Disability Services



About this Item
SpeakersMcDonald Dr Andrew; Constance Mr Andrew; Khoshaba Mr Ninos; Hopwood Mrs Judy; Gadiel Ms Tanya
BusinessDivision, Urgent Motion


DISABILITY SERVICES
Page: 7156

Motion Accorded Priority

Dr ANDREW McDONALD (Macquarie Fields) [4.06 p.m.]: I move:
      That this House:
(1) congratulates the Prime Minister on his $1 billion commitment to disability services in Australia;

(2) notes that the $1 billion commitment includes an additional $100 million in immediate capital works funding for supported accommodation which will make a significant difference to people with disabilities, their families and their carers;

(3) notes that the Prime Minister's announcement is a massive endorsement of the Premier's $1.3 billion Stronger Together Plan which is already delivering better services and facilities to people with a disability across New South Wales; and

(4) calls on the Leader of the Opposition to detail his alternative plan.

I have spent my life working with children with disabilities. It is now the main workload of paediatricians. For example, children with severe cerebral palsy now have a survival rate of 90 per cent to age 20. For this reason, disability services need to be the core business of every level of government. When carers of the disabled are asked, they say that services need to have three basic rules: do it right, make it easy and do it with care. For too long the Howard Government's policy was to play the blame game—a game that helped no-one. Since the election of the Rudd Labor Government we have turned the corner and ended the blame game between the State and the Commonwealth.

We need look no further than the announcement on the weekend that the Prime Minister has committed $1 billion to disability services in Australia. This commitment, $100 million of which is for immediate capital works, will make an enormous difference to people with disabilities. The Prime Minister's announcement is a massive endorsement of Premier Iemma's spending and policy priorities, and will complement the $1.3 billion Stronger Together plan for New South Wales. The Howard Government's idea of helping people with a disability was to establish a duplicate system, duplicating administrative costs and making the system confusing for those it was supposed to be helping. As one working in the field, I found it extremely confusing; it was difficult to work through a tangled web of services.

[Interruption]

I note the interjection of the member for Bega, who said that it is a State responsibility. I say it is the responsibility of every level of government and every person in this society. By now allocating this money through the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement [CSTDA] we can maximise the benefit this will provide to people with a disability. The new announcement of funding will form part of the new agreement, which underpins the disability system in New South Wales. It identifies national policy priority areas. It commits both levels of government to specified levels of funding and provides a performance reporting framework for disability services. The third Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement expired in 2007, but was extended to allow for negotiations on this new agreement.

I am proud that the Iemma Government has committed a record $1.3 billion funding boost for disability services under our Stronger Together plan. During the five-year life of the third agreement the Howard Government contributed approximately $950 million, while the New South Wales Government provided more than $4.4 billion. The contribution of the former Commonwealth Government reduced from 19 per cent to just 16 per cent of annual funding over the life of the agreement. That happened at a time of Federal budget surpluses and would have reduced to zero if it were a State responsibility as the member for Bega said. I am pleased to advise the House that the Federal and State Ministers are getting on with the job of providing services and have already met to begin discussions on the next Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement. This marks a new spirit of cooperation on disability services. Ministers have already agreed on the key priorities that will form the development of a national disability strategy. This will help the States and the Commonwealth to work together to prioritise areas under the agreement. The Ministers will be meeting again in May 2008 in New South Wales.

The Iemma Government will continue to argue strongly for a fair share of Commonwealth funds for disability services for New South Wales. It is proud to welcome the Rudd Labor Government's $1 billion investment commitment. That is in stark contrast to the Opposition's plans today. During our negotiations with the previous Federal Government, not once did the member for Bega ever stand up to his mates in Canberra and demand a fair share of funding for New South Wales. Not once did he back the Government when it called for a matching of our Stronger Together funding from the Federal Government. Not only has the member for Bega been silent on the negotiations about the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement, but he has also been completely silent on what the Opposition would do for disability services if it were in government. Today is his day too.

It is time for the Opposition to tell the people of New South Wales whether it will support Stronger Together. Will it support the increase of 1,400 supported accommodation and in-home support places? Will it support 1,000 new therapy places? Will it cut the Family Assistance Fund and Intensive Family Support Service? Will it keep the 1,062 new respite places—more than it has ever had, I know because I have used them? Will it continue to fund the Transition to Work Program, which sees nearly 70 per cent of school leavers with a disability go to jobs or higher education? Does it support the significant increase in our attendant care places?

Is the Opposition sticking to the only idea the member for Bega has managed to produce to date: that it is time for the Government to consider opting out of accommodation services altogether? Today the new one is that it is purely a State responsibility. In a recent interview on radio the member for Bega stated, "We're developing our own policies." I suggest that today is a good day for the Opposition to tell us its policies. The mark of a decent society is one that takes care of all its citizens. With the Rudd Labor Government, we no longer need to go this alone. The Iemma Government welcomes this new era of cooperation.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE (Bega) [4.13 p.m.]: I move:
      That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after "That" with a view to inserting instead:
this House:

(1) condemns the Prime Minister and the New South Wales Government for cutting funding to the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement [CSTDA] by $124 million;

(2) notes that 95 per cent of people with a disability who applied for supported accommodation through the New South Wales government were rejected, some 1,511 people;

(3) notes the cut to the capital works budget of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care by 10 per cent and 19 vacant group homes owned by the department; and

(4) calls on the New South Wales Government to invest in supported accommodation.

I have moved my amendment because the member for Macquarie Fields failed to address these issues. If one were to refer to the Australian Labor Party Election-07 Disability and Carer's Policy one would see that it states that a Rudd Labor Government will bring "$962 million in funding for disability services which is currently outside the CSTDA back into the agreement, and provide it to the States and Territories on a dollar for dollar matching basis". Last weekend in the Premier's address to the Australian Labor Party conference he stated, "in this budget we are investing $900 million in the new Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement for the planning and management of disability services, including respite supported accommodation, community support and community access". The investment $962 million has gone down to $900 million that is supposed to be matched by the States. An amount of $124 million has been immediately cut out of this process by this wonderful new-found spirit of cooperation between State and Federal Labor governments. They have been caught with their pants down.

Mr Daryl Maguire: Exposed.

Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: They will continue to be exposed. When the announcement was made of the $100 million, Rudd did not say it was over four years or that it was going to all States. At best, if one were to work on a population basis, New South Wales might get $33 million over four years, which will not do anything for the 1,511 people who missed out last year. Certainly it will not do anything for the 8,000 people in this State who need supported accommodation, and therein lies the point. The Iemma Government has repeatedly ignored the calls of carers, non-government organisations and community-based organisations who seek more investment in supported accommodation in New South Wales.

It is worth examining the Stronger Together plan, which the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Coalition said it would sign up to and support before the last State election. The Coalition went further and announced a number of other policies, which organisations such as the Council of Social Service of New South Wales [NCOSS] called on the Labor Government to match. It was acknowledged that the Coalition developed a better policy package than the Government at the last State election. In relation to the Stronger Together plan, the Government should read the "A fairer NSW: social and economic priorities for a fair and sustainable community" report released by NCOSS for the State budget. I encourage the member for Macquarie Fields, and the Minister whose office obviously wrote the speech for him, to read the report. On page 47 it states:

      In its June 2007 Report on Current and Future Demand for Specialist Disability Services, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provided estimates of unmet need in the year 2005 for a range of disability supports, including accommodation and respite services. Using these estimates, NSW could have an unmet need for accommodation and respite services in 2005 of just under 8,000 places.

      This unmet need for 8,000 places in 2005 is alarming given that planned spending on supported accommodation in NSW under both Stronger Together and the Disability Assistance Package could provide up to only 1,933 places by 2012 or seven years after the identified unmet need.

Similar calculations could be made for respite. That means that at best Stronger Together can fund approximately 20 per cent of those needing supported accommodation in New South Wales. This is at a time when the Iemma Government cut the capital works budget for the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care by 10 per cent in the last State budget, when 19 vacant group home properties managed by the department are unoccupied and when people are screaming out for supported accommodation. That information has come through the budget estimates process; it is not being made up. Those are the answers to questions the Opposition put to the Government through budget estimates. It has been exposed.

We have not only the Rudd and Iemma governments getting together and fiddling in a mean and tricky way with numbers for the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement, but we also have examples—for the assistance of the member for Macquarie Fields—where at a State level the Government has responsibility for delivering services. Why on Earth would those thousands of carers and people with a disability have any faith in the State Government to provide them with the services they need? They are screaming out, they are coming to my office in droves and they are going to the Minister's office in droves because the State Government does not care about the way in which it manages community assets to provide those services.

I thank the member for Macquarie Fields for confirming on the record that his Minister spent the 12 months prior to the last Federal election demanding that the Commonwealth match the $1.3 billion that was set out in the Stronger Together plan. Since the last Federal election we have not heard boo from the Minister in relation to that point. She has seemingly lost her ticker for chasing that additional funding. The member for Macquarie Fields failed to mention that I had dealings with Mal Brough's office on this issue. The office announced a policy of matched funding on new dollars for supported accommodation, a funding package that the Iemma Government rejected out of hand.

Mr NINOS KHOSHABA (Smithfield) [4.20 p.m.]: Both the Iemma State Government and the Rudd Federal Government recognise the need to invest in disability services. The Iemma Government has committed $1.3 billion in disability services in New South Wales through its plan, Stronger Together, and already it is exceeding its targets for new and innovative services for people with a disability, their families and carers. And that is why the Iemma Government welcomes the new investment of $1 billion, including an extra $100 million in immediate capital works funding for supported accommodation to disability services in Australia, which was announced by the Prime Minister last weekend.

The Iemma Government is providing real, practical help that people with a disability and their families and carers need. The new money announced by the Prime Minister will enhance the Iemma Government's $1.3 billion plan for New South Wales Stronger Together. Stronger Together details how the Government will provide greater assistance and long-term practical solutions, backed with $1.3 billion in new funding over the first five years. Stronger Together focuses on three key goals: strengthening families, so that children with a disability can grow up with a family in the community; promoting community inclusion, or "Count Me In Too", so that adults with a disability have more opportunities to participate in paid employment or in the community; and improving the disability services system's capacity and accountability. This will provide clearer entry and exit points based on need, it will provide quality and value for money and will improve accountability, practices and policies.

Stronger Together includes $192 million this financial year, following the $154 million provided last financial year. The announcement by the Prime Minister will build on the important work the Iemma Government is doing to expand supported accommodation services to people with a disability. More than 8,500 supported accommodation and intensive in-home support packages are provided across New South Wales for people with a disability. Since 1999 more than 1,600 people with a disability received new supported accommodation or intensive in-home assistance. Under the Government's Stronger Together plan 990 new specialist accommodation support places will be provided over five years.

Stronger Together will provide more support to enable adults with a disability to live in their local community. The Government will focus on greater assistance and flexible options and on developing a wider range of specialist support services. Through Stronger Together the Government will invest an additional $48 million to support innovative approaches. Stronger Together and the initiatives that are being rolled out as part of this comprehensive 10-year plan represent real progress in improving the quality of life for people with a disability and their families. The endorsement by the Federal Government and its added investment is welcomed by the Iemma Government. We now call on the Opposition to tell us what its plan is to assist people with a disability, their families and carers. The member for Bega is upset that in an election policy the Federal Labor Party referred to putting $962 million into the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement. [Time expired.]

Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD (Hornsby) [4.23 p.m.]: I support the amendment moved by the member for Bega. I am disappointed that this is the second debate on this matter for which the Minister for Disability Services has not been present. The member for Bega is a hardworking shadow Minister for Disability Services. His amendment states that the Iemma Government should be condemned for cutting funding to the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement in concert with the Rudd Government by $124 million, notes that 95 per cent of people with a disability who applied for supported accommodation through the Iemma Government were rejected—that is some 1,511 people—and notes the cut to the capital works budget of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care by 10 per cent. The amendment notes also that 19 group homes owned and managed by the department are still vacant.

In my electorate there is a number of people with children and relatives with a disability, and I speak about their needs on a regular basis. I have had many meetings at which individuals and families have sought independent living for their loved one, which has been either a huge challenge or an impossibility. The Rudd Government's recent announcement is a drop in the ocean in meeting the unmet, real needs for disability services in our communities. For example, I draw attention to young people living in nursing homes. It is an absolute scandal that 2,000 young people reside in nursing homes in New South Wales because they cannot find independent, appropriate accommodation. The only places in which they can be accommodated are nursing homes.

I will continue to work with parents and families who have young people in nursing homes. The plight of Gordon and Margaret Fuller comes immediately to mind. Their daughter, Fiona, has resided in a nursing home for 10 years. Mr and Mrs Fuller are hopeful that of the two places that will become available in the northern area of Sydney, one will be for Fiona. I draw the Minister's attention to that fact. The Iemma Government has let down severely the people of New South Wales in relation to the provision of disability services. The Government's failures include the lack of accommodation for people with a disability. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's June 2007 Report on Current and Future Demand for Specialist Disability Services provided estimates of unmet need for accommodation and respite of just under 8,000 places in 2005. People are missing out right, left and centre. [Time expired.]

Ms TANYA GADIEL (Parramatta—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.26 p.m.]: I have looked into my crystal ball and I predict that the Government will not support the amendment moved by the member for Bega. The member for Bega misled the House in relation to capital works. I am advised that there has been no change in the Government's commitment to capital works projects. Some change has been made to the rollout of capital works, and the Iemma Government remains on target in its commitments under the Stronger Together plan. The member for Bega knows that already, as the Minister for Disability Services corrected him in her answer to him on this issue on 20 June 2007. Once again, the Opposition is showing a complete lack of understanding of how governments work. The member for Bega seems to be upset that in an election policy the Federal Labor Party committed to putting $962 million into the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement and now Prime Minister Rudd has committed $1 billion. The member for Bega should welcome that.

Mr Andrew Constance: Don't get tricky.

Ms TANYA GADIEL: I apologise if this is too complicated for the member for Bega to understand. Clearly $1 billion is a lot more money than $962 million. Again I have to refer to group homes. Once again the member for Bega is making claims about group homes being left vacant. For the benefit of the House, at any time we may have to make changes to group homes that are purchased as part of new properties. Moving people with a disability into their new homes must be done with care and respect. It is important that the appropriate modifications are made so that when they move into a property their needs are met. Moving people with high support needs into accommodation is not like a bunch of university students moving into a place and sharing a pizza that night. This is something the member needs to understand.

Dr ANDREW McDONALD (Macquarie Fields) [4.29 p.m.], in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate and urge them to support the motion.

Question—That the words stand—put.Question—That the words stand—put.

The House divided.

Ayes, 50
Ms Andrews
Mr Aquilina
Ms Beamer
Mr Borger
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Collier
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Ms D'Amore
Mr Draper
Ms Firth
Ms Gadiel
Mr Greene
Mr Harris
Ms Hay
Mr Hickey
Ms Hornery
Ms Judge
Ms Keneally
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lynch
Mr McBride
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Meagher
Ms Megarrity
Mr Morris
Mr Oakeshott
Mrs Paluzzano
Mr Pearce
Mrs Perry
Mr Piper
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mr Shearan
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Tripodi
Mr Watkins
Mr West
Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin

Noes, 35
Mr Aplin
Mr Baird
Mr Baumann
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Cansdell
Mr Constance
Mr Debnam
Mrs Fardell
Mr Fraser
Ms Goward
Mrs Hancock
Mr Hartcher
Ms Hodgkinson
Mrs Hopwood
Mr Humphries
Mr Kerr
Mr Merton
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Page
Mr Piccoli
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mrs Skinner
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stokes
Mr Stoner
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Pair

Mr GibsonMr Hazzard
Question resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.

Division called for and Standing Order 185 applied.

The House divided.
Ayes, 50
Ms Andrews
Mr Aquilina
Ms Beamer
Mr Borger
Mr Brown
Ms Burney
Ms Burton
Mr Campbell
Mr Collier
Mr Coombs
Mr Corrigan
Mr Costa
Mr Daley
Ms D'Amore
Mr Draper
Ms Firth
Ms Gadiel
Mr Greene
Mr Harris
Ms Hay
Mr Hickey
Ms Hornery
Ms Judge
Ms Keneally
Mr Khoshaba
Mr Koperberg
Mr Lynch
Mr McBride
Dr McDonald
Ms McKay
Mr McLeay
Ms McMahon
Ms Meagher
Ms Megarrity
Mr Morris
Mr Oakeshott
Mrs Paluzzano
Mr Pearce
Mrs Perry
Mr Piper
Mr Rees
Mr Sartor
Mr Shearan
Ms Tebbutt
Mr Tripodi
Mr Watkins
Mr West
Mr Whan
Tellers,
Mr Ashton
Mr Martin

Noes, 35
Mr Aplin
Mr Baird
Mr Baumann
Ms Berejiklian
Mr Cansdell
Mr Constance
Mr Debnam
Mrs Fardell
Mr Fraser
Ms Goward
Mrs Hancock
Mr Hartcher
Ms Hodgkinson
Mrs Hopwood
Mr Humphries
Mr Kerr
Mr Merton
Mr O'Dea
Mr O'Farrell
Mr Page
Mr Piccoli
Mr Provest
Mr Richardson
Mr Roberts
Mrs Skinner
Mr Smith
Mr Souris
Mr Stokes
Mr Stoner
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Tellers,
Mr George
Mr Maguire

Pair

Mr GibsonMr Hazzard
Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.