Address to Vision Australia Texpo
454 Glenferrie Road, Kooyong
24 August 2012
E & OE
Well, thank you very much to David Speyer and if I could acknowledge the great work that you’re doing as CEO. Could I also acknowledge Kevin Murfitt, the Chair of Vision Australia. My distinguished former parliamentary colleague, Lyn Allison, who is on the board who I think is here. And Maryanne Diamond, the President of the World Blind Union, who is making one of her rare visits to Australia! So it’s good to see you. It’s great to be here with you all today.
At age forty five in the Australia Senate I am considered relatively young. But whenever I come to a technology expo I’ve got to admit I feel old, because I went through all of school and all of university without the existence of mobile phones. I never touched a computer during school and university. Faxes hadn’t been invented, let alone iPods or anything of that nature. So I always feel a little dated when I’m at a technology expo.
The expansion in the range of assistive technologies has been incredible, even in the three years that I have had the disabilities portfolio. The options that are available for people to assist them in work and at home are incredible. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that here today.
There are a lot of exciting things happening with assistive technology. And we have, going down a parallel path, something that is equally exciting, and that’s the prospect of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. And I say we’ve got those two things going down parallel paths because it’s not clear at the moment that those two things will come together. And we need to bring them together.
We need to make sure that for people who are blind or vision impaired, and for people with other sensory impairments, that they do have access through a National Disability Insurance Scheme to the technologies and supports that they need.
We need to recognise that sensory impairments are different to physical impairments. They’re different to intellectual impairments. People need to have the opportunity to have solutions that are tailored for them. That’s very critical.
And I want to acknowledge the work that Vision Australia is doing in trying to bring these two things together, particularly the cameo concept of ‘Lucy’ and the video of ‘Lucy’ walking past Parliament House. Keeping an eye on us in Canberra. Making sure that in the design of an NDIS that people who are blind and vision impaired are appropriately included. There is a role for bringing people who have sensory impairment together to speak with one voice in the design of the NDIS.
As some people here would know, I’ve been at pains in my portfolio to pursue a non-partisan approach. And particularly with the National Disability Insurance Scheme to try and elevate it above partisanship.
One of the mechanisms that we’ve proposed to ensure that the NDIS remains above the political fray is to establish a parliamentary committee to be chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the implementation of the NDIS.
It’s a mechanism to protect it against partisanship. But also, a mechanism to make sure that fundamental design issues can be addressed and are addressed appropriately. Because if they’re not, and we get off track, it’s inevitable that people will come to members of parliament to try and fix that. So I think it’s important that members of parliament are involved sooner rather than later in those design issues.
We’ve put that request to the Government for a joint parliamentary oversight committee. To date, they’ve said ‘no.’ I hope that they reconsider and say ‘yes’ because it would provide, I think, a mechanism and a forum where legitimate questions about the design and implementation of an NDIS can be asked in a way that’s not seen to be partisan. I hope that offer is accepted.
I’m aware of the issues that we need to consider as we design the NDIS. I know that no one in this room will allow us to forget what needs to be done.
I’m looking forward to today, to looking at the technology that is available.
It gives me great pleasure to officially declare open Texpo and I will now cut the launch ribbon. Voila!