Tuesday, 20 September 2022


Disability Amendment Bill 2022



Disability Amendment Bill 2022

Second reading

Debate resumed on motion of Mr BROOKS:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Mr T BULL (Gippsland East) (13:06): It is a pleasure to rise and provide a few comments on the Disability Amendment Bill 2022. In starting out, I acknowledge that the purpose of the bill is to amend the Disability Act 2006, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and the Disability Service Safeguards Act 2018 and to make some consequential amendments to other acts. We will not be opposing this legislation; in fact we will be supporting it.

One of the overriding questions when we are talking about safety elements for the disability sector and important outcomes for the disability sector is why now? Why has this bill, which was introduced some weeks ago, only arrived in the Parliament now for debate? The second-reading speech talks about these reforms being important reforms for the disability sector, but here we are dragging our feet, debating it on the second-last day of our sittings for the year with not only no hope of this legislation progressing to the Legislative Council but absolutely no hope of it getting royal assent. This bill is just going to fall by the wayside. I do not know if it is because the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers did not pull much weight in relation to getting this through. He is pretty adamant in his second-reading speech that this is important legislation, but he does not seem to have been able to convince the powers that be of that, but here we are now.

This is one of the reasons why on these bills this week, which are both meant to be important bills, there will be relatively limited speaking lists. This bill is going to go nowhere. It is going to have to be revisited by whoever forms government in November and by the next Parliament because it is simply not going to get through. That element of this legislation is relatively disappointing, I must say. We do have some reforms, which I will get to in a short period of time, but they will go nowhere in relation to assisting and improving certain elements for those in the disability sector.

The bill aligns state services better with the NDIS, and it does remove some discrepancies with the NDIS. It improves practices around supervised treatment orders. It upgrades information-sharing opportunities, and that will obviously assist in overseeing the safeguards for workers and clients. It disbands the Disability Services Board and expands the role of the community visitor program, and that is quite a positive move which I will make a few comments on later. It improves tenancy safeguards for people with disability. It clarifies the role of the department secretary to only be responsible for state services. I understand why that has been required with the transition to the NDIS, and we do not have any problems with that. It will allow the Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria to accept NDIS clearance in lieu of a criminal history check, and I will get on to this duplication of criteria and clearances a little bit later. It also removes the barriers to residents of group homes provided by disability service providers receiving rights under the Residential Tenancies Act. That is a matter of equality across the board, and that is also something that we do not have any issues with.

I want to talk for a few moments on the issue around disability worker registration. This requires some further commentary. It is an area that has proved challenging for the sector for a range of reasons, but there are a couple of major ones. The first is the administrative burden on providers. It is a common piece of feedback wherever I go. No matter which corner of the state I go to, I have disability service providers continually talking to me about the administrative burden of registering employees and getting clearance for employees. Now, I do not think any member of Parliament in this chamber would suggest that we can compromise the safety checks and balances that are put in place. The recipient of every service certainly needs those oversights. They need to have faith that whoever is caring for them, looking after them and fulfilling a role to do with their health and wellbeing has ticked every box in relation to being a fit and proper person, but it does also throw up the fact that it is a very common theme. Whenever I have these discussions it is very common to hear that at the state level in Victoria we have a duplication of certain elements of the registration that other jurisdictions around this country do not have, and it is very administratively burdensome for these service providers. This administrative burden in turn impacts the cost-effectiveness of the service provider, and then that in turn impacts on the level of service and the amount of services that can be offered to potential clients in those respective communities. It can also impact on the workforce in areas of thin markets—and I represent an electorate that has many rural and remote areas that are quite thin markets.

One area I want to talk about I guess from more of an NDIS perspective is the caps on travel in rural areas and the need for those caps on travel to be expanded under the NDIS. One such example that I have—and I am sure that other country MPs would have others; I am sure the member for Ripon would have some examples, but I will relay one from my electorate—is where we have a family in Orbost at present that needs to access services that are offered by a service provider in Bairnsdale. It is an hour away from their primary place of residence, however. The family has to take into consideration for their child the cost of this travel, and they have an NDIS package that has the travel capped. Now, there needs to be a greater appreciation at the federal level of the distances that need to be travelled to access appropriate services.

I believe that there is one relatively quick fix that could be administered that is not going to cost more money in relation to provision of packages, and that is to allow flexibility for those people living in rural and regional areas who receive NDIS packages. They might have one element of their package that is not fully spent, and for rural and regional recipients, if we can top up the travel budget with some unspent funds out of another area of their NDIS package, that will be a short-term measure that will provide great assistance in meeting some of these additional travel costs without having to top up their travel budget with additional funds. It will just provide a level of flexibility for those rural and regional people who are exhausting their travel budgets because of their geographical location. It does not have to be a measure that is applied right across the board, just for those in rural and regional areas where they are having those travel cost challenges. This is a matter that I will again be taking up with the federal minister now that we have a new government in that jurisdiction, because I think that there is still not an appreciation of some of those geographical challenges that we face.

I want to get back now briefly to some of the amendments in this bill. We know that it will amend the Disability Act 2006 to improve the rights of people living in residential services and those subject to compulsory treatment and restrictive practices, which is an area of great contention. This includes ensuring that treatment plans are appropriately explained and provided in an accessible format and will include specific legislative obligations. One would question why that is not already in place now. In 2019 a disability bill came into the chamber that was going to address all the issues and concerns in restrictive practices, and it was also going to align our state-level measures with those that exist at the federal level. That bill sailed through. Now we are standing here again, with a bill that will not go through and receive royal assent, but we are told that further amendments are required to remove uncertainty in the act and ensure that there is consistency and accountability in that area. I thought we did this last time, but it seems the minister at the time never got it quite right, so we find ourselves back here making some more changes.

This bill will update outdated information-sharing practices to provide better safeguards. That is an element of this we support. It is an element where everything should already be in place after this amount of time at the state level, but again we find ourselves in the situation where not every i has been dotted and t has been crossed and we find ourselves back here with further change needed.

This bill will clarify functions and responsibilities of the Secretary of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. I understand this and support this. With a number of the elements of disability care being handed over to the NDIS, this change will make sure that our state secretary is only responsible for the services that Victoria is involved in.

The final change is to allow for the dissolution of the Disability Services Board and expand the properties that community visitors can visit. As the majority of disability services have transitioned over to the NDIS, on this point I agree with the minister that the role of the disability services commissioner and board has been significantly reduced and there are those oversights existing at the federal level, so that board is no longer required. In relation to the community visitors—and I must add while we are talking about them that the community visitors play a very important role in our community in providing oversights in the disability sector—the legislative change here will allow the minister the flexibility to open up more areas for community visitors to visit. That will expand the level of oversight that they have in the disability sector, and that is an element of the bill we also support. Properties approved by the senior practitioner to provide suitable treatment will be subject to the community visitors program, which is a good move. It is a move we support, and again I just put on record the great role that our community visitors play in providing oversight in the sector.

I want to get onto the Residential Tenancies Act just for a couple of short moments. The bill amends the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 in relation to supported disability accommodation enrolled homes. The bill removes barriers to residents of group homes, which are provided by various disability service providers across the state, receiving rights under the Residential Tenancies Act. When we finally get this through, hopefully in the next term of government, disability accommodation clients will have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, and it is absolutely appropriate that they do. It will ensure that those residents in group homes meet the definitions of the act and that they have those applicable residential rights and protections being afforded to them as should be the case—although I will add that changes to the Residential Tenancies Act were the subject of previous amendments that came into this chamber I think two years ago. Because the government did not get it quite right at that particular time, we find ourselves again having to make changes to the Residential Tenancies Act in areas that were overlooked or where there was a level of oversight and they were not addressed last time around. In the second-reading speech the government says that this was:

… due to unanticipated impediments for persons to access specialist disability accommodation provided under the NDIS.

It does not say what those unanticipated impediments were, and it sounds a little bit like a bureaucratic stuff-up to me. But anyway, we are on the right pathway, hopefully, second time around, to have these elements fixed, and hopefully we do not have to come back and revisit the Residential Tenancies Act a third time.

The bill amends the Disability Service Safeguards Act 2018 in relation to registration requirements. I made some comments earlier in relation to the need to be able to remove duplication in our registration requirements for workers without impacting the safety elements that go with them, and these amendments will allow the disability worker registration board to accept NDIS clearance in lieu of a criminal history check when disability workers voluntarily seek to register. This is a step that does remove a bit of red tape, which is good. It certainly does remove a bit of red tape, and we commend this change as being a proactive one. But I still do think that we have certain areas of legislation where there is duplication that we can look at further. The screening checks for NDIS-registered disability workers are currently duplicative, as the second-reading speech says, and these amendments do assist in alleviating that. As I said, this bill makes that small step in removing some duplication, but I do seriously believe that we can adopt some of the approaches of other jurisdictions in Australia that are operating very, very effectively and very, very safely without the level of duplication that we do have here in Victoria.

The bill strengthens the information-sharing provisions between the board and the NDIS workers, and that is something that we support. We certainly should be removing any impediments to sharing information appropriately. That will result in a whole range of things. It will allow for workers to be registered far more quickly if we remove that impediment to sharing information. That in turn will allow our service providers to employ people more quickly and provide improved services to the communities in which they are operating and the communities they represent. It will also greatly assist in thin markets if we can get people on the ground quicker. Most importantly, the client at the end does not have to have that impediment of, having identified an appropriate worker, having to wait an extended amount of time for the checks and balances to come through. If we can alleviate some of that by removing some of these information-sharing impediments, that is certainly a positive move. The amendments and subsequent streamlining should allow this to occur, but again I just say there is more that we can do in this area.

In finishing up I just want to say that all these changes in here are quite positive changes, and that is the reason we have adopted our position on the bill. It fixes some mistakes and oversights that should have already been addressed, and the second-reading speech almost says that to a degree, if you read between the lines. But this bill overall will provide for the betterment of the disability sector, and that is why we are not opposing it in this house.

Mr J BULL (Sunbury) (13:23): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to debate on this important piece of legislation, the Disability Amendment Bill 2022. Whether it is in education, health, transport, the environment, community services or disability services, this Andrews Labor government is about doing what matters and is about supporting Victorians right across the state. As we have heard thus far, there is nothing more important than supporting those within our community that do have a disability, and we know that this bill is about further supporting those within the community who have disabilities, their families and those who support them right across the state.

Before I get to some of the changes contained within this piece of legislation, this bill, I do want to give a special acknowledgement—a shout-out, if you like—to those within our community that work within disability services and families as well. We know that there are many, many organisations within local communities, within local electorates, that do some outstanding work, and I just want to put that on the record this morning.

One such organisation is Distinctive Options within my local community. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit a few weeks ago to be on the Distinctive Options radio show and to have what I think was a really important conversation, a very important discussion, with locals within my community that participate in and work with those at Distinctive Options. They have done a lot of work for a long period of time. They are based over the road from my office, and I just want to take the opportunity, whilst I have the opportunity, to acknowledge their work and the terrific contribution that they make to our local community.

We know that in March this year the government announced the legislative amendments that would be made to increase residential protections for Victorians in disability accommodation and to strengthen the quality and safeguards in services for people with a disability. The Disability Amendment Bill acquits this commitment. We know that this bill is one of the key outcomes of the Disability Act 2006 review, which has been underway since 2018. I will get to some further remarks on the review later on in my contribution. It is a priority government reform, and it is aimed at ensuring our legislative frameworks are fit for purpose, are contemporary and do create meaningful change for people with a disability. The second key piece to be delivered is the release of the exposure draft of a new disability inclusion bill for public consultation. The exposure draft of the bill will include a proposal for a commissioner for disability inclusion.

The Disability Amendment Bill 2022, as we have heard, amends the Disability Act 2006, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and the Disability Service Safeguards Act 2018 to bring about those critical amendments that will increase rights and protections, improve services and bring about better service coordination, and clarify functions and responsibilities to reduce duplication.

Deputy Speaker, I am sure you and many members of this house work with those in our community who do have a disability, various service providers and organisations and volunteers and the like. What is really important is to be part of making contributions and making a system whereby red tape is reduced but the highest quality of service and standards are provided by this government in partnership with both the federal government and local government, the not-for-profit sector and those right across the community who do such incredibly important work.

There are key amendments within this piece of legislation. One of those is around clarifying residential rights and duties for people subject to civil and criminal orders in disability residential services and parameters for service providers in delivering residential and treatment services and also ensuring residential rights and protections for people living in specialist disability accommodation that does not meet the current definition within the Residential Tenancies Act.

We know that improved service is something that is raised often with us as members of the government and indeed members of the Parliament. The bill aligns legislation and removes duplication to ensure the accountability and consistency of the approval requirements for the use of restrictive practices for both the national disability insurance scheme and the state-funded disability service providers—and of course that is an important relationship, an important dynamic—by addressing those gaps and clarifying the criteria and the processes for compulsory treatment and placement in residential treatment facilities to support client and operational safety and strengthening clinical oversight of admission and extensions of admissions.

The bill allows the minister to declare additional categories of disability accommodation so that community visitors can inquire into the quality and standard of support provided to residents. I mentioned earlier the better service coordination, and we know that service coordination within this space for those with a disability is incredibly important to the individual, to the family and to the wider community, and it is really pleasing to see these steps that are also contained within this piece of legislation. The bill clarifies the functions and the responsibilities of the Secretary of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing to ensure that the secretary is only responsible for services that the secretary funds. It also clarifies the secretary’s function in relation to acquiring, holding or disposing of land and granting land. There is a piece of work around reducing duplication by allowing NDIS worker screening clearance in lieu of a criminal history check for the voluntary registration of disability workers.

What we know is that consultation is critically important both within this space and within all of the initiatives and pieces of legislation that come before the house. We are making sure that we are working with those who work with people with disabilities and that first and foremost we are listening to those with disabilities as we continue to develop a whole series of frameworks and continue to support those within our community who of course are rightfully entitled to each and every opportunity, whether that be in education, whether that be in health or whether it be in employment. Making sure that we are taking these steps and providing this support is critical.

What we know is that this government will continue to value fairness, will continue to value equality, make important reforms and have important discussions and will continue to bring pieces of legislation before the house that go to fairness, that go to equality and that go to making sure that no matter where you live in this great state of Victoria you are provided with the very best opportunities to be your best. We know that this bill builds on a whole series of reforms, whether it be the more than $9 billion in early childhood education, whether it be the development of the Education State, of supporting our schools, of building new schools and modernising existing schools or whether it be through the Big Build, making sure that we are investing in key transport projects and infrastructure right across the state that ensure people can get where they need to go to at each and every opportunity. It is a really important piece of legislation.

What this bill does is ensure that we continue to focus on those critical values of fairness, making sure that those within our community who face some serious challenges are supported and taken care of and that the service standards are the highest they can possibly be. We know of course that in 2013 it was indeed a federal Labor government that initiated the delivery of the NDIS so that people living with a disability could have the opportunity for choice and control of their lives. We know that what is really important is that this Andrews Labor government continues to invest in and be an integral part of the rollout of the NDIS, understanding and knowing that there is a $2.5 billion contribution. There is $40 million for a transition support package to support people with a disability, carers and service providers to navigate through this transition. There is also $26 million to transform the disability workforce in Victoria as part of the transition to the NDIS.

This piece of legislation, the Disability Amendment Bill 2022, continues to do what this government is focused on each and every day. We have the opportunity to be on the Treasury benches to make sure that we are giving every single Victorian the very best chance and the very best opportunity to be their best, to be supported by their family and by their friends, and to go on and get employment opportunities, whatever that employment may be. I am very proud to commend the bill to the house.

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (13:33): It is a pleasure to rise to speak on this bill before us, the Disability Amendment Bill 2022. Can I say at the outset this is an issue that is very close to my heart. It is a passion that we have been driving through my constituency of Caulfield for a number of years now. I acknowledge the work of our Shadow Minister for Disability, Seniors and Carers at the table, the member for Gippsland East, for his work in the disability sector.

Unfortunately it is a shame that we have got this bill before us in the last sitting week of Parliament, when it will not have the opportunity to actually pass. A lot of the issues that we are talking about here are in terms of residential care housing and ensuring that those with a disability are properly acknowledged and supported through the housing process. There are a number of providers through my electorate, both private and community providers, who do a great job, but again they are left short because we do not have a lot of this capacity which we are talking about today in terms of the support mechanisms to provide those with a disability with access to the proper laws and channels in terms of advocacy and process. It is a real shame and, I have got to say, very unfortunate that we are talking on this bill which will not pass until the next Parliament.

Only last week I was with an organisation called Tikkun Olam Makers. TOM is a group that works in the specific area of providing solutions to those with a disability to live everyday lives and do things that we take for granted. Mandy McCracken, the MC for their event, was talking about a charity that she is setting up, which is a support mechanism for parents. She spoke about her issue of losing both legs and arms and wanting to be able to ride a bike. They organised a whole group of engineers and students, who paired up with her, along with mentors, and that was her introduction to TOM. She came back and MCed the event just a couple of nights ago.

One of the local charities in my area, Access, does a whole range of things, including cooking great biscuits. For anyone that is looking for treats for gifts, Access do a fantastic job of that. One of the issues I saw as a ‘need knower’ at TOM last week was that some of the kids that work at Access, when mixing a bowl, because of their disability, cannot hold the bowl and the bowl moves around on the table, so they are not able to mix the dough and what have you to make the cookies. Some engineering students and the group that was partnered with them worked on using a magnet to be able to attach the bowl to a table so the bowl could be mixed without having to have a second hand to hold it. These are just basic things that we take for granted every day. I want to especially put on record my thanks to Debbie Dadon. Debbie Dadon runs a philanthropic organisation supporting so many different things right throughout the state and right throughout Australia through the Dadon family and the Besen family. Many will be very aware of the Besen family. She championed and brought TOM to Australia, and she has been working for a number of years with them. I just want to thank her for the great work that she has been doing at TOM.

There are a number of organisations that raise with me issues around the NDIS. Flying Fox and Dean Cohen provide these fantastic camps through regional Victoria. He has also got a number of houses to give families respite, and he has got a couple of houses already set up through philanthropic money and fundraising activities. Dean does a fantastic job. Those camps are sensational. You only have to go out and spend some time with some of the kids to see that. The great thing that Dean does is he gets a lot of university students that act as mentors and support carers during these camps. He has taken literally hundreds of university students through his camps and given them some really good life skills—better than what you will find at any university anywhere. It is fantastic, what he does, in not only changing the lives of those kids with a disability but also ensuring that those carers are given real skills that they can take into the future. All of this is about recognising the ability in the disability and focusing on ensuring that these kids and those with a disability can lead normal lives.

I also want to put on record my thanks for the work of All Things Equal. We launched an election commitment only a week ago. All Things Equal is a cafe. It is a social enterprise in Carlisle Street, Balaclava. They provide a fantastic workplace and training for those with a disability. It is a fantastic cafe. Our election commitment is about taking All Things Equal on the road with a food truck, being able to take those kids out and about and into the community, whether it is to footy clubs, sporting clubs, fetes or festivals. I spoke to some of these kids—to Zac and a whole range of others that were there—and I asked them, ‘Where would you take the truck?’. I had great responses from these kids that got on the back of a truck that we took there to show them what this could be like. I want to thank Phillip Kingston and Gary Peer, who provided their food trucks so the kids could get a bit of firsthand experience of what this would be like. The kids were saying, ‘We’d take it to the beach; we’d take it to a festival’. One of the kids even said, ‘We’d take it to the pub’. I said that is a great idea. After people have had a few drinks, they can make them a coffee on the way out.

These are great kids and these are great programs, and a big shout-out to All Things Equal for the work that they do. Jewish Care do a fantastic job, particularly in housing, NDIS programs and disability support services. I worked with Jewish Care in setting up the Jewish social inclusion network. I chaired that for a number of years, bringing the organisations that I am talking about together so we could share and collaborate with one another. It is a great model. We have got a lot of organisations that are actually sharing and doing some of this fantastic work together, and I would thoroughly recommend it. We have got to get collaboration; we have got to get support.

There is another thing that the NDIS does not recognise at the moment, and it is why we need to be talking about these things in Parliament and changing laws. Some of these smaller organisations are not getting the support. They are not recognised as providers, yet they change people’s lives. It is not just about the big providers, but some of the small community providers should be recognised and be able to provide services through the NDIS. I would recognise that as an important initiative.

Finally, a few weeks back we actually had a session, again in Caulfield, where we brought a lot of parents and community organisations together to talk about some of the gaps. We heard from a whole lot of parents. It was a very emotional time hearing what kids are going through and what parents are going through and what could be done to fill those gaps. Some of the parents gave heartbreaking examples of their kids falling through the cracks and not being able to get NDIS funding and getting a kind of stock standard approach in terms of what they were receiving—nowhere near the support needed for many of those kids. We had the opportunity to go around and write on a board what would be needed to help many of those kids—changes to make a difference—and to just read what some of the parents were writing on the wall: ‘I just want my kid to be accepted’, ‘I just want to be able to come home and be able to see a smile on our kid’s face’. The fact is many of these parents have gone school shopping because their kids have been booted out of many schools—which still do not have the services, which still do not have the carers, which still do not have even the basic support. There are still so many schools in my electorate that do not even have disability access. You cannot even get into some of the schools. It was just beyond belief that I would go to Caulfield South Primary School—

Ms Green interjected.

Mr SOUTHWICK: The fact that the member for Yan Yean would interject over something as sensitive as disability is a joke. You are a disgrace.

At Caulfield South Primary School some of the parents spoke to me about their funding requirements. Particularly one of the parents, who lives with a disability, said to me he quite often cannot get to the school. Because he cannot get up the stairs and cannot get into the school, he spends very little time at the school where his kids go. They are basic things that need to be fixed, from just hearing some of those parents who were able to raise those issues. Again, I understand that some of these schools are very old and it is hard, but it is no excuse. We have got to fix that. We have got to make all buildings accessible. We have got to be able to open the door and change things to ensure all people are treated equally. We are doing some fantastic work—not we, but our community is doing fantastic work, and I am very proud to be part of a community that champions disability and ensures that we put the ‘ability’ back in disability and that everybody is treated equally.

Ms GREEN (Yan Yean) (13:43): I take great pride in joining the debate on this bill before the house. I want to say at the outset how delighted I was when the member for Bundoora was appointed to this important portfolio. He has been a champion for people with disability in the whole time that he has been in this place. Together we share some services, as he is one of my neighbouring MPs, and I know the passion that he has had, for example, for the Diamond Valley Special Developmental School, which the member for Eltham and I were really pleased to visit only a few weeks ago to turn the sod with the students there. Anthony Rosenthal, who is the principal there, and his predecessor, Brendan White, are two of the most amazing professionals that I have ever worked with in disability.

The member for Bundoora succeeded Sherryl Garbutt, the previous member for Bundoora, who was the minister that undertook a review and enacted the Disability Act in 2006, which for the first time provided a whole-of-government and community response to the rights of people with disability. I note that Cheryl Garbutt had a great passion for the services Kalparrin and Araluen, which operate through my electorate and those of the member for Eltham, the member for Ivanhoe and the member for Bundoora.

I particularly want to single out Ross Coverdale and the amazing staff at Araluen. They have a number of service centres throughout the north-eastern suburbs. I have had the privilege of working closely with them, with their board, with their staff and with the parents of participants. Particularly I just love the facility in Diamond Creek, which has an art studio. It has a music studio, Tiger Studio, named in honour of the late Tiger Barden, who established a football competition for kids with disabilities in his work through the Lower Plenty Football Club. The late Tiger Barden was an amazing champion for his own son but also for every other young person with a disability. I have had the privilege of working closely with Araluen in their attempts to get intergenerational housing for the participants of Araluen so that they can live in dignity and live with their ageing parents and do not necessarily have to go into an aged care facility. They can live in dignity, and then when their older parents pass on they actually have a property that they know, where they are loved and where they are supported. It was a deep shame that the Shire of Nillumbik reneged on the plan to build this village in Hurstbridge, but I am really hoping that that dream can be realised in Yarrambat.

One of the things that I hope to continue after I have left this place after 20 years is my passion in working for people with disability. I am really pleased to have been elected to a voluntary position on the board of Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA). I have had the privilege of being a volunteer guide for that organisation, a snow sports guide, for about six or seven years now. They are just a magnificent organisation that helps people with disability realise their dreams on the snow. It could be that they go on and compete in the Paralympics or other competitive things, but otherwise they might just have a holiday, and that one time where they experience the exhilaration of being on snow, the freedom of being on snow and being supported with guides, might actually give them the confidence, if they have an acquired disability, to return to the workforce. It is an amazing organisation.

They have a desire to establish more disabled-friendly accommodation at all ski resorts in Australia. I think this will then mean that Disabled Wintersport will be able to expand their services into the green season—into hiking and reclining cycling. One of the winter sports that I am passionate about but that can also be done over the summer is ski biathlon. I am really glad that we have put funding into the ski biathlon course at Mount Hotham, and that will be a really great thing for those athletes and potential athletes.

Another thing I would love to see is all-abilities accommodation. The YMCA currently operates on behalf of DWA at Bogong Village accessible accommodation, where camps are run from and where people can stay or use it as a day facility when they are skiing. But it is actually still below the snow line, so I am really hoping we can establish accommodation above the snow line so it can mean that more people with disability and guides can have accommodation where they can stay on mountain. While the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events is at the table I think there is great potential if some of this accommodation were able to be delivered before our regional Commonwealth Games, because there will be many para-athletes who will want to undertake training here in Victoria before the competition starts, but also there will be lead-up events. I am absolutely certain that the four villages will be accessible for all athletes, but there will be a need for other accommodation, so that is something that I really hope to work on post this life.

The bill clarifies the residential rights and duties for people subject to civil and criminal orders in disability residential services and parameters for service providers in delivering residential and treatment services. It also ensures residential rights protections for people living in specialist disability accommodation that does not meet the current definitions in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. The bill aligns and removes duplication and ensures accountability and consistency of approval requirements for the use of restrictive practices for both NDIS and state-funded disability service providers. It also addresses gaps and clarifies the criteria and processes for compulsory treatment and placement in residential treatment facilities to support client and operational safety and to strengthen clinical oversight of admission and extensions of admissions. The bill allows the minister to declare additional categories of disability accommodation so that community visitors can inquire into the quality and standard of support provided to residents.

I want to take the opportunity to call out the Health and Community Services Union, a union that I have been very close to for a long time, previously under the leadership of Lloyd Williams as secretary and now my dear friend Paul—we did year 12 together—and Deb Gunn, the president, who is a constituent of mine who does amazing work as a volunteer in the CFA and in the RSL sub-branch in Doreen.

I also want to pay tribute to another dear friend who is the principal of The Lakes school in South Morang, which is collocated with Merriang Special Development School. It has been breaking down barriers for a very long time. I know that Kerrie and the Heenan family have lived their values in that she has raised a daughter with a disability herself, so there could have been no-one more compassionate to be principal of a mainstream school and the founding principal of The Lakes school. I want to thank Kerrie and her staff for their work for such a long time and her advocacy for people with disability alongside the fantastic Health and Community Services Union. They were in the Parliament raising issues with members just in the last sitting week around mental health, and they are always working and looking at ways that we can better support workforce but also services for people with disability and mental health issues. This is a government that has had disability at the centre of its focus—and the previous governments, the Bracks and Brumby governments, as well. I commend all those that have worked on this bill and wish the bill speedy passage. I commend it to the house.

Mr RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) (13:53): It is a real pleasure and honour to rise and speak on the Disability Amendment Bill 2022 and to follow the member for Yan Yean. I will start my contribution also by shouting out to the legends of the Health and Community Services Union, whose members do a great deal of work in supporting people with disabilities in our community, and all the disability support workforce, who do an extraordinary job in helping some of the most vulnerable in our community. It is also a time to reflect on the many volunteer carers that we have in our community. Over 700 000 Victorians provide care or support for someone that they love, nurture and care for, and a lot of that comes down to supporting some of the 1.1 million Victorians who live with disability. It is an extraordinary contribution that people make in the love and support of a family member, friend or someone close to them. It truly is a Victorian hallmark, supporting one another and caring for one another. This bill brings in important safeguards to support people with disability in the residential protections that are put forward in this amendment for disability accommodation, particularly strengthening the quality and safeguards in services for people with disability.

I know the member for Caulfield made some reflections on this bill coming before the chamber and its timing. We did not just rock up in the last few weeks, put the bill in and discuss it. This government has a substantial track record of supporting people living with disability. That is what we do. We front up in every single element and support Victorians with disability, such as with the Inclusive Victoria report that was released just recently by the former Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, the member for Ivanhoe. One key reflection was on a more inclusive and supportive Victoria.

This bill, the Disability Amendment Bill, is the second stage of reforms. The first stage was in 2019 as we got underway with the national disability insurance scheme, and I want to place on record my relief on behalf of my community that the federal Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, the member for Maribyrnong, has taken over that role. We saw the NDIS in a terrible state. We saw at one stage the federal coalition government try to make their budget savings on the back of people living with disability and the impact that that had on their care and their support in that community. That is the callous nature of cutting from the most vulnerable in our community, and my community certainly do not forget when they tried to make the savings on the back of the most vulnerable, not taking tax cuts off those that are making record profits in communities. No, it was about going after the most vulnerable, and that is how they tried to—

Mr M O’Brien interjected.

Mr RICHARDSON: The member for Malvern might make a contribution. He is over there. He is a bit lippy, with the member for Bulleen in all sorts. But you did not see the member for Bulleen coming out and saying to the member for Kooyong, ‘Any danger of not cutting?’. No, the member for Malvern did not come out and challenge them. He might have been Leader of the Opposition at the time. They were the grand old days. Weren’t they great times when the Liberal primary vote was in 34 per cent territory, not 26 or 27? He was still Mr 16 per cent in popularity, but he is more popular than the member for Bulleen at the moment, isn’t he? I am sure he is hoping that the member for Kew will keep nudging and keep undermining the member for Bulleen. Maybe he will apologise on behalf of his Liberal colleagues for the damaging cuts that were made to the NDIS during that time, but do not hold your breath, because it is Liberal first on that side and Victorians second. We saw that throughout their reign, throughout their representation when the former Prime Minister was dudding Victoria. Disability support was taking a back step, and where were they?

Mr M O’Brien interjected.

Mr RICHARDSON: Maybe the member for Malvern will get up and bother to make a speech on this. Maybe he will actually bother to make a speech.

The member for Caulfield, in his contribution, suggested that we have not made a significant investment in disability inclusion, particularly in schools. There are 36 000 buildings that the Victorian government looks after and manages each and every day to make them more accessible. We have got the disability inclusion package that has been put forward. We have also got the Inclusive Schools Fund, round 8, $200 000 of investment in school after school that is making buildings and play spaces more accessible—eight rounds of funding and investment. We created that package, and we have delivered hundreds of projects in disability inclusion access.

Mr J Bull: In every special school.

Mr RICHARDSON: As the member for Sunbury rightly points out, every single specialist school in Victoria in every SES setting, 83 in total, are being upgraded—major upgrades. When I came to be a member of Parliament in 2014, those opposite could not find a specialist school or SES. Every single one of their buildings was in disrepair. In four years there was not one substantial investment in our disability schools, and then what happened? There was an Andrews Labor government elected and it delivered more investment and more support. For the member for Caulfield to suggest that the Inclusive Schools Fund has not delivered all that support, the maintenance funding program that we put forward directly targets, directly supports—

Mr Newbury: Labor seats.

Mr RICHARDSON: better accessibility. If the member for Brighton bothered to look at some of his school lists, he would see the substantial investment that has been made in maintenance funding and greater accessibility. I have come and opened some in his area. Maybe I will have to take him on a tour and go through once again.

This goes as well to our investment in disability inclusion and support. The disability inclusion package, for the one in five kids that need additional support in our schools, is a $1.6 billion investment that is being rolled out. That is about being more inclusive and more supportive of our community. We will not be lectured to by those opposite about disability inclusion and support when they federally slashed and burned and cut budgets and propped up their budgets on the back of not supporting people with a disability in the NDIS. It was Victoria that had to come to the aid of, invest in and increase funding for the NDIS, and this bill is another stage, stage 2, in the substantial reforms that we are putting forward to support people with disability.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.