Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Strengthening Banning Orders) Bill 2020; Second Reading

10:12 am

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

As we were discussing last night, it is really important to consider both the context and the policy outcomes in which frameworks like the safeguarding commission exist. We talked last night about the discrimination, the isolation, the segregation and, ultimately, the institutionalisation of disabled people in Australia. The policy context created by the ableism, which is the reality of many of our daily experiences, means many of the policy solutions that are foisted on us, if you like, reflect these discriminatory thought processes, particularly the idea that decisions that affect disabled people can be made without talking with disabled people. And that is the background to that famous catchcry of our community, 'Nothing about us, without us.'

In Australia there are many legislative examples of this action without consultation taking place right now. The chief example at the moment is the proposal to implement mandatory independent assessments. Mandatory independent assessments is a project which the Australian Greens fully oppose. We oppose mandatory independent assessments foisted upon NDIS participants without exception or excuse. Why have we taken this very strong position? We have taken it because we have done something that seems radical to the major parties—that is, talk to disabled people. Disabled people have told us clearly: 'We do not want to see mechanisms put in place which will mean that people we don't know, have never met, will come into our lives and make judgements about our capacity and our needs, and those judgements will then shape our access to the scheme. No, no, no—absolutely not.'

It is something that is antithetical to the principles upon which the NDIS was created, and it is something which the agency is pursuing without having spoken to disabled people. Its so-called consultation was an email survey, the subject of which was a small population of only three types of disabled folks in a very specific geographic area in New South Wales. Of all the people who participated in that trial, only 28 per cent actually responded to the survey, and it is from that 28 per cent that the agency is drawing its conclusion that this is apparently a good idea to go ahead with. This is something we oppose now and will continue to oppose, and we look forward to the day when we see the Australian Labor Party join with us in that campaign to oppose mandatory independent assessments.

When we look back at the commission, we also see that there have been many decisions made about its processes and functions that seem to have been developed without proper consultation with disabled people. It's particularly evident to me that the commission does not do enough to engage effectively, particularly with First Nations disabled people, and that at the moment its processes are not working for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and for First Nations people. The complaint mechanisms and the entire focus of the commission at the moment seem to be far more on gradual quality improvement of services provided by registered NDIS providers than on the proactive, human-rights-guided investigation of complaints, abuse and exploitation. That is the culture shift we need to see in the agency.

This bill does very little to shift the agency in that direction. It grants additional powers around the ability to make banning orders, and allows those banning orders to be placed on individuals whether or not they are still registered service providers or working in that space as support workers. That is a good thing, as well as the ability of the commission to communicate in more detail with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission—a good thing, again, but nowhere near enough. At the moment we are undertaking an extensive inquiry into the quality and safeguards commission. At the conclusion of that inquiry, it is so important that the recommendations the committee makes are turned into meaningful actions taken by this place to improve the safeguarding process, and that, at the same time, we as legislators recognise that regulatory safeguarding frameworks are only one element of the broader work that is needed to be done in our society to remove ableism, to remove discrimination and to support disabled people to participate in the community, to be socially connected and to be engaged in education settings and workplace settings in a way that forms those natural safeguards that are the ultimate solution when it comes to making sure that disabled people are safeguarded from violent abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The Greens will be supporting this bill this morning, and we look forward to continuing the work of improving these processes in consultation with disabled people. I thank the chamber for its time.


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