Disability Amendment Bill 2013

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Disability Amendment Bill 2013.

I do not think there is a person in this house who has not had people come into their office and as the local MP they have had to look them in the eye — people with children and other family members who have a disability — and feel completely inadequate about what they can offer them to ensure that their lives are better, more fulfilling and without a sense of crisis. As an MP, you feel as though you just cannot do enough. So I am aghast to see this bill before the house today after the first attempt to increase the fees was met with such reluctance and disbelief by members of my community and the disability sector. All strength to them for the way they campaigned against the first increase and took their campaign to VCAT. It really showed that this issue is very important to them.

We have also seen in this house that nearly 7000 petitioners have raised this issue with the government.

It is not an issue that just happens to be affecting a few hundred families, as some members opposite are suggesting; 7000 people signed a petition suggesting the government got this wrong. When you go about your business in such a way that you create distrust and a sense of dishonesty with the people you are dealing with — people who are, as I have said, trying to work their way through a very complicated system, and they have to deal with the way this government has treated them on this occasion, not
just with the case that went to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) but even here today — they feel as though they are being treated poorly. It is for that reason the opposition has moved a reasoned amendment.

I will read from the media release of the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID):

Consideration of the bill, which aims to introduce a board and lodging fees structure for the 2100 residents of state-managed group homes for people with disability, should be postponed in order to allow a proposed review of disability service fees to be conducted by the State Services Authority.

It is the strong belief of the opposition that the cart has been put before the horse, and I believe that is the view in the sector and of the families with members who have disabilities. They want to have a full and thorough, frank, honest, open and transparent discussion about this issue with the government before they go down this path. Is it any wonder they want that? They were burnt the first time, and they are still not feeling as though there is that level of trust and transparency in this bill.

When I look at the bill I can see that they could become confused, as some people opposite might be suggesting. I suggest that most people would be absolutely bamboozled by the bill before us. It was great to hear the member for Burwood spend most of his time attacking the member for Yan Yean, but I challenge him to tell me what this means:

(PC × (D₁ ÷ D₂ )) + C

Ms Wooldridge interjected.

Ms GRALEY— Or maybe the minister can tell me what this means:

((PC-C₁)×(D₁ ÷ D₂ )) + C₂

I would love somebody to get up and explain that.

Honourable members interjecting.

— I would really love people to get up and explain it.

Mr Watt interjected.

— No wonder the member for Burwood spent his time attacking the member for Yan Yean rather than talking on clause 4 of the bill, which has examples of notjust these ones — —

Mr Watt interjected.

Ms GRALEY— Maybe you would like to go to clause 4 and tell me what it means, because I
suggest to you that most people would not be able to understand it.

This is why it is important that the government sit down with people in the sector, people with family members with disabilities, and explain what it actually means, because this is a very difficult formula. It is a formula that is likely to confuse people, and it is likely that people might read into it what is not there. I will give that to the minister — they might be reading things into it that are not there.

But what the opposition is suggesting in its reasoned amendment is that the government at least have appropriate consultation with residents, carers, families and other stakeholders to work out what would be a fair system of disability accommodation fees and charges which they would understand and which they would be able to predict in the
future so that they could plan their lives, just like everyone else has a right to do when they are getting their budget together.

Because at the moment you hear people in the sector talking about increases of 32 per cent, which means you are talking about thousands of extra dollars having to be found by families to keep their children or other family members in supported accommodation.

Ms Wooldridge interjected.

— This is what is being said in the community. This is what people are saying, Minister. You might want to shout me down — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms McLeish) — Order! The
member will direct her remarks through the Chair.

Mr Noonan — They’re making it up!

Ms GRALEY— Whether they are making it up or not, that is what they think may be
happening here, and it is up to the minister and the government to show that they have a heart, show that they want to be fair, show that they want to be transparent and sit down with people with families — —

Ms GRALEY— We will. We will after we hike their rent increases up to the ceiling and
they have no idea what is going on here

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms McLeish) — Order! I ask fora bit of order in the chamber.

— They have no idea what is going on.

Mr Noonan — They don’t trust the government, that’s the problem.

Ms GRALEY— The problem, as the member for Williamstown quite reasonably says, is that they do not trust the government. In fact the press release says that, does it not? It states:

There is already a high level of distrust amongst people with disability and families, arising particularly from the state government’s recent attempt to lift fees for this same group to 75 per cent of the disability support pension.

They feel as though this government is not listening.

Mr Noonan — Their words.

Ms GRALEY— That is right; those are their words, as the member for Williamstown says.
The people who have children, who have family members with a disability, are just asking one simple thing from the minister and the government — that instead of shouting at us and talking across the table in what I think has been a most unedifying performance they actually listen to what people in the sector are saying, listen to the families that have children and family members with a disability. That is what they want the government to do. That is why it is so important for members of the house to consider and support the reasoned amendment put forward by the opposition.

When people come into my office who have children with a disability one of the things they always say is that they never have enough money to do all the things they would like to do. Is it any wonder, therefore, that they are concerned by the government suggesting there will be fee increases of whatever proportion. Although I listened to the member for
Bentleigh not long ago saying that the cost of living is under control under this government, so we do not have to worry about that, the CPI should not be an issue!

The fact is that we know costs go up and that people from this community often experience large increases because of the things they require to survive and to do extra things. For example, one of the members of my community was saying she thought if the increase in fees went ahead she would no longer be able to catch a taxi to go to the art group she enjoys so much because she would not have enough left to be able to afford to catch the taxi to be with her friends to do her painting and actually enjoy a healthy experience in the local community. Those are the sorts of fears this government has contributed to, that it has made worse. It has really scared a lot of people. I know this is a government that does not care about much except its own survival, but I would suggest that in this case members opposite should support the opposition’s reasoned amendment.