Second Reading – National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (18:07): I rise to speak in support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016, and to return to the focus to what it should be on, and that is the people that this fund will support and the opportunities it will provide, particularly into my region in Central Queensland.
The NDIS is one of the largest social and economic policy reforms in Australia’s history, and we should continue to be focused on the people it will help. The scheme will support people with disabilities to meet the costs associated with their condition and, importantly, it will empower people with disabilities to make their own decisions about the support they receive. As of June 2016 there were around 30,000 people participating in trials of the scheme across the country. The NDIS Quarterly Report for July-September 2016, released in November last year, stated that $3.3 billion had been committed to help people with disability across the country and 37,721 participants now have plans under the scheme. By 2019-20, there will be an estimated 460,000 Australians with disability being supported by the NDIS.
Queensland represents the third-largest market with around 91,000 participants living with disability and their families benefiting when the NDIS is fully rolled out by July 2019, up from approximately 48,000 people with disability currently receiving funded supports. In my electorate of Hinkler, the scheme will begin rolling out in Bundaberg from 1 October this year and the Fraser Coast from 1 July 2018. The rollout schedule was determined by the Queensland state Labor government, with the state divided into 13 service regions using existing Queensland disability sub-regional areas. The NDIS represents a significant change for people with disability and the disability services sector, and that is why we are introducing the scheme in stages to ensure that it is carefully managed.
People living with disability, their families, their carers and their service providers will all benefit from the NDIS and from the certainty the full scheme provides. Support will go directly to each eligible person, which means the current supports and services will change as participants demand new supports and services. Previously, people with a disability, their families and carers have not been able to exercise extensive choice and control over the supports that they receive. The NDIS will allow them to have that choice and have the services that they want.
There is no doubt that the NDIS will change the landscape of the disability sector. Not only will there be new opportunities, there will also be a new source of demand within the wider economy for disability support services. Providers of disability support services will need to be prepared to be innovative and capitalise on job opportunity growth, because the NDIS ultimately means more jobs.
Last year, a new analysis of the NDIS in Queensland, the Market Position Statement, was released by the National Disability Insurance Agency, NDIA. The Market Position Statement aimed to share information about the NDIS with the marketplace, helping providers to make business decisions about how they can best meet the needs of people living with disability. The report stated that the disability services market in Queensland will grow from around $1.8 billion currently to approximately $4.3 billion in 2020. The NDIS will inject $2.5 billion into the Queensland economy and double the disability services workforce, which will benefit the entire state.
Across my electorate, more than 1,650 jobs are expected to be created when the NDIS is rolled out. The Bundaberg and Maryborough service regions are expected to require the largest proportional workforce increase, as the current estimated workforce is less than 40 per cent of the estimated NDIS workforce. More than 600 jobs are expected to be created in the Bundaberg region and 1,050 in the Maryborough region. The number of people receiving disability support in the Bundaberg region is forecast to grow from 1,500 to 3,300, which is 120 per cent, and in the Maryborough region from 2,200 to 5,100, which is an increase of 132 per cent.
This growth will, in turn, generate jobs, fuel innovation and increase investment, and we need to be ready to capitalise and encourage these job opportunities. The Market Position Statement talks about these opportunities, and I quote:
The NDIA values the role of providers and sees them as a critical part of the NDIS in terms of delivering high quality, person-centred supports to help participants achieve their aspirations.
The NDIA would like to see a market with a diverse array of providers that maximises choice and control for participants but also enables strong links with mainstream services and family and community support to help achieve the overall NDIS aspirations of increased social and economic participation for people with disability.
The report goes on to say:
NDIS-generated growth presents significant opportunities for an expansion in service provision. With this opportunity comes the challenge to deliver high quality, capacity building, value-for-money supports.
Some providers are already embracing this challenge and are looking at new business models and products and exploring new ideas, collaborations, technologies and services that are more responsive to individual choices.
I would encourage all of those economic development agencies in my own electorate of Hinkler—whether they are working with local government or local chambers—to be on the front foot, encouraging people to invest in the region, where we have opportunities to not only increase our local economy but also improve our employment level. I am very supportive of anyone that can bring new business to our region—whether that is local businesses with innovative solutions for disability services or training providers, we need all of that support. This is a growth area in Central Queensland and it is a great opportunity to help people that need disability support and an opportunity for our region to strengthen its economy.
In April last year, the Assistant Minister for Disability Services, my good friend and colleague Jane Prentice and I held a roundtable discussion with local service providers in my electorate. Representatives from service providers, including from Impact, Bridges, Steps and Endeavour, met to discuss the NDIS and what it will mean for Hinkler residents. It was a great opportunity to talk to people at the coalface of disability and mental health services and discuss what they need to be doing right now to capitalise on the opportunities that the NDIS will bring. All stakeholders will need time to build their understanding of their customer base and preferences and position their offerings. But they are already growing and diversifying to meet the new demand. There are around 2,300 registered providers in the NDIS, and about 130 organisations have applied to register as a provider of NDIS supports in Queensland.
The coalition government is committed to adequately and sustainably funding the NDIS. That is why I am speaking on this bill. The Commonwealth will manage the NDIS Savings Fund Special Account in a way that is transparent and quantifiable. In addition to this special account, the Commonwealth is redirecting existing disability related spending and the DisabilityCare Australia Fund to the NDIS rollout. This will come from existing disability funding; the Commonwealth share of the increase in the Medicare levy through the DisabilityCare Australia Fund; and redirected funding which is currently provided to the states for specialist disability services. This will amount to about $6.8 billion. This does still leave a shortfall of $4.1 billion. It is this government’s job to set aside the remainder needed for the full rollout by 2019-20. This special account is the mechanism for securing that funding shortfall.
And it is smart policy. The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, through a majority report, recommended that this bill be passed. The special account will be administered by the Department of Social Services, with its funding sitting within the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This will ensure that savings deposited into the special account are not returned to the Consolidated Revenue Fund itself and effectively lost for NDIS purposes. The special account will allow the government, over future budgets, to identify savings from existing programs and set aside those savings to assist in meeting the Commonwealth’s future financial commitments to the NDIS. Effectively, the Commonwealth will, over successive years, put aside savings that are clearly identified, quantified and defined so that the annual funding gap from 2019-20 is met within existing funding. Further, there will be a review of the special savings fund before 1 July 2027. The coalition government is committed to properly, adequately and sustainably funding the NDIS. This measure follows through on that commitment, and I certainly recommend the bill to the House.