21 April 2022





SUBJECTS: Labor’s commitment to Respite Care for Queanbeyan. Labor’s NDIS reforms.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you very much for joining me here today in Queanbeyan and I'm very pleased to be joined by Paul Walshe who's the Chair of Respite Care for Queanbeyan and our Shadow Minister for Government services and NDIS Bill Shorten. I have worked tirelessly to make sure that this project becomes a reality, the board of Respite Care for Queanbeyan have done a fantastic job fundraising to get $1.5 million to build this facility. We want to make sure it's operational as soon as possible. Because young people with chronic or terminal illnesses who require respite care shouldn't have to go into Canberra. They shouldn't have to go down the coast and they shouldn't have to go into aged care to receive the treatment that they need, the help that they need, whilst families can actually get some respite. I'll ask Paul to say a few words and then we'll ask Bill to say a few words as well.

PAUL WALSHE, CHAIR OF RESPITE CARE FOR QUEANBEYAN: Thanks, Kristy. Welcome, everyone to delay. I'm hoping in 12-18 months’ time, where we stand today will be at a six bedroom respite care facility for people aged between 18 and 60 that suffer from a terminal or a chronic illness. This project has been going for well over four years. We launched Respite Care for Queanbeyan in December 2018. It's been a struggle at times. But we're starting to move ahead. We've been able to secure $1.5 million in funding from the federal and state governments to build the facility. We've also fundraised in excess of $100,000. We've been fortunate enough to get a grant from the John James foundation $250,000. So we're heading to the $2 million mark. We do have a shortfall. Obviously, as everyone is aware building costs have gone through the roof. And the cost to build the facility is somewhere between 40 and 50 per cent more. So we're looking at about $2.4 million. While Queanbeyan in businesses will get behind this project and they will provide materials and services. It's something we still want to achieve to get that money to build it. The issue, particularly for me, and it has taken a lot of my time over the last two years is the ongoing funding to run the facility. It's going to cost around $1.2 million to run it. It's a lot of money. While we've got a very active board and we've got a very active community. I don't think we can raise $1.2 million. We need support from governments. We need support from the federal government we need support from the New South Wales Government to make this happen.

The woman that started this dream was Yvonne Cuschieri. Yvonne was the founder of the cancer support group now Rise Above and she was the main reason why I got on board to make this happen. The building will be called Yvonne Cuschieri house, but unfortunately Yvonne won't see it open. She passed away in June last year with her own battles with cancer. So this project is important for the people of Queanbeyan and the surrounding community. We have to make it happen. Because we don't want to put young people into nursing homes for respite care. It's the wrong environment. Yvonne went through it with her son, he died because of it in some way. So we need to really open our eyes and make this project happen. Because I think it's a wonderful project. I know the people of Queabeyan will get behind it, and it will something that we can take to the rest of Australia as well.

BILL SHORTEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE NDIS: Good morning, everybody. It's fantastic to be in Queanbeyan and the seat of Eden-Monaro with Kristy McBain talking about what this community needs in the way of respite care for people with disabilities. The Royal Commission into aged care, as one of its very first recommendations it made said that there are too many young people, people under the age of 65 with profound disabilities who are kept against their will in many cases in aged care. The Royal Commission said, and Labor supports the vision that young people with profound disability should have a choice. Aged Care is fine for some, if that's what they want. But thousands of our fellow Australians who are under the age of 60 and below are not given choices. Kristy McBain doesn't accept the status quo. She wants to see a better deal for people with disabilities and carers. This is a fantastic initiative that Paul and his team have been campaigning for. This part of Australia is under serviced by the New South Wales Liberal government, by the Federal Liberal government in the provision of respite care. We have today a vision built up from the grassroots by the community - campaigned for and called for by the community, endorsed by the Royal Commission. We have a vision here today that there can be a six-bed purpose built accommodation facility, which will give young people in nursing homes options, which will provide relief and care for families exhausted and tired and caring for their loved ones. So I'm really pleased that due to Kristy McBain’s advocacy, the hard work of Paul and his committee that an Albanese Labour government, if elected on May the 21st will immediately allocate $1 million to turn a dream into reality a six bed respite facility right where we stand now this will be a fantastic outcome.

I challenge the Invisible Man of Australian politics, Dr Jerry Nockles to match the promise. I call on Mr. Morrison following his very insensitive remarks about disability last night. To start making some amends and to match Labor's promise, to match Kristy McBain’s hard work with a million dollars. The community here needs respite care for young people with disabilities. It's not much to ask for. But a stay here will make all the difference to the person staying here and to their family who support them elsewhere. $1 million is not a lot to ask for when you look at the sheer value for taxpayer money. It will get young people out of nursing homes. It will provide jobs in the local community. Queanbeyan should be very proud of the fact that it's raising its own money. It's not asking for a handout. It's doing the work. It just wants to see a federal government and a state Liberal government in New South Wales shoulder some of the challenge along with the local community. Labor's good for the for the million dollars. We want to make sure people get respite care. Let's take the politics out of disability and let's have the Liberals match Kristy McBain’s vision for this community. And the local committee led by Paul has done so much work.

JOURNALIST: You did mention the statement Scott Morrison said yesterday. I'm just wondering, can you talk a little bit more about that? How did you feel when you heard that statement?

SHORTEN: It's not even how I felt. What Mr. Morrison last night said in response to a mother asking about NDIS and what the Liberal vision is, why they couldn't match Labor's vision. She has a child with autism - Mr. Morrison said that he was blessed to have two children without a disability. I couldn't believe it when I heard that. Not because it's not a blessing to have children. But the point about what Mr. Morrison forgot, is it's a blessing to have children, with or without a disability. People with disabilities, parents, they want an end to this sort of old logic which says somehow, some children when they're born are blessed and therefore other children who are born are cursed. We've got no time for that thinking. I could just feel literally hundreds of thousands of parents who've got kids with autism, who are fighting for the diagnosis, fighting for the early intervention, who feel the judgement, not necessarily malicious, but the unthinking judgement of other parents and other adults. When you've got a child with autism, perhaps they can act up in a in an aisle of a supermarket. But parents with kids with disabilities keep telling me that they get judged by other people. You must be a bad parent. They don't understand the issues. People, parents with kids who have disabilities, they need a government who's on their side, not using very old-fashioned sort of descriptions. I think Mr. Morrison would be sensible and empathetic and wise to admit that he just got that completely wrong.

JOURNALIST: Following up on that, we've had a lot of discussion about the parents. But I think that there is perhaps an overlooking the fact that disabled people are everywhere. There's an autistic person in this very press conference. I can tell you that for sure. What would you say to adults with disability?

SHORTEN: One of the privileges of my time in Parliament has been to work with Australians with disabilities. Australians with disabilities don't need to be infantilised. They don't want a pity party. They just want a fair go like every other person in Australia. The reality is that to live with a disability in Australia, could be any of us at any time. It can happen from birth, it can happen in the blink of an eye on a country road, it can happen through the onset of ageing. What truly impairs Australians isn't the particular disability that's a fact of life. It's the barriers that the community put in front of people with a disability. So I think for Australians with disability, adults with a disability, they would have thought, oh my goodness, when one of the two people who wants to be Prime Minister of Australia, can't even begin to get on the same page as us and understand our efforts and our struggle. I just think it was a complete absence of leadership. And people with disability they don't need ignorance. They just need a fair go.

JOURNALIST: Linda Reynolds has said, expert reviews on NDIS will only slow down decisions for participants. What's your response to this statement?

SHORTEN: Minister Linda Reynolds who was disgraced and put into the NDIS because that's how the Liberals view the NDIS as a sin bin for disgraced ministers in the retirement lounge of their careers. They don't take us seriously at all. I'm afraid to say when it comes to the NDIS there are more people in the NDIS are drowning in red tape. What we want to do is cut the red tape. Linda Reynolds and Scott Morrison are the Olympic gold medallists of delay and red tape in the NDIS. I was literally just in the local shopping centre here and I had three different parents whose kids are on the NDIS who are fighting unfair cuts. One parent had two little boys on the NDIS both have autism one is verbal one is nonverbal. But in Linda Reynolds’ sort of upside down topsy turvy world, the little boy who is verbal gets more support than the little boy who is nonverbal. Linda Reynolds has no idea what's going on and disability.

They've spent $30 million in the last eight months of taxpayer money on top end of town lawyers to stop people on the NDIS accessing modest payments so that their kids can get a chance, so that adults can get wheelchairs.

Linda Reynolds is quite frankly, one of the worst things that happened to the NDIS and the Morrison government. We need people who understand disability not people who are constantly creating delays.

JOURNALIST: In the NDIS. How much would Labor save by cutting spending on consultants and private law firms that deal with the NDIS?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, we need to win the election. That's why it's important people vote for Kristy McBain, but in the event that we can get elected and we can do a great thing like the Respite Centre here, but we also need to look under the hood of the NDIS. I'm very sure that there's a lot of money being wasted. Heroic whistle-blowers tell us about consultants who are being paid a lot of money to do very little at all. Participants in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal complain have been put up against expensive lawyers, where the cost of the legal action is greater than the device or the assistive technology that families are seeking for their loved one. So I've got no doubt we can save millions and millions of taxpayer dollars.

But I think what we have to also recognise with the NDIS is that this government is unfit to run it because they view everything on the NDIS as a price and a cost. I view it as an investment. We view as an investment in the economy and investment in jobs, investment in people's quality of life. So I've got no doubt we can run the agency, run the scheme more efficiently, more competently. But even more importantly, more empathetically. This is a government who can't control the contractors, can't control the waste, can't control the legal fees. So they make little Grant and or little Johnny or little Betty instead lose occupational therapy hours or speech pathology hours. They make people wait months and years for shower modifications or wheelchairs. So I'm confident we can do a better job than this government and Mr. Morrison's remarks last night highlight to me, the old fashioned thinking which people with disability and their families and loved ones don't need from a government.

JOURNALIST: Labor has reaffirmed that they support offshore detention. People are really screaming out for an alternative to Scott Morrison and part of it is the concern about refugees. If Labor supports offshore detention, is that truly an alternative?

SHORTEN: People do want to see an alternative to Scott Morrison. They want strong economic management. Labor can give that, but they also want some compassion. Personally, I don't think it's compassionate to allow people smugglers to put vulnerable people on unsafe boats and risk losing their life sailing to Australia. The fact of the matter is that we do need to break the people smugglers model with the boats coming to Australia. And that's why I'm against the people smugglers. And that's why I want to make sure that the boats don't start again, and that we turn them around and we do all the things that have stopped people losing their lives at sea. You see, it's not compassionate, to create a system where we worry about you once you get to Australia but we don't care if you drown on the way. So I accept that we have to make sure that people who come to this country do so safely. That doesn't mean that we've got to vilify people wanting to come to this country. That doesn't mean that this government hasn't politicised the issue, and created a demonised vulnerable minority. Other than our First Nations people will, all of us came here from somewhere else. But I think it is important that it's done in a safe manner, not a reckless manner.

JOURNALIST: And what would be a non-reckless manner?

SHORTEN: Well, you make sure you have your proper agreed upon immigration programmes, which is a component of refugees, component of family reunion, and the component of skilled migration.

JOURNALIST:  It's been a bit of a shaky campaign for Albo so far. If and I know that this is not what he wants, but if he does lose, could you contest for leadership?

SHORTEN: Labor is in this to win it. I think we're competitive. Election campaigns, as I know very well, are roller coasters, you have your good days, and you're not so good days. The problem is that Mr. Morrison has had a shaky three years, and the roller coaster has been more down than up under Mr. Morrison. It's been shaky in the last three years because Australians have seen our real wages fall. Everything's going up except your wages. It's been shaky because Mr. Morrison took a lackadaisical attitude to the vaccine rollout where he famously said it's not a race. Australia was too slow getting vaccinated and Mr. Morrison's responsible for that. Mr. Morrison famously said, as Kristy was fighting fires and looking after her community down on the coast, Mr. Morrison was in Hawaii, saying he doesn't hold a hose. Australians can't afford another three years of the absentee landlord-ism, which is this government. Mr. Morrison has been missing in action for three years. And it is time for a change and Anthony Albanese leads a united team. And I'm looking forward to being the NDIS Minister and being here when we actually build this Respite Centre.

JOURNALIST: Kristy, in regards to the Brindabella Road upgrade, can you talk a bit about how that’s going to improve things?

MCBAIN: The Brindabella Road upgrade is something that the Snowy Valleys community has been fighting for, for close to 50 years now. It was first talked about in the 70s. At the moment, Brindabella Road is a road that comes from the ACT into Tumut. And could potentially cut an hour of travel time between here and the Snowy Valleys. At a time where we are seeing more and more people travel domestically, at a time where people want to get off the main highways and explore what they have in their backyard, we need to make sure that all of our roads are as safe as possible. This safety upgrade looks at a particularly difficult part of the road from Piccadilly Circus to Goodradigbee. And it will be safety upgrades along the side of the road as well as maintaining the grade of the road.

JOURNALIST: And what will it mean for the economy in terms of jobs and tourism?

MCBAIN: The business case that was done in 2019 by the Snowy Valleys Council shows that for every dollar invested in upgrading the Brindabella Road there is a $7 return to the community. That means there are people that will go and spend money in that community. There'll be new business opportunities that will come off the ability to leverage the Queanbeyan region and the Canberra region being able to travel to the Snowy Valleys at a much, much faster rate than they currently can. And it also allows better access for our trucks. We have a forestry estate that is a huge part of the Eden-Monaro industries, and it will make it safer for our contractors, for our truck drivers and for those people who need to inspect our forestry estate. So this is a win not only for tourism, a win not only for community, but it's a win for business and industry and I look forward to those upgrades being done as soon as possible.