Speech by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Speech for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Forum

Location: Perth Town Hall

Good morning everyone.

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Peter Darch, 2011 Western Australian Young Person of the Year
  • Minister Bill Shorten… who will speak in a moment
  • Minister Gary Gray MP, Member for Brand in WA
  • Graeme Innes AO, our very first Disability Discrimination Commissioner
  • And can I make special mention of Geraldine Mellet of the Every Australian Counts campaign.
  • I also acknowledge the WA Minister Helen Morton who I’m advised was unable to be here
  • Sue Ellery, WA Shadow Minister for Disability Services; and
  • Lisa Baker, Member for Maylands in the WA Parliament

It is real a pleasure to be here today in Perth to discuss the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a scheme that has the potential to do for disability, what Medicare did for health in this country, what superannuation did for retirement, what HECS did for education.

That is, to make our disability support system one that we can be proud to call the AUSTRALIAN disability support system.

The disability sector here in Perth and across Australia is working hard to support people with disability through their many services and care programs.

And your voices have carried well and truly across the Nullarbor.

Your voices were loud and clear following the release of the Productivity Commission report in August, when the Prime Minister announced her support, and our Government’s support, for the scheme.

The message we heard from WA was “we want in”.

And we couldn’t do this without you—so thank you, because the Australian Government is right behind you, every step of the way.

National Disability Insurance Scheme:

Ours is a Government who knows things have to change – and is working to lay the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Let’s be real about this – this is a once in a generation opportunity.

You simply don’t get ‘two bites of the cherry’ with reform as fundamental as this.

And I certainly feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders that we must get this done, that we must get this right.

I would like to take the opportunity to outline our roadmap — how what we are doing today is going to bring about a better tomorrow.

I know I don’t need to tell anyone here today that Australia’s old support systems for people with disability are not up to scratch.

“Underfunded, unfair, fragmented, and inefficient, giving people with disability little choice” was how the Productivity Commission described the system recently.

The Commission recommended a National Disability Insurance Scheme and a National Injury Insurance Scheme be established.

Bill will talk about the National Injury Insurance Scheme which he has carriage of, but in terms of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the scheme outlined by the Productivity Commission would insure all Australians against the cost of significant disability, and provide care and support for around 410,000 people with significant disability.

To give you an idea of the quantum shift we’re talking about, the current disability service system supports around 180,000 people.
This means that the PC recommends more than doubling the size of the existing system of support, not to mention to the reforms that need to occur.

And those reforms, in my view, need to be based on a few key principles:

First, the scheme needs to operate on insurance principles.

That means moving away from the crisis driven model that characterises the current service system which ends up with all the resources being focussed on crisis situations and not enough funding directed at early intervention and support which avoids the crisis situations in the first place.

An insurance approach ‘flips that on its head’ and poses the question “what is the most efficient way to deal with this individual’s circumstances that enables them to be as independent as possible and therefore less reliant on government services for support in the long run?”

Secondly, a Disability Insurance Scheme needs to provide certainty. It needs to guarantee that people with disability are provided with the care and support they need over the course of their lifetime.

There are simply too many carers that don’t know what the future holds and the anxiety for people with disability and carers that comes with that is immense.

And a scheme needs to ensure each individual receiving the right level of care and support to reach their full potential and that individuals have the right to control and direct their own services and supports. So the third principle is that a scheme needs to be person centred and needs to provide choice.

But in order to have choice, people need options. If you only have one service provider in your community, it doesn’t matter how much choice you have, because there is only one option.

So that means we need a strong, sustainable, diverse and flexible service sector.

So they are the core principles as I see them.

For people with disability and their carers, accessing services should no longer be a postcode lottery depending on where you live, what kind of disability you have, and how you acquired that disability.

NDIS Implementation:

So, what’s next?

Our Government has already begun work to establish the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Australian Government and all state and territory governments last week agreed to lay the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme by mid-2013—a year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission.

That is only 18 months from now and it’s going to be hard work.

That work must be undertaken with our colleagues in state and territory governments, remembering that the state governments have responsibility for the delivery of most disability services in Australia.

I’m pleased to say that at the Select Council meeting all state and territory governments agreed to the new work program on the foundation reforms.

Those foundations reforms include —

  • Developing a common assessment toolbox to ensure consistency about assessment of need across the country;
  • Designing a national set of quality standards;
  • A strategy for boosting the capacity and skills of the disability services sector in each state and territory;
  • A national approach to individualised care and support; and
  • Developing a workforce strategy.

These are just some of the many foundation reforms that need to be in place before a scheme can be launched and we’re already working on those foundations.

We have also established the NDIS Advisory Group, who met for consultations last week.

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Joan McKenna-Kerr – a West Australian – who is here today, and sits on that group and is already making a strong contribution.


I want to sincerely thank all of you for coming together today for this event.

I hope this forum provides information and direction, both for you as Western Australians and for us, as government. It will also provide the opportunity for a Western Australian message to be heard.

I live in Cairns in far-north Queensland where, like many parts of WA, we have unique challenges associated with the diversity and geography. And we need to make sure that those regional differences are understood and represented.

I know you share our enthusiasm for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, and I look forward to working with you on delivering a real reform for people with disability, their families and carers.

Thank you.