I rise today to speak on behalf of people from my electorate of Bonner who have a disability and also those who provide unwavering support to and care for people with disabilities. The Bonner community had the opportunity to meet with the shadow minister for disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector, Senator Mitch Fifield. I invited Senator Fifield to Bonner so that those in my community who have a disability, or their carers, had a forum to exchange information, learn from one another’s experience, voice their concerns and pass on information directly to me as well as Senator Fifield.
With the support and assistance of Terry Forster, Principal of Mount Gravatt Special School, I hosted a roundtable discussion in the school hall. Both Senator Fifield and I were delighted with the number of people who attended, and it was certainly a great opportunity for me to hear the diversity of issues, particularly those relating to Centrelink processing and payments. A common theme for a number of people was the lack of training of Centrelink staff in relation to advising of all the options available to people with disabilities and their carers.
In addition, we heard about the frustration of those people who are faced with a continual renewal of their status as someone who has been diagnosed with a permanent disability. Rightly, they expressed to me the reality that, if someone is diagnosed as having a permanent disability, this diagnosis will not change as time goes on. The constant need to have continual medical confirmation of the permanence of their disability is frustrating.
Not surprisingly, there was much discussion about the draft national disability insurance scheme being considered by the Productivity Commission. The coalition are encouraged by the first draft of the Productivity Commission’s model for a national disability insurance scheme and we will continue to monitor developments by the Productivity Commission and work to ensure that the government responds generously to the final report due in July 2011.
The coalition is committed to better outcomes for Australians with a disability. The system is broken and needs to be fixed. Again, I would like to thank Terry Forster for his tireless work. I also thank all those people who work and took the time to attend this roundtable and make me and Senator Fifield aware of their concerns. My sincere thanks also go to Senator Fifield. I look forward to maintaining this conversation with my community and working closely with Senator Fifield going forward.