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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2310


Ms HUSAR (Lindsay) (17:14): I note that this legislation, the Crimes Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme—Worker Screening) Bill 2018 has been a long time coming. People with a disability are some of the most vulnerable in our communities. They have been, and sadly will continue to be, exploited. We must not negate our duty of care to those who are vulnerable in our communities. Let's be very clear. Labor has supported and will continue to support a quality and safeguards commission for the NDIS. We must absolutely ensure we do everything that is possible to protect all our citizens, especially those who are marginalised by disability. The worker screening clearance is well overdue.

We know this government is bungling the rollout of the NDIS every single day. You only need to go into any of our local federal MPs' offices and ask to see their list of constituents who have had issues. My office is fielding about three complaints a day. I accept, though, that a massive social reform like this won't happen overnight and there will be many, many creases that need to be ironed out. But how can you legitimately claim to care when the government neglected this advice that was given to them in 2016, only to implement it and make it mandatory from 2018?

Screening workers for suitability against their criminal history when working with vulnerable groups should be a standard practice in a civilised society—that's if we are to learn anything at all from the royal commission that Labor fought so hard to establish. We fought hard to establish it under the Gillard government because we knew there were people who were preyed on. We listened to their stories and we actually acted. If we are to learn anything from that royal commission and not repeat the mistakes into the future, criminal checks for those people who are working with vulnerable groups is a commonsense approach to ensuring that we do something to prevent this from occurring ever again.

This is why Labor has supported industry, stakeholders and carers who have called for a royal commission into abuse against people with a disability. Frankly, I wish it wasn't something that we had to do. Clearly, though, it will be until this government gets serious about protecting all Australians, not just protecting its own shady behaviour. Sadly, though, transparency and owning up to injustice are not things this government is really keen on or good at, even though their minister said: 'Recent inquiries and reports make it clear that far too many people with a disability have experienced abuse.' If the Prime Minister's minister can admit to that then where is the care, where is the compassion and where is the justice for these people? Simply put, those things don't exist under this government. Someone who had a hand in bringing the NDIS to life, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, knows what it takes.

Shame on the Prime Minister for being too busy launching royal commissions and personal vendettas against Bill Shorten—who actually did come in here and stand up for people. The government are too busy launching a royal commission into allowing unions to stick up for workers' wages and conditions and they are too busy sending the AFP in to raid union offices and collect a piece of paper that was already on the public record. It is an outrage that they deny people with a disability the option to have a royal commission into injustices that have already occurred. The government are too distracted about their own inadequate performance and would rather deal in this low-rent, tit-for-tat schoolyard garbage than tackle some of the things that are wrong in our community and are hurting vulnerable people right now. It would be incredibly painful for families who receive services through the NDIS to know that these criminal history checks are not in place, that worker screening has not been mandated in the rollout and that there would be people who have been exposed to risk because of this abject failure. It is a basic duty of care.

Labor have gone further in our support for people with disability than this say everything, do nothing Prime Minister ever will. If he was serious about protecting the rights of people with a disability, he would take action to prevent injustices and correct injustices done in the past. Let's do the numbers. And, no, Prime Minister, these aren't the numbers on whose support you have—which, concerningly, are the only numbers he is concerned about. I will give you a few numbers to get obsessed about. I hope these ones keep you up late at night just as much as the other numbers do. Ninety-two per cent of women with an intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted in their lives. Sixty per cent of those assaults occurred before the girl's 18th birthday. Children who have a disability are three times more likely to experience abuse than children their same age without a disability.

Has no-one in this government ventured into the real world lately? You only need to talk to the parents of children who have a disability to understand the anxieties and the fears they have about the abuse of their special-needs kids—to the point where some parents have such little faith in the system that they deny their children services because they cannot be assured that their special-needs child will not be preyed upon and they don't let them out of their sight. This has a terrible impact on that parent and carer's health and their wellbeing. It also has an impact on that child who misses out on services out of fear.

I understand fear and anxieties all too well, and I am proud to advocate for people who don't have a voice in here. After all, isn't that what we're meant to do here, as members of this House—stand up for people?

It would be a great shame if one day, just one day, the bloke who is supposedly in charge of running this country came in here and stuck up for the vulnerable instead of his rich, big business mates! He offers them a $65 billion tax cut that he tells us every day we can afford and then uses the NDIS as a battering ram. It would be so refreshing if one day he rolled out of bed in Point Piper and said, 'Today I'll use my position—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hastie ): Order! I remind the member to keep her remarks relevant to the bill at hand.

Ms HUSAR: I'm not sure how 'If he rolled out of bed and used his position of privilege and power to help a group of vulnerable Australians and not just roll out for a photo shoot of vulnerable people, like he did on Christmas Day' is off the topic, Mr Deputy Speaker. They're still vulnerable people. This wilful ignorance perpetuates the pain and suffering of already vulnerable people. You need no further proof that this Prime Minister ignores all the evidence than his rejection of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into abuse in disability services, which recommended that the state lobby for a royal commission into this matter. You also need look no further than his ignoring of the Senate Community Affairs Committee recommendation that a royal commission be established following on from its inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with a disability in institutional care. The government did not provide a response on this matter until 16 months after it had been tabled, and they rejected it, even though the minister admitted that there were reports of instances abuse. Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would really like the Prime Minister to roll out of his bed, come in here and use his position of power and privilege to stick up for these people.

We say it all the time: the Prime Minister and the government are out of touch and they're out of ideas. We are happy to work with them on this in the interests of protecting vulnerable people. This legislation deals with workers in the future, and it has taken almost two years to implement. It is so inadequate, yet this Prime Minister thinks it'll do. What about the people who have been wronged in the past? Why do they get ignored? Where is their justice? When you know better, you do better. This is one step towards doing better in the future. It won't be enough, it will never, ever be enough, but it is something.

I want to do one thing while I'm here on my feet today. I want to thank all those people who are working in disability services, supporting vulnerable people, and who are doing the right thing, because I'm sure there are more of them that do than don't. There are more people doing the right thing, and we need to ensure that, if they witness something, if they have concerns, if they hear something, they are protected in saying something. Bad things happen when good people do nothing. We must ensure that good people are protected in workplaces and that their representation by unions—who have always looked after workers' rights, including people who speak up and act as whistleblowers—is maintained. Instead of the government's dog-whistling, let's listen to those from the trade union movement and those with the gumption to stand up and speak out against injustice wherever it occurs. Unlike those opposite, we don't throw those people under a bus. We need to encourage confidence in the people with a disability and the workers in that sector who protect them to speak out.