By Greg Warren MP

12 March 2024

Mr GREG WARREN (Campbelltown) (18:07): I am delighted to make a contribution to debate on the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Amendment Bill 2023. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the Minister—who is in the House—for the bill and thank her for her hard work and effort. I also thank her team for all of their work and effort in bringing the bill before us today. Ultimately, in this place there are not many more things we should do than have provisions in place to protect those who need it most. When we look at those in our community, whilst many are very able, there are people who rely on this Parliament and legislation to provide them with the protections they require during the course of their lives. That is ultimately what the bill seeks to do.

The bill amends the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Act 2019 to implement recommendations made in the statutory review of the Act. The Ageing and Disability Commissioner Act 2019 established an independent agency to promote the rights of adults with disability and older people, and protect them from abuse, neglect and exploitation. When we look at some of the feedback we share in the Legislative Assembly, and I guess in the Legislative Council as well, it is quite a horrifying experience when people come into your electoral office seeking support from violence, misappropriation or bad conduct towards the elderly and those with a disability in our community. They are people who, in many ways, depending on what challenges they have in their life, cannot defend themselves. Sadly, some in the community see that vulnerability as an opportunity for exploitation and, in the worst cases, abuse. That is why the bill is so important.

As required by the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Act 2019, an independent review of the Act was commissioned and tabled in Parliament on 25 May 2023. The bill implements all of the review recommendations except recommendation 3b to expand the circumstances in which the commissioner can investigate without the adult's consent, which potentially undermines privacy; and recommendation 11 to appoint a parliamentary committee to monitor and review the commissioner's functions. I understand that that point has been raised previously but I note that the Minister addressed that in her contribution. I am sure she will also address those concerns in her reply.

The bill makes several key changes to the Act. It allows the commissioner discretion about whether to refer relevant reports to other bodies and extends the circumstances in which the commissioner may investigate allegations without the consent of the relevant adult to cover situations when the commissioner cannot obtain access to the adult; broadens information sharing with organisations and individuals that provide supports to adults with disability or older people; permits official community visitors to provide advice to the Department of Communities and Justice and the NDIS commissioner; requires service providers to notify the Ageing and Disability Commission of the contact details of visitable services; and, finally, requires that the Ageing and Disability Advisory Board include two or more older adults and makes the commissioner responsible for the board's diversity. It is a significant and important change to have seniors at the table. They may not necessarily have lived experiences that the bill is seeking to address, but I have no doubt they will have relationships or collaborations with those who have.

The NDIS was mentioned by previous speakers, and I commend our Minister, who is working hard with her ministerial colleagues around the nation and with Bill Shorten. Our Minister has a good relationship with Bill, who is working proactively and engagingly with our Minister and other Ministers to address the concerns and ongoing issues around the NDIS to make sure that is fit for purpose and serving those who need it the most. It is a great initiative but, like every initiative that is put in place though government policies, it needs to be reviewed to see how it can best work to serve its required purpose. I thank the Minister and her team. I commend the bill to the House.