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Disability changes not good enough.



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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats

Senator Lyn Allison Disability Services Spokesperson

27 June 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/337

http://www.democrats.org.au/

Disability changes not good enough The Australian Democrats welcome Minister Amanda Vanstone’s clear change of heart towards Australians with a disability, but the offer still falls far short of being fair.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said the offer by the Minister to apply tighter Disability Support Pension eligibility for new applicants only from next year and to quarantine those already receiving pension, was a start.

“We are pleased the Minister has listened to Democrat concerns about removing 180,000 people from the Disability Support Pension on to Newstart allowance. She is finally showing some semblance of understanding and concern for people with a disability,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“We also note she has withdrawn the ransom note on the Commonwealth States Territories Disability Agreement unmet needs money to try to force the Democrats to pass the original unfair budget changes. That was a shameful ploy and one that will haunt the Minister for a long time.”

Democrats’ Disability Services spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said there are still questions Minister Vanstone needs to answer:

• What happens to those who go off the pension and find they cannot sustain employment and want to go back on DSP - will they be stuck on Newstart allowance? • What is the Government going to do with new applicants who will be required to compete for jobs with applicants without a disability given that there are currently 8 persons

unemployed for every job vacancy? • Will the Government provide job creation programs for people with a disability? • What incentives will the Government offer employers to take on persons with a disability?

“The Minister should stop trying to model our programs on New Zealand and focus on the real needs of Australians with a disability. New Zealand has a much smaller population and a lower rate of unemployment, we need programs based on the Australian situation,” said Senator Allison.

“If, as the Minister says, the crucial question is should the same benefits be offered to those who are severely disabled as to someone who can work some hours a week, why hasn’t she used the recommendations of the McClure report to provide for costs of disability?

“We believe a Senate inquiry is needed to fully consider the implications of the new proposal so that the disability community, welfare sector, families, employers and the wider community can comment on the proposals,” concluded Senator Allison.

For more information please ring Alison Rogers on 0419 867 649 or John Derry on 0408 056 167