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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2308


Ms MACKLIN (Jagajaga) (17:03): I move:

That all the words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes the recommendation of the Senate Community Affairs Committee in November 2015 that there be a Royal Commission established following its inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability in institutional care, and the calls for such a royal commission from the disability sector;

(2) notes that children with disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than children who do not have disability and that 90% of women with intellectual disability have been sexually abused; and

(3) condemns this conservative Government's continued refusal to establish a Royal Commission to bring about justice for Australians with disability".

The Crimes Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme—Worker Screening) Bill facilitates access to criminal history data held by the Commonwealth for the purposes of conducting an NDIS worker screening check clearance. It's a bill that Labor welcomes and supports. The change proposed in this bill enacts part of the Council of Australian Governments' decision of December 2016 to implement a new quality and safeguards framework for the NDIS, which includes a commitment to work with the states and territories to deliver nationally consistent worker screening for the NDIS. Labor of course supported the establishment of the new quality and safeguards framework in the parliament last year.

The aim of the NDIS worker screening policy is to protect people with disability from harm and abuse. This bill will permit criminal history information to be disclosed and taken into account in assessing whether a person who works or seeks to work with a person with disability poses a risk to such a person. The Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914 states that people who have been convicted of a crime and subsequently pardoned, had their conviction quashed or their conviction spent, are not required to disclose their criminal history. Currently a small number of exceptions to this rule exist—for example, for those applying for a working-with-children check or applying for employment with a law enforcement agency or an intelligence or security agency. This bill amends the Crimes Act to extend this exception to people who work or seek to work with people with disability to require them to disclose criminal history. It's a sensible reform that will go some way to improving the safety of some of the most vulnerable members of our community: people with disability.

As the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues to roll out across Australia in the coming years, the number of disability service providers will increase. Indeed the latest quarterly report on the NDIS shows that the number of approved service providers increased by 17 per cent between September 2017 and December 2017. The report showed that in New South Wales alone, where the rollout of the scheme is most advanced, there are now more than 6,000 registered service providers. As we continue to see this growth in the scheme, we need to make sure that the people taking the new jobs that are part of the NDIS are properly screened. It's anticipated that the NDIS worker screening check will become available in New South Wales and South Australia from July 2018, in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory from July 2019 and in Western Australia from July 2020.

The NDIS worker screening policy is being developed in consultation with the states and territories, taking into account the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It's envisaged that worker screening units will be established in each state and territory in order to undertake employment screening in relation to work with a person with disability. The term 'work' is defined broadly to include those working directly with people with disability in a paid or voluntary capacity as well as leadership roles of institutions or, for example, people holding roles on boards or committees. The information may only be disclosed for the purposes of undertaking the NDIS worker screening check. The bill also requires that the minister undertake two reviews of the changes to be completed no later than 31 December 2019 and 31 December 2022 respectively and to report on the effectiveness of the scheme to parliament. The responsibility for the overall design and broad policy of NDIS worker screening will be held by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, which will commence operation on 1 July this year.

I want to go to the broader questions about the abuse of people with disability. Last week in the media we saw details of the tragic death of Sarah Hammoud. Sarah was 22. She died in hospital in March 2016 from septicaemia about two months after a visit to her care home had raised alarm bells. Sarah had lived in care since the age of 13. She could not communicate, having been born with severe intellectual disability caused by having three X chromosomes instead of two. According to evidence given to a coronial inquest, Sarah was 'half dragged and half carried from a taxi in a shocking incident witnessed by community workers'. The evidence was that 'when Sarah got to where she lived, her elbows were very discoloured and one was very swollen'. Just months later, Sarah was dead.

Sarah's tragic case, sadly, is not unique. These shocking and harrowing cases of violence and abuse are far too often experienced by people with disability, and they just cannot be ignored. We know that people with disability experience much higher rates of violence than the rest of the community, and in many cases this violence occurs in places where they're meant to be receiving support. We know that children with disability are at least three times more likely than other children to experience abuse. We know that 90 per cent of women with an intellectual disability have been sexually abused.

This parliament cannot let this abuse be swept under the carpet. A royal commission is needed so that people with disability, their families and carers can tell their stories to the highest level of judicial inquiry and seek justice. Only a royal commission has the weight, authority and investigative powers to examine these horrific accounts of violence and abuse against people with disability. We have seen how effective the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been over the last five years, how important it's been, particularly for survivors who, for many years, weren't believed and how important its recommendations are. So now we need a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability so that we can bring about systemic change to make sure that this horrific abuse doesn't happen again. That's why, in May last year, we announced that a Shorten Labor government would establish a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability. The disability sector continues to call on the Turnbull government to establish a royal commission into violence and abuse of people with disability. I must say, I think we would all be pleased on this side of the House if the Turnbull government would begin the work to establish a royal commission as soon as possible.

As I said at the start, Labor supports this bill because we support action to protect people with disability from abuse, violence and neglect, and facilitating access to criminal history data held by the Commonwealth for the purposes of conducting an NDIS worker screening check is an important safeguard in protecting people with disability. A nationally consistent worker screening check will make it more difficult for people with poor records in one jurisdiction to move to another, continuing to place people with disability at risk of harm. This is appropriate, because we do know that people with disability are at greater risk of abuse than others in our community. That said, it is nevertheless very, very important—and I call on the government again—to establish a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability. It is the right thing to do, and a royal commission should be established as soon as possible.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hastie ): Is the amendment seconded?

Ms Chesters: I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Jagajaga has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. If it suits the House, I will state the question in the form that the amendment be agreed to. The question now is that the amendment be agreed to.