This motion highlights the ongoing issues with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme under this Liberal government. The member for Hughes is right to point out that the issues dealt with at COAG in June were longstanding—fundamentals like how the NDIS should interact with the health system. Why is this only being resolved now?
It was Labor that established the NDIS, and this came after many years of campaigning by people with disability and their families and carers. It promised to change people's lives for the better and enable Australians with disabilities to live the lives they wanted to. They have waited so long to escape an inadequate and fragmented system, to have the quality of life that they deserve. Labor listened to people with disability and stood with them on that journey to introduce the NDIS, the greatest social reform since Medicare. That is what is promised by the NDIS and what we in the Labor Party remain committed to seeing delivered.
While it is very important that the NDIS has had bipartisan support—and I acknowledge that—its implementation is not being prioritised as it should be under this Liberal government. There are serious, ongoing issues, the addressing of which I know a Labor minister would have made a top priority. The fact that Scott Morrison and the Liberals are proud of a budget surplus that is based largely on a $1.6 billion underspend on the NDIS tells you everything you need to know. That underspend does not represent good management; it represents people with disability not being able to access the supports they need.
It is devastating to speak with people who thought the NDIS was going to change their lives for the better but have in fact found it has made them worse. At NDIS forums and when talking with constituents, the burden that people with disability and their families carry is palpable. You can feel people's exasperation with systems that are not working, with the lack of transparency and personalised support, with dealing with a government whose underlining attitude to the NDIS, as it is with most social policy, is: What are these people trying to get? How are they trying to game the system? They are trying to get the support they need to live their lives and to participate fully in our community.
One constituent who has contacted me is the mother of a three-year-old girl who is unable to walk or stand. At the beginning of this year she applied to the NDIS to get her daughter a standing frame. Six months later there is still no word on when, or even if, her daughter will be granted this device. When you're three, six months is critical in terms of your development and learning, and this delay is completely unacceptable. I ask the minister and the Prime Minister to put themselves in the shoes of that little girl and her mother—or, indeed, the shoes of the countless other NDIS participants they must be hearing from—and see what it feels like for them. Stories like this are not uncommon and they expose the systemic issues within the NDIS. Many of these stem from the planning process.
The NDIS is a major reform and major adjustments are required, but many of the solutions seem obvious. No. 1, we need to remove the staffing cap on the NDIA. Why you would cap staffing on an agency that is delivering such a major reform is beyond me. To get the NDIS right we need an adequately resourced NDIA.
No. 2, people need to see their draft plans. Again, it is absolutely astonishing that this is not part of the process. This is fundamental to transparency and would reduce the need for further reviews. In my view, participants should also be able to have a contact person that they deal with each time they contact the NDIA, rather than a call centre model. NDIS plans are complex, not one size fits all, and this would make things a lot easier not only for participants but also, surely, for the NDIA. Most importantly, what is absolutely fundamental to getting the NDIS right is listening to what people with disability are saying. The NDIS is fundamentally about two things: choice and control. I urge the government to urgently prioritise fixing the NDIS so that it truly delivers choice and control to people with disability.