The Hon. T.T. NGO (14:48): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Human Services regarding the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Hon. T.T. NGO: If elected, federal Labor will establish an NDIS future fund, meaning that every dollar set aside for the NDIS is guaranteed to be spent on the NDIS now and into the future. My questions are:
1. Does the minister support the establishment of an NDIS future fund to ensure NDIS funds are actually spent on South Australians living with a disability?
2. Does the minister believe that the waiting times for NDIS approvals and reviews that people are currently facing are appropriate?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for his question. In relation to the way that people have been transitioning through their planning meetings and so forth, I think we are all aware that there have been some very unsatisfactory times for plan reviews, initial plans and the like. To that end, I can only repeat that my office stands willing and able for any individuals who need assistance with communicating to the NDIA, and we are more than happy to assist.
I am very pleased that the members' and senators' contact office has been made available, not just to federal members and senators. Indeed, the Hon. Kelly Vincent had access to that service when she was a member. That has been available to the relevant minister and shadow minister for some time. I think it was in November last year when that was extended to all state electorate offices, which I think has assisted them to make inquiries on behalf of their constituents, which has been quite useful.
A lot of the problems with the NDIS stem back to that original decision that I referred to before where effectively people were being pushed through the system too quickly. It was a question of quantity rather than quality, as the numbers that federal and state Labor had signed up to were very high. It's not just the balance of hindsight, but I think anybody who looked at those numbers would have appreciated how complex the case was.
Disability is very diverse. People who have vision or hearing impairment have very different needs, for instance, from people who have autism or physical disabilities. I don't think that level of diversity was appreciated through the scheme as it was established, and at the same time all of the state and territory disability service agencies were preparing summaries of their existing clients to provide that information going forward.
In relation to federal Labor's proposal, my view is that it is a complete stunt. As I have said in this place before, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a service that if somebody is eligible then they will get a service. We saw a couple of years ago that there was an increase to the Medicare levy that was implemented to fund the NDIS because it was anticipated that there would be more demand. From memory, that didn't eventuate, but the federal government can make these decisions as it needs to.
As it stands, on the information we have, which is publicly available, it is fully funded into the future. Labor is really just using once again vulnerable people, people with disabilities, as pawns for its own purposes, effectively scaring people. What is the message that individuals who may be on the NDIS are taking from Labor portraying things in this way, that the existing services they have they may not get into the future? It's really quite reprehensible the way the Labor Party uses vulnerable people for its own purposes to try to undermine a service which is effectively demand driven.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order, Leader of the Opposition!
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It is a demand driven system. Labor is inherent in their questioning and in their out-of-order interjections that they don't even understand how the scheme works.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It is a demand driven system. I could keep repeating myself. Perhaps we need to have a briefing. Perhaps I need to organise a briefing for Labor members so that they can understand the basics of how the National Disability Insurance Scheme operates because time and time again I get asked these questions, which is quite embarrassing really. A major political party, which was in office (to most people's regret) a little over 12 months ago, has so little understanding of how this system operates.