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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6099


Senator STEELE-JOHN (Western Australia) (19:25): Every Australian, every human being, has the right to feel safe, to live a life without fear, without violence, and yet for so many disabled people this is a right which is continually, systematically denied. Those who are charged with our safety place us in danger. Those who are promoted and paid to work with us, to attain our independence, become our ruthless captors. And those who declare themselves dedicated to working with us for our support become the perpetrators of the most unspeakable horrors. When we speak up, when we speak out, our voices are dismissed. Our screams are stifled by the ableism which so drenches our society, which so corrosively continues the idea that to be a disabled person is to be less than human. There is, in Australia, today, a great injustice unfolding, and that is the violence, abuse and neglect to which disabled people are subjected every single day.

We have known about this as a community for decades. This legislature has heard many a time over the years from those of us who have brought it to our attention. This subject has occupied four of the five questions that I have asked here in this place, because we here know of something that we could do right now to solve this issue. We have known since 2015 that there is an urgent need for a royal commission to investigate the abuse suffered by disabled people in institutional settings. I have had conversation after conversation with three different ministers for social services about this issue, and in a year I have not received, from this government, a satisfactory answer as to why it does not view violence against disabled people as worthy of a royal commission as so-called corruption in the union movement. I have been given no satisfactory answer as to why this government can summon no better answer than to tell me that it has instituted a framework covering the NDIS, which only covers 10 per cent of the disabled population in Australia.

There have been many times in my year in this place when I have been given reason to question the nature of the heart that beats in this parliament and the content of the soul which occupies its executive. But nothing has brought me deeper disgust and more profound revulsion than this government's five years of silence on the issue of violence, abuse and neglect. It casts a long, dark and shameful shadow over the work we do here. And while I am in this place, I will not rest until it is cast off. (Timeexpired)