National Disability Insurance Scheme

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (17:42): I would like to thank the member for Mallee for tabling this motion to recognise the important and valuable work of our disability support carers. Care work is extremely important to our society and to the economy, but it is often undervalued and looked over. Paid care is worth around $112.4 billion to the Australian economy. It makes up almost nine per cent of our GDP. Unpaid care is estimated to be worth over $650 billion. Yet the average pay for a disability support worker, who is more than likely to be a woman, is around $30 an hour before tax. That is not good enough for the physically and emotionally intensive work that our carers do. That is why an Albanese Labor government will strengthen the ability and capacity of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers in low-paid female-dominated industries like disability care, aged care and child care.

For the past eight years, NDIS participants in my electorate of Lilley have felt ignored and passed over by the coalition government, who operate the disability service that they are supposed to be the beneficiaries of. They feel scared that the support network that they rely on to get everyday services will be subject to budget cuts and outsourcing—and with good reason. In 2019 the Morrison government ripped $4.6 billion away from the NDIS. Earlier this year the Morrison government's secretive and disingenuous consultation on independent assessment led to significant mistrust of any proposed changes to the NDIS Act. While the plan to bring in independent assessments was scrapped after a successful campaign led by Labor and disability advocates together, NDIS participants know that they cannot trust the Morrison government to protect and uphold the NDIS if they are re-elected for a fourth term.

I believe that as members of parliament it is our duty to be the voice for those who find it hardest to get here and people who feel downtrodden by our political system. Today I will use my remaining time in this place to give voice to Eva, a brave Lilley local who wrote to me and asked me to share her story with our parliament. 'It is well past midnight, and I am using my old mobile phone to write to you through my very blurry vision and with my right hand tremors. I used to be a university academic for 12 years with an illustrious international career. In December 2020, I was diagnosed with MECFS. At the same time, I was diagnosed with dysautonomia and POTS. I also suffer from severe chronic fibromyalgia. The MECFS is so debilitating that some days I barely have the energy to breathe, or utter words out loud, or chew food, or brush my hair or wash myself. I have inflammation of the brain and spinal fluid affecting my cognition, and my sensory overload is so severe that I become almost hysterical when exposed to bright lights, any sounds or any smells. I am also the sole carer of my 27-year-old son, who has the same condition plus several others. There's not an able-bodied person in our household, and we cannot readily leave home due to having to navigate 48 stairs down and 48 stairs back up even to go to medical appointments. I use disability aids to move around my apartment when I'm not bedridden, which I am about 80 per cent of the time.

'What the government is doing with NDIS now is creating enormous stress to already very weak and fragile sufferers of both visible and invisible illnesses. I have contacted twice my local community services for help. But at 50 years of age I am too young to be assisted, they tell me. I fall through the cracks of a broken system. NDIS is, or perhaps now was, my only hope, but I'm terrified of not being believed, not being supported and not being assessed by highly qualified and compassionate assessors. I sincerely hope that my story is read out in parliament and destroys some prevailing stereotypes of what disability is, who the disabled are, and highlights the daily suffering and lack of support for the 250,000 Australians who suffer MECFS and are missing from life, and deserve to be treated with utmost dignity and empathetic support, rather than being put through the proverbial wringer until we can breathe no more.'