(Speech given on 7 September 2012)
Employment of people with disability and particularly Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) are the favourite part of my portfolio. The two things I most enjoy doing as a member of parliament are visiting schools and visiting ADEs. It doesn't matter how cynical or world weary I feel. That all washes off me when I visit a school or an ADE.
I know there have been threats to ADEs and their predecessors over the years as debates about the relative merits of supported versus open employment have raged. There have been questions raised about the appropriateness of ADEs as the philosophical trend in employment and education has shifted from special to mainstream.
For me, that debate has always seemed a little pointless. Mainstream or open employment is good. But it will never be for everyone. It should always be about the individual and what is right for them.
I want to be very clear. As long as I am in the portfolio, I will always fight for ADE's. There will always be a place for ADEs under my watch.
I have also found the debate about what is an ADE unnecessary. Are they a business or are they a social support organisation? They are both. They are unique organisations, They face challenges. Just breaking even is often a major achievement.
The first rule of thumb for Government's in relation to ADEs should be to do no harm. To not place additional hurdles in the way.
Finally, the issue of supported employee retirement. There has been the pilot. It hasn't led to anything in particular.
The NDIS ultimately will provide a better opportunity to address these retirement issues as ADE's and day programmes and other options come under the NDIS providing greater flexibility and the opportunity for solutions to be more easily worked through.
But I do recognise that 2018-19 is a long time to wait and that we need to find better options sooner.
I also recognise that the NDIS will change the relationship between supported employees and ADE's. There will be, in effect, a contractual relationship between supported employee and ADE as well as an employer-employee relationship. This will need to be carefully worked through to preserve the integrity of the employer-employee relationship.