The National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS for short is the most promising policy idea relating to disability in some time, perhaps ever. It’s something that needs to happen, should happen and where politics needs to be put aside and has been. It’s a long-term project, meaning much time to prepare it well, but equally and with the history of the Gillard Government as much time for it to fail. The policy idea desperately needs the big guns of politics and society, past and present to keep their collective eye’s on the ball to turn this great idea into a political reality.
Today the NDIS lobby group, Every Australian Counts, headed by former NSW government MP John Della Bosca made a wonderful choice, naming former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer from early in the Howard era the campaign patron.
Tim Fischer, like many parents in Australia knows just how hard the lives of people with a disability can be. He left politics, citing as a reason the need for he and his family to focus on the demands of helping out their son, Harrison who has autism.
Mr Fischer has been a long-term advocate of doing more for people with a disability whilst in public life and post politics, involving himself in the disability cause with different organisations in the field.
As someone with a disability I have had the opportunity of witnessing just how committed the former Deputy Prime Minister is toward improving the lives of people with a disability and how interested he is in hearing the stories of people with a disability.
When I competed at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games the man himself was the Mayor of the Paralympic Village. I will never forget seeing him moving around the village, that trademark hat adorning his head, welcoming athletes and team staff from around the world, shaking their hands and having a bit of a chat to as many people as possible on his journey’s around the athlete precinct.
Often on my trips to the dining hall I would encounter the sight of him sitting down with athletes, Australian or otherwise sharing a conversation with many of the mass of athletes that gathered in Sydney to compete at the 2000 Paralympics. Indeed, I even had the opportunity, sitting with a group of athletes when the Howard Government Minister came to say hello.
Far from the obvious benefits of having someone whose experience with disability is both close and personal, the political benefits of having a former MP, diametrically opposed to the Government which has proposed the scheme is a very important factor.
It is important position, both to keep the Gillard Government honest with fierce, but diplomatic advocacy on behalf of the Every Australian Counts group, a skill honed overseas, as much as it is t0 keep the Coalition honest and on track with its’ commitment to bipartisanship on this most important reform. This is particularly important when the Abbott-led Coalition seems closer and closer to taking the reins of government at the next federal election with implementation and commencement possibly occurring somewhere in what could be a second term of a Coalition Government.
This policy at present is still just really a thought and no money has yet to be committed to the implementation of the actual scheme, though rumours abound that there will be an allocation of sorts outlined in the forthcoming budget, just weeks away on May 8th.
Having Tim Fischer in the role of patron for the campaign, starting in earnest with the rallies next Monday in capital cities around Australia is a big step forward in the campaign and will help to keep the campaign on track from political idea at present, to reality.