Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen.
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen. File

Christensen calls for NDIS support

CHOOSING toys and friends is about as complicated as life gets for most eight-year-old children.

Like most people, George Christensen has many happy memories from his childhood.

But as the Member for Dawson revealed in federal Parliament this week, not all of his childhood memories are pleasant.

And his life was anything but simple.

Mr Christensen has a motion before the House of Representatives to establish a bipartisan committee to oversee the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

For him, establishing a NDIS is more than good public policy, it's personal.

In moving the motion in the lower house on Monday, the first-term Nationals MP provided a vivid recollection of coming to the aid of his mother, an epileptic who also had cerebral palsy.

Mr Christensen's father, who lost a leg at the age of 19 to cancer, drove taxis for a living. When he was at work, young George would be charged with helping his mother in the event she had an epileptic seizure.

"While, as a child of parents with disabilities, you got to understand the difficulties that people with disabilities have to put up with on a daily basis, nothing was more shocking than watching your mother turn blue when she was having an epileptic fit," Mr Christensen said.

"She would alarm us by crossing or folding her arms and asking for my father's help before she went into one of her epileptic fits.

"Even then, as an eight-year-old kid, I knew that when Mum did that you had to put her on the floor in case she fell off the chair she was sitting on or fell over.

"Then her eyes would roll back into her head and sometimes she would stop breathing and her face would turn blue.

"I would literally smack her on the face, because as an eight-year-old it was the only thing I could think of to snap her out of it.

"I never knew whether that would be the last memory of my mother, and to think of that as an eight-year-old kid - all because the support services for people in her situation were non-existent."

Mr Christensen's motion calls for a joint select committee comprising an even number of Coalition and Labor members, as well as one Greens and one independent MP.

The committee would be co-chaired by a government and an opposition MP, with its terms of reference to be devised by the leaders of both parties. It would remain in existence until the full implementation of the NDIS.

Empowering people to make their own choices to "participate in ordinary daily life" was the great thing about the NDIS, Mr Christensen said.

"It lets individuals and families decide what services will best fit them rather than have some bureaucrat in a state capital work it out on a desktop model," he said.

Mr Christensen praised the work of the many disability support service providers in his electorate, but added the NDIS would allow them to provide "so much more for their clients".

While Mr Christensen's speech was not free of party political rhetoric - he described as "disgusting" the government's description of the NDIS as a "great Labor reform" - he ended his speech with a call for bipartisanship.

"Let's put aside petty politics, join together on the NDIS and make this work for the betterment of our nation," he said.

Labor has indicated it will not support the motion, with Queensland MP Shayne Neumann describing it as a "recipe for delay".

The Gillard government committed $1billion in the May budget to rolling out the first stage of the NDIS, which the Productivity Commission predicts will take seven years to implement in full.


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