I rise tonight to speak on something important, and that is DisabilityCare Australia. The creation of DisabilityCare Australia, popularly known as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, is a reform which comes around only once in a generation. It is a reform that has taken vision and courage. It is hard to overestimate the effect that this policy will have for those Australians with disability and their families and carers. DisabilityCare Australia will provide people with severe or profound disability and their families and carers in my home state of Tasmania and across Australia with the support and care they need when they need it to help them lead rewarding lives. It is a change that is as fundamental to the social fabric of Australia as the introduction of Medicare or the superannuation guarantee.
DisabilityCare is being launched in stages simultaneously around the country. Last year I and my fellow Tasmanian colleague in the chamber here tonight, Senator Carol Brown, sat down with representatives from Baptcare to hear from them as to why Tasmania would be a perfect location for an NDIS launch site. We heard that Tasmania has both the need as well as organisations with the capacity to implement the NDIS. We heard that many Tasmanians with disability and their families are not getting the support that they need. We heard that people in the disability care sector are excited that finally someone is doing something after decades of neglect to improve the disability care sector.
I was extremely pleased, then, as a Tasmanian—
Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order that I have raised a number of times previously with this speaker. I refer you to standing order 187, which says:
A senator may not read a speech.
Clearly this senator has done nothing but read since she started. She could at least make a pretence of looking up at me now and again.
Senator Farrell: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. It is customary practice to allow some leniency in respect of this matter, particularly during the adjournment. I personally am enjoying Senator Bilyk’s speech.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, you are correct about the standing orders; however, it has been common practice in this chamber for senators to refer to notes or to read from time to time.
Senator Farrell: Mr Deputy President, on the point of order, I note that Senator Boyce, who is about to leave the chamber, in my recollection read the entire—
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order.
Senator BILYK: Senator Macdonald does not like the fact that I am speaking about something that the Labor Gillard government has implemented and so, once again, as I have predicted, there he is—
Senator Boyce: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Farrell claimed that I read my speech. I did not read my speech and I would like that corrected.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order.
Senator BILYK: As I was saying, Senator Carol Brown and I met with Baptcare and we heard about a number of issues from them. We heard that Tasmania has both the need and the organisations to be able to implement the NDIS. We heard that many Tasmanians—as the other senators in the chamber from Tasmania would be aware—with disability and their families are not getting the support they need. We heard that people in the disability care sector are excited that finally something is happening after decades of neglect to help them to improve the disability care sector.
Extremely pleased, then, were Tasmanians with disability, their families and carers, and workers in the disability care sector to hear the Prime Minister announce in July last year—and this is, of course, the part that Senator Macdonald does not want to hear—that Tasmania was one of the proposed launch sites for the NDIS. It was also pleasing when in May this year the Tasmanian government signed the agreement with the Australian government to launch the NDIS in Tasmania. This agreement has been strongly welcomed by people in the disability care sector in Tasmania.
I would like to quote from Catherine Viney, the CEO of Cosmos, with regard to this. Recently she said:
Historically, people with disability and their carers have had to fight for every ounce of support from the government.
The legislation introduced today by the Gillard government is testament to its commitment to all those Australians with a disability.
Lobbying for DisabilityCare has been a very long journey for some of us, and to see our grassroots campaign culminate into this announcement today is just fantastic.
The funding provided from the rise in the Medicare levy will pay for half of the scheme and has removed much of the uncertainty around the NDIS.
This will mean 280 Cosmos clients will be able to decide what type of support they need, and a further 560 individuals, including primary carers, will be indirectly supported.
I fully support Ms Viney’s comments. As I said, this is great news for the people of Tasmania.
In total, the launch in Tasmania will focus on around 1,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Under DisabilityCare Australia, these children and young adults will for the first time: be assessed to receive individualised care and support packages; have the power to make decisions about their care and support, including choosing their service provider; be assisted by local coordinators to help manage and deliver their support; and be able to access a system they can easily navigate and that will link them to mainstream services.
Other eligible Tasmanian residents will start entering the scheme from July 2016. DisabilityCare Australia will progressively roll out across Tasmania so that by July 2019 all eligible residents—11,000 Tasmanians with a disability—will get the care and support they need. This means people with disability in Tasmania will have more control over their lives, more certainty as to the level of care they receive and more opportunities to get involved in work, school and community life.
Those on the other side, especially Senator Macdonald, might not like to know this, but the Australian government is delivering $1 million to start rolling out the first stage of DisabilityCare in the launch sites. DisabilityCare will be operated by the independent agency that was set up through legislation that was passed by parliament earlier this year. There will be local DisabilityCare offices in each of the launch areas, each of which will be staffed by local people. By the middle of the year we expect that the DisabilityCare Australia launch transition agency will employ around 30 people in Tasmania as staff or contractors. They will have offices in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport. The Commonwealth will contribute about 51 per cent of the full cost of the scheme, with Tasmania to pay the remaining 49 per cent. By 2019-20, the Commonwealth will contribute around $245 million to the scheme for Tasmania.
We on this side understand that it is vital that DisabilityCare Australia is sustainably funded into the future. The 2013-14 budget has made the responsible decisions necessary to fully fund DisabilityCare Australia for the long term. This unprecedented long-term funding security will provide people with significant and permanent disability and their families and carers with the certainty they deserve. Through increasing the Medicare levy from 1.5 per cent to two per cent of taxable income from 1 July 2014 we have created a strong and stable funding stream that will provide certainty and security to the 460,000 Australians with disability and their families and carers. The campaign director of Every Australian Counts, Mr John Della Bosca, said about last month’s budget:
I have followed the Commonwealth Budget for decades. In some years you needed a microscope to find disability mentioned at all. Supporting people with a disability is at the core of tonight’s budget.
The NDIS will mean people with a disability and their family and carers get the support they need when they need it. It will end the waiting lists, fund necessary equipment and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians.
Tonight’s budget is a win for people who believe in justice for people with disability. The NDIS is a budget measure that appeals to the heart and the head.
Labor is investing $14.3 billion over seven years to roll out DisabilityCare Australia across the country.
Recently I attended a forum held in Huonville, south of Hobart, held by DisabilityCare Australia. The forum was attended by a number of people from the Huon Valley. There were people from the broader community, people with disability and their families and carers, and people who work in the disability care sector. The overwhelming feeling that struck me from this forum was the feeling of hope in the room. In fact, each person I spoke to and those who spoke to the group expressed the belief that with each of these reforms they finally had hope for the future—hope that their children and loved ones under their control would get the care that they require and have that care personalised to suit their needs; hope that they would get the support that they have needed for years. I am really proud to be part of a Labor government that is leading the way on this historic reform. We know that for too long people with disability have been treated as second-class citizens in their own country. The NDIS will change that.
Along with my Tasmanian federal Labor colleagues—two of whom are in the room tonight—both in this place and the other place, I have been lobbying really hard for an NDIS to come to Tasmania, because we know that people with disability have waited long enough for change. While the government has been behind this reform for some time, I would like quickly to thank and congratulate the thousands of Australians who have been involved in the Every Australian Counts campaign. The union movement, including the Australian Services Union, for which I used to work, has been a strong supporter of this campaign. It has been a very active participant in this campaign.
The fact that we have secured a full scheme in Tasmania is a real tribute to the dedicated disability advocates in our community who have campaigned tirelessly for this as well. An NDIS will transform the lives not only of those with disability and their families but also of the wider Australian society. Timely interventions, appropriate aids and equipment, and training and development will become an investment in individual capacity rather than welfare. I am at a loss to understand why there were so many objections and why certain senators from the other side insisted— (Time expired)