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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2885


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (12:48): The Crimes Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme—Worker Screening) Bill 2018 facilitates access to criminal history data held by the Commonwealth for the purposes of conducting an NDIS worker screening check clearance. It's a bill that Labor both welcomes and supports. The change proposed in this bill enacts part of the Council of Australian Governments' decisions of December 2016 to implement a new quality and safeguards framework for the NDIS, which includes a commitment to work with states and territories to deliver nationally consistent worker screening for the NDIS.

Labor of course supported the establishment of a new quality and safeguards framework in the parliament last year. The aim of the NDIS worker screening policy is to protect people with a disability from harm and abuse. This bill will permit criminal history information to be disclosed and taken into account when assessing whether a person who works or seeks to work with a person with a disability poses a risk to such a person.

The Crimes Act 1914 of the Commonwealth states that people who have been convicted of a crime and have subsequently been pardoned or had their conviction quashed, or if their conviction has spent, are not required to disclose their criminal history. Currently, a small number of exceptions to this rule exist—for example, for those applying for a working-with-children check, or applying for employment with a law enforcement agency or an intelligence or security agency. This bill amends the Crimes Act to extend this exception to disclose criminal history to people who work or who seek to work with people with disability.

Of course, as the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues to roll out across Australia in the coming years, the number of disability service providers will increase. This growth is most notable in my own state of New South Wales, where the rollout is most advanced and where it will later this year reach full rollout. As we continue to see this growth in the NDIS, we need to make sure that the people taking these new jobs as part of the NDIS are thoroughly screened. This is a sensible reform that will go some way to improving the safety of people with disability.

Just this morning, we saw people on the front page of the Herald Sun with another tragic story of abuse against a young autistic boy outside a school in Melbourne. There was utterly appalling video of the boy being surrounded and punched by other young boys. Words cannot describe just how disgraceful this act of abuse was on this young boy with disability. Sadly, these shocking and harrowing cases of violence and abuse are far too often experienced, particularly by people with disability. They cannot be ignored.

We do need a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability so that we can bring about the systemic and lasting change that is needed. That is why, almost a year ago now, we announced that a Shorten Labor government would establish a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with disability. I again urge the Prime Minister to begin the work to establish a royal commission on this issue as quickly as possible.

Labor supports this particular bill because we support any action to protect people with disability from abuse, violence and neglect. Facilitating access to criminal history data held by the Commonwealth for the purposes of conducting an NDIS worker-screening check is an important safeguard in protecting people with disability. A nationally consistent worker screening check will make it more difficult for people with poor records in one jurisdiction from moving to another jurisdiction and continuing to place people with disability at risk of harm.

Labor welcomes this bill because we are serious about the safety and wellbeing of Australians, particularly Australians with disability. We continue to call on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and establish a royal commission into abuse and violence against people with disability as soon as possible.