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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1128


Ms JACKSON (10:50 AM) —Thank you for the birthday wishes. I am pleased to rise in support of the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008. I have been grateful for the opportunity to listen to the contributions of many other members, especially that of the member for Moreton. I endorse the comments that he has made.

The purpose of the bill has been well and truly covered by other speakers. I note that its primary intent is to improve the effectiveness of our antidiscrimination legislation to ensure that it protects the rights and indeed opportunities of not only people with disabilities but also the aged and to improve the complaints handling processes of the Human Rights Commission.

I do not intend to speak at length but I do want to touch on a couple of issues, particularly from a Western Australian perspective. For a period of time I had the great joy of working for the Minister for Disability Services in Western Australia and, as a consequence of that, had great exposure to the disability services sector in that state. I also have in my electorate, as I suspect many other members have, some very active advocates for disability services. I know, Madam Deputy Speaker Vale, you are well and truly familiar with the issues confronting people with disabilities and have long advocated on their behalf. They are a very effective and compelling group, and I think the onus is on us to do whatever we can to advocate on their behalf in this parliament.

I must say that I was a bit surprised by some of the contributions from members opposite, because essentially the amendments reflected in the bill are recommendations from the Productivity Commission, the Law Reform Commission and, indeed, a number of parliamentary committees, and I thought they enjoyed genuine bipartisan support.

As I said, I want to focus a bit on disability services in Western Australia. You may be surprised to know that the most recent information I have, from an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey done in Western Australia in late 2003, estimated that 405,500 Western Australians reported having a disability. That is some 20.6 per cent of the population. An estimated 246,800 Western Australians—or 12.6 per cent of the total population—are carers for people with a disability. So one in every 17 Western Australians aged 15 and over has a disability and is also a carer of a person with a disability. That is some 91,600 people. Of that nearly half a million people with a disability, some 115,800 people have a profound or severe core activity limitation. A profound limitation refers to when a person is unable, or always needs help or supervision, to carry out the functions of normal daily living. A severe limitation usually refers to when a person sometimes needs help or supervision with daily-living routines or has difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends. Most people with a disability experience some form of limitation or restriction due to their disability.

In Western Australia, we have been very conscious of the issues affecting people with a disability and also of the trends in disability, because the number of Western Australians with disability is increasing. I referred earlier to the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys on disability and the report of the extent of that disability. They have provided figures that show that, between 1998 and 2003, the number of people in Western Australia with a disability had increased by some 50,000, and they are predicting that, between 2006 and 2026, the number of people with disability in Western Australia is expected to increase by more than 210,000, mainly due to our ageing population. So many of the issues affecting people with a disability also affect people who are ageing, because part of the downside of ageing—as I am reminded today on my 47th birthday—is a decline in our abilities in some regard.


Mr Haase —Get out!


Ms JACKSON —I know it is young, Member for Kalgoorlie. It is young for some. The motto that the Western Australian Disability Services Commission has had is ‘Good access for people with a disability means good access for all people’. That not only has led to some very positive changes in our state but also, I think, reflects good common sense and good business sense.

I noted with some regret the comments made in this place last night by the member for Tangney when he addressed this legislation. He was very concerned that the legislation was going to expose businesses and employers to substantial cost in having to take steps to make their businesses or their goods and services accessible to people with a disability. I was, frankly, a bit concerned by his comments and, indeed, appalled at his lack of understanding of what is happening in his own home state of Western Australia. One of the things that he talked about was access to shops. Whilst he understood that it was practical and proper for a house like the parliament to ensure that we have good access for people with a disability—that growing group of people that I have talked about—he thought it was an outrageous imposition on his local fish and chip shop to maybe have to install a disabled toilet.

I do not know what happens in the electorate of the member for Tangney, but my local fish and chip shops generally do not have toilets for any of their customers, let alone toilets for people with a disability. But they do make sure that the doorways and entrances to their buildings are wide enough not only to accommodate electric wheelchairs and the like but also to accommodate the pushers and prams that parents are often required to use. We are not talking about causing hardship or cost on employers; we are talking about sensible business decisions to allow access to business. Good access for people with a disability means good access for everyone. I know that members of this House would have had the experience of trying to get, for example, double strollers through doorways and can sympathise with that need. Good access is good business sense and good common sense.

Indeed, in Western Australia, by legislation introduced in 2004-05 or thereabouts, all state government agencies and departments and all local government in Western Australia are required by law to develop a disability access and inclusion plan. This was done on a proactive and cooperative basis. It involved, in many cases, good consultation with people with disability in their local communities and state wide to ensure that in Western Australia we have good access for everyone. I know many other states have indicated an interest in the proposal in Western Australia. In the main, it was a wonderful exercise, opening the eyes of many businesses and many local governments to the fact that there were people living in their community who were unable to access their services and benefits.

Another initiative in our home state—which I know also operates in the state of Victoria—is a wonderful thing called the carers card. People with a severe disability are often unable to participate in activities without being accompanied by a carer. I know from my constituents Carol and Norm Franklin that their son Stephen requires a carer in attendance for him to be able to participate in normal activities. Stephen, for good reason or bad, is a one-eyed Dockers supporter, and one of his great delights in life is being able to attend a football match. Until the introduction of the carers card, that involved the family spending twice the amount of money to get Stephen into the football with his carer—twice the amount of money to pay for public transport to and from the ground. Now, with the introduction of the carers card, which is available to people with a disability, many businesses are cooperating with the state government through that scheme and are allowing free entry to the carer. All of them report that that has been a positive scheme and, indeed, they are displaying logos in their businesses and enterprises to ensure that people know that they are supporters of the carers card. This is being done with goodwill and cooperation from local business without any kind of fear about unreasonable expense or the like.

In conclusion, I want to share another initiative that is very Western Australian. We have a wonderful scheme that operates in WA, sponsored by the Disability Development Council, which is called the Adopt a Politician Scheme. Most of us who are members of parliament, state or federal, in Western Australia have been fortunate enough to have been adopted by a family who have a family member who has a disability. In my case, I have been adopted by Lisa Harris’s family. Lisa is eight years old and she suffers from a chromosomal abnormality—a condition known as Turner syndrome—and she has a very severe level of disability. She has been wonderfully supported by her parents, Phil and Tania, and is dearly loved by her younger brother, Matty, and younger sister, Lizzie. As a result of my adoption into their family, I have become personally aware of some of the issues and hardships that they confront. Life for them, and the way in which they participate in the community, is very different from what it is for those of us not exposed to the issue of people with a disability.

I see legislation like this having immediate relevance for the Harris family, who live in Kenwick in my electorate. I know that, as a result of legislation like this, Lisa will grow up in a country that has a very clear position on ensuring the proper rights of people with a disability. To that extent, I am delighted to support this legislation today and I urge all members of the House to do so.