have a child born with cerebral palsy.

In Australia today, disability equates to disadvantage — people with disability are more likely to be socially isolated, to struggle financially and to have poor personal well-being.

As the Productivity Commission reported, people with disability endure a system that is “underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient, giving people with disability little choice or certainty”.

It’s a system that is crisis driven, dripping out support rather than investing in the future. At the mercy of short-term budget cycles with insufficient foresight and funding to make the reforms to end the cycle of crisis.

Reforming disability support – an NDIS

When Labor came to office, the consequences of this dysfunctional system were bleakly apparent in the lives of people with disability and their carers.

Since our election we have worked to rebuild the disability support system.

We negotiated a new National Disability Agreement with the states and territories.

We delivered historic increases to the disability support pension and carer payment.

We have started work to develop the National Disability Strategy – a ten year strategy to improve access to networks of support, including health and education.

We released the first National Carers Strategy to better recognise and support carers.

There is new funding for early intervention for children with disability and capital infrastructure for supported education.
But this was not enough, which is why we asked the Productivity Commission to look into a national disability insurance scheme.

Eighteen months and more than one thousand submissions later – the most ever received, the Productivity Commission recommended revolutionary reforms that will change the way we support people with disability and their carers.

There are two central ideas behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme recommended by the Productivity Commission.

The first is that disability is for a lifetime; therefore we should take a lifelong approach to providing care and support.

The second is that an insurance approach allows us to share the cost of risk across the community.

The NDIS proposed by the Productivity Commission insures all Australians against the cost of significant disability, and provides care and support for around 410,000 people with significant disability.

This would see a doubling of government investment.

An NDIS will fundamentally change the way disability care and support is provided.

It will provide peace of mind for people with a significant and permanent disability and those who care for them.

A scheme operating on insurance principles means we can move away from a crisis-driven model and provide necessary and reasonable support in a timely, stable and reliable manner.

The funding for an NDIS will be based on actuarial assessment of need.

The scheme will take a lifelong approach to providing care and support and will have a strong focus on early intervention.

It will be person-centred, providing choice for people with disability, their families and carers; putting people in control of the care and support they receive, based on their needs.

And, of course, a vital component of an NDIS is delivering on the responsibility to support people in exercising this choice and control, and to help them make informed decisions.


The Productivity Commission also recommended the establishment of a National Injury Insurance Scheme—a no-fault insurance scheme to compensate people for a catastrophic injury.

An NIIS is being developed as a federated model of separate state-based schemes, funded by insurance premiums.

A no-fault scheme removes the emphasis on litigation and provides timelier funding for rehabilitation.

It will provide nationally consistent minimum care and support arrangements.

An NIIS will cover major causes of catastrophic injury including motor vehicle accidents, medical accidents, workplace accidents and general accidents.

An NIIS deters risky behaviour through insurance premiums, which send price signals encouraging safe behaviour.

The existence of no-fault accident schemes in some states means that this scheme could be rolled-out faster than an NDIS.

The two insurance schemes have different purposes.

An NDIS is to provide long-term care and support to people with a significant and permanent disability, while an NIIS is to provide restitution to people who suffer a catastrophic injury.

Establishing an NIIS as a separate scheme follows the recommendation of the Productivity Commission.

Building the foundations of an NDIS

So what progress has been made?

We have been working with the states and territories to lay the foundations of this fundamental reform.

Considering critical questions such as:

  • Who is eligible for support and what an entitlement to ‘reasonable and necessary support’ looks like;
  • National quality standards to ensure that when a person in Darwin receives care and support, they can be assured of the same quality as a person in Sydney;
  • Assessment tools to consistently measure the needs of people with disability in their individual circumstances;
  • And the business systems needed for an independent insurance framework, so that we can build a system picture of what works for people with disability and their carers, and manage the costs over time.

In the recent Budget, our government committed one billion dollars over four years for the first stage of an NDIS.

An NDIS will be launched from July 2013 in up to four sites around the country for around 10,000 people with significant and permanent disability, and their families and carers.

This will increase to around 20,000 people from mid-July 2014.

The launch sites will be determined in consultation with the states and territories in the coming months.

Our Government has also appointed David Bowen as CEO of the body responsible for coordinating the implementation of the NDIS Launch Transition Agency.

David, as you may know, is Chair of the National Injury Insurance Scheme Advisory Committee and inaugural CEO of the NSW Lifetime Care and Support Authority.

He was also a member of the Independent Panel which advised the Productivity Commission in its inquiry into a national disability care and support scheme.

The NDIS Launch Transition Agency will run the delivery of care and support to people with disability, their families and carers at the sites.

States and territories hosting the launch sites will be required to contribute to the cost of personal care and support for people with disability.

The Australian Government’s initial investment will cover administration and running costs for the first stage.

We understand that this will be a challenging time for the disability sector in these launch sites.

As the first to adapt to an NDIS, they will be on the front line.

And we will work closely with the sector to ensure that they are well prepared.

Sector and workforce development

Measures to build the capacity of disability organisations are included in the funding package.

This is critical to the success of an NDIS, particularly in the launch locations.

$122.6 million has been allocated to help the sector prepare for the new way of delivering services.

Further, the Prime Minister announced the ten-million dollar Practical Design Fund in December last year to fund projects that examine how the scheme’s design elements will work in practice.

We expect to call for funding submissions shortly.

And we’ve established a Disability Workforce and Sector Capacity expert group to help ensure a smooth transition.

Co-chaired by Dr Ken Baker and Dr Rhonda Galbally AO of the NDIS Advisory Group, they will advise us how to support the sector to deliver services, and how to prepare the disability care workforce for the change.

The impact on attendant care

People with disability can be some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Governments need to ensure that the money spent on care and support for them is high quality, protects them from neglect and abuse, and meets their needs.

I know that your association has been concerned about disparities in the professionalism of providers and the quality of care and support offered.

We are working with the states and territories on the quality framework to develop an efficient system with nationally consistent standards applying to all funded specialist support providers and Disability Support Organisations.

A system with safeguards to ensure people with disability exercise choice and are free from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

A national approach to monitoring the national standards for disability support and services, with transparent, accountable and risk based reporting.

The Government has established a Quality Safeguards and Standards Expert Group to provide advice on the work underway.

This group will also advise on the impact of quality and safeguards issues on the particular needs of people with disability in remote, rural and regional communities.


The Gillard Labor Government believes that people with disability and their carers deserve equal access to the opportunities this country can afford.

We have the opportunity to deliver real, positive change in the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.

This is an exciting social reform.

We are getting on with the job of delivering it and your role is critical to its success.