I second the motion. I support the motion because this is a very important issue for regional Australia, and I commend the member for Bendigo for drawing this to the attention of the parliament. I’ve been blessed by having a centre for vision impaired persons for many, many, many years in the association of the centre for disability in Pindari, which has supplied the exact services the member for Bendigo has just described—volunteers reading local news and local events on the radio, which is very important.
I too, along with my colleague the member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood MLA, met with Vision Australia the other day on their roadshow, which would have gone to Bendigo, to Ballarat, to Gippsland and across the southern states, where Vision Australia provide one of their many services. This radio service to vision impaired people is a service that doesn’t only go to the 7,000 people that the member for Bendigo mentioned. There’s a whole lot of cheats out there who are fully vision aware, who have perfect sight, but listen to this radio program to get the local news and to get local events to know what’s going on. So, yes, we have 7,000 people listening, but it affects far more than 7,000 people because it affects the families around the 7,000 vision impaired people. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of people who benefit from Vision Australia Radio.
A long time ago in this parliament, before the member for Bendigo was here, there was a member called the member for McMillan, which is an electorate that no longer exists. He stood up and said, ‘When you introduce the NDIS—having a long background in disability services and chairing one of these organisations for more than 10 years—there are going to be problems.’ And everybody said: ‘No, there won’t be. We’ll sail through. There won’t be any problems.’ Well, the problems are now storming home to meet whoever’s in government. We have found there are going to be difficulties bedding down the NDIS. No-one’s complaining about the price. No-one’s trying to withdraw funding that is there and available from families. We’re trying to deliver that. So why are we here going on about Vision Australia? Why does Lisa Chesters have to come in here and say, ‘We’ve got a problem’? We have got a problem.
The question is: when the states handed over all responsibility for the NDIS to the federal government, did they hand over the money for the block grants, or did that disappear in the ether? I don’t know. If I knew that, I’d be able to say, ‘Come on, Daniel Andrews, come on, state premiers—stump up.’ But I don’t know whether that was a calculation in the equation. If I knew, I could say. I said to my parliamentary colleague Gary Blackwood MLA, the member for Narracan, ‘This used to be your problem.’ He said, ‘Now it’s yours.’ Which is true. The federal government is taking responsibility for the NDIS, and vision impaired people come under the NDIS. There are parts of the NDIS where, very clearly, we have a responsibility to vision impaired people—there is no doubt. That service has been provided, but it’s a different service to what was happening before, because even the states knew then that there had to be a block grant component. In the NDIS, to my knowledge, there is no block grant component.
So, we need a meeting between the communications department, NDIS and the states. Well, the states are saying: ‘No. You got it. It’s yours. You play the ball.’ My problem is I don’t want the $700,000 shortfall to interrupt at any stage the services that Vision Australia are supplying. I put to them: ‘Are you top-heavy? Are you spending in areas you shouldn’t be spending? Do you need to cut costs yourselves?’ I think they said, ‘That’s a reasonable question, and we’re looking at ourselves.’ But the bottom line is that to supply the radio service they’re going to need nearly another three-quarters of a million dollars. That used to come in block grants. There is no facility in NDIS for that block grant to come. So, we have a problem. We will address that.
The member for Bendigo has written to both ministers, asking them to meet with Vision Australia. I’ve put out that call to those ministers too: meet with Vision Australia. I said, ‘After you’ve had the meetings, you come back to Lisa Chesters and Russell Broadbent and others. Talk to them and tell them what happened at the meeting,’ and then we’ll look at the issue once again.