A group of Australian lawyers have tabled concerns about what they say is a federal government bid to stymie clarity over insurance benefits for disabled people.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance says it is concerned the federal government is misleading vulnerable Australians in a bid to bolster re-election prospects and that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will not live up to its potential benefit to the community.
Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform, this week said the NDIS would insure all Australians for the cost of care and support in the event of significant and permanent disability, Australian Lawyers Alliance president-elect, Anthony Kerin, said.
“However, the Productivity Commission Report, last year, outlined that around 410,000 people would receive funding support from the NDIS.
“Given that there are approximately 4 million people with disability, and 2.6 million carers in the country, there needs to be honesty on the part of government about who will receive support under such a scheme and who will not,” Kerin said.
Kerin said that to suggest every Australian with a disability under 65 years of age can expect to receive care would appear to require substantial funding beyond that mooted to date.
Kerin said the NDIS was on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting agenda in Canberra last week, and Minister Macklin confirmed the planned roll out of the scheme will be a year earlier than first planned, “yet serious questions on funding remain”.
He argues the NDIS issue distracts from the roll out of the National injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS) running in tandem with NDIS.
“The NIIS would ultimately slash common law rights for damages for the injured, a fundamental right for all Australians,” the Australian Lawyers Alliance said in a statement.
It said examples of this were already being considered in Kerin’s home state of South Australia, where a no-fault scheme regarding motor vehicle collisions is being considered.
“People need to be vigilant in supporting the rights of people with disability as set out under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. A rights-based approach should dictate policy development,” Kerin said.
“Organisations representing people with disability need to be in the policy room,” he said.
The lawyers’ alliance said disability advocacy groups have “expertise” in dealing across the spectrum of government, society, and types of disability and impairment. It argues their insight is crucial to the developing the right strategies to better support people with disability.
The ALA said it now calls on federal and state governments to ensure peak disability organisations are invited to the table to ensure the concerns of people with disability are properly represented.