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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2886

Senator STEELE-JOHN (Western Australia) (12:53): Disabled Australians experience discrimination and segregation every single day. The NDIS is an important reform that promotes the inclusion of disabled people within our society. It is also extremely important that the rights of people with disability are upheld. Violations of our human rights must end.

In 2015, the Community Affairs References Committee reported on the violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings. The fourth recommendation of this report was that the Australian government consider establishing a disability worker registration scheme, including nationally consistent pre-emptive screening. The bill we are debating today amends the Crimes Act 1914 to allow criminal history information to be disclosed and considered for the purposes of worker screening related to work with disabled persons within the NDIS. This bill is a precursor to the full worker screening registration proposal, which I hope we will be debating soon. The Australian Greens support the bill before us today and the action to protect disabled people from violence, abuse and neglect. Minister Tehan stated, in his second reading speech in the other place, that people with disability have the right to be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse. Disabled people also have the right to safety. We have the right to be free from exploitation, violence and abuse. It is important to consider both the right to safety and our right to be supported by the people we choose when considering such legislation. Any safeguard should serve to inform, rather than dictate, these choices.

The Behind closed doors report, which was produced by my good friend Samantha Connor, of People With Disabilities WA, and Ben Keely, of Developmental Disability WA, stated:

… it was not clear that many of the regulatory systems (like Clear/Vulnerable Persons Cards or workers blacklists) would be effective preventers of violence, abuse and neglect …

and that 'the implementation of some of these systems would negatively impact upon choice, control and autonomy' of disabled people and further segregate us from society. An emphasis on developmental safeguards, including institutional developmental safeguards, is what will prove to be most effective. It is also important to keep registration costs to a minimum, particularly for those who are young or who work with young people and already need to complete working-with-children checks, which cost more than $100. These fees could create barriers to workforce participation.

Finally, I would like to reiterate once again that these safeguards do not replace the need for a royal commission into violence and abuse against and neglect of people with disability, which was the only recommendation of the community affairs committee's report that was not adopted or actioned. I do not want to hear another good word from the government in relation to disabled Australians until they have taken action to establish that royal commission. Until that action has taken place your words ring hollow and reveal the emptiness of your sentiment. Act now so that we can be heard and justice can be done. Together we must create an accessible and inclusive future for all.