25 November 2010
Andrew asks the Prime Minister to commit the Government to implementing a National Disability Insurance Scheme in the term of this parliament.
Mr WILKIE (2:28 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. In Australia 1,145,000 people live with a profound or serious disability. They are likely to be unemployed, marginalised and significantly poorer than the average Australian. If the Productivity Commission recommends the implementation of a national disability insurance scheme in its July 2011 report, will the government commit to the implementation of such a scheme during the term of this parliament?
Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Denison for his question. I know that he is deeply concerned about the circumstances of Australians with disabilities, as I and many members of the government are. I want to particularly pay tribute to the work of the member for Maribyrnong when he held this portfolio for the government in the last parliament. Building on his work with advocates for Australians with disabilities and their carers, I specifically want to say to this parliament: we absolutely believe Australians with disabilities deserve any assistance to ensure that they can pursue their day-to-day lives, enjoy the benefits and dignity of being full members of our community—including work, if that is possible for them—and having a full community life.
That is what has motivated us to ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a landmark inquiry into the feasibility of a national long-term care and support scheme for people with disability, and this does include considering the question of a national disability insurance scheme. The member for Denison is right: we will receive that report during 2011; we will receive it in July 2011. To the member for Denison what I can say is that we will seriously consider what is found by the Productivity Commission. We need to see the recommendations, we need to know them and we need to study and assess them and then respond. That is what we will do as a government. I can say to the member for Denison: we did ask for this report for a reason, because we wanted a piece of policy work done in this area and we believed that, in this policy area, the Productivity Commission was the right agency to do it.
I can also say to the member for Denison that, whilst this work is being done by the Productivity Commission, the government is not standing still. We are delivering reforms and changes for Australians with disability. We have doubled Commonwealth funding, to more than $6 billion over five years, for more and better specialist disability services under the National Disability Agreement. Of course, our pension reforms included those who are disability pensioners and carers, and we have increased the maximum rate to around $115 a fortnight more for single pensioners. We have provided $1.7 billion to remove waiting lists for disability employment services, because we know that there are many Australians with a disability who want to work, who want to enjoy the benefits and dignity of work and the inclusion in the life of our community that that necessarily means. And we have mapped out the National Disability Strategy. More than 2,500 people with disability and their carers had their say in developing this important strategy. To build on these measures, from July next year the government will also provide flexible funding for early intervention services to parents of children diagnosed with conditions that we referred to in the Better Start for Children with Disability program, because we know that if people can get the benefits of early intervention it makes such a difference. So that will be a change for children with sight and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome. We will continue to work on this and, of course, we will work with the member for Denison and other members of the parliament on these important disability reforms that are so important to the life of our nation and Australians with disability and the people who love them.