Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


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

11:05 am

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

[by video link] I briefly want to make some comments around our second reading amendment and make a couple of observations in relation to second reading amendments offered by the other folks in this place. To make it clear, what we are seeking to do with our particular second reading amendment is to call on the government and the commission to rectify one of the most concerning elements that was revealed in relation to the commission, which came out of Senate estimates a few weeks ago.

Many in the community will be aware that, in the aftermath of Ann-Marie Smith's disgraceful manslaughter, the government announced additional funding for the commission of some $92.9 million. The expectation of many of us in the disability community was that this money would go to funding additional investigative capacity for the commission so that they would be able to more effectively investigate complaints made to them and disentangle the very complex circumstances of abuse that often affect us as disabled people. Outrageously, it was revealed in estimates that no more than 10 per cent of the commission's workforce are actually folks that are dedicated investigators. Of this nearly $100 million of additional funding, only six additional investigative positions will be funded within the commission. This is just not good enough. It is unacceptable to us as disabled people, particularly as not one of those additional positions will be based in South Australia. So our second reading amendment calls on the commission and the government to increase the number of investigators on the ground in each state and territory, particularly in South Australia.

We are happy to support the Labor Party's second reading amendment, and we will also ultimately support the second reading amendment made by Centre Alliance. However, I would just offer this observation in relation to this support: we in the Australian Greens take very seriously the obligation of consulting genuinely with disabled people. As I mentioned in my opening remarks on this piece of legislation, it is so important that we as legislators genuinely consult with disabled people before we come to conclusions about what recommendations and legislative changes are needed in order to prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Robertson inquiry has made a number of recommendations in that area. It has been put to me, forcefully and convincingly, that there still needs to be an additional layer of consultation between the Robertson recommendations and any subsequent legislative action that is taken with disabled people, quite simply because Justice Robertson himself is not a disabled man. My understanding is that prior to his involvement in this judicial inquiry, he had not had significant time or professional background in dealing with the complex intersectional issues that affect disabled people and are involved in the exploitation and abuse that we face. So it is really important, as we seek to translate any and all recommendations, but particularly the Robertson recommendations, into legislation that we genuinely consult with disabled people before coming to conclusions.

I want to acknowledge that Centre Alliance and Senator Griff, coming from the state of South Australia as they do, have been involved and deeply affected by the manslaughter of Ms Ann-Marie Smith, and share with me a deep desire to ensure that the situation experienced in the case of Ann-Marie never happens again. We share that in common, as people and as political parties, I am sure. I'm also aware that in the state of South Australia there is a live conversation within the community about the role that a national community visitor scheme may play throughout the country in preventing cases such as Ann-Marie Smith's happening, because we know they also happen, often and elsewhere.

It is really important as we consider that particular reform that we consult with disabled people before the moment of implementation. It is not good enough to repeat a pattern of faux consultation, as we have seen with the independent assessments framework, where politicians come to a conclusion that there is a particular policy solution and then consult on its implementation. There is a need to consult on the very question of how we solve the problem, first, particularly with a community visitor scheme, because outside of South Australia and Victoria, these are not common programs. In the state of Victoria, for instance, the community visitor scheme has historically been focused on voluntary engagement with people in institutional settings rather than on broad residential visitation. There needs to be a space and a process by which we explore what it would mean to implement this nationally in all residential circumstances. We would also need to explore what we mean by 'vulnerability' and how we would go about giving disabled people the right to object to a characterisation of vulnerability. We would also need to explore interactions with complex cases, such as folks who may be neurodivergent, where it would be highly inappropriate, in some cases, to have somebody that they don't know bobbing in and out of their house at unexpected times. All of these complexities need to be considered before we arrive at the conclusion of whether or not a community visitor scheme is the best solution, or one of the solutions that are needed to prevent cases like Ann-Marie Smith's repeating themselves.

It is with those clear and conscious caveats that we, the Greens, will support the amendment today, on the advice of our stakeholders and also in line with our historical commitment to consult with disabled people before coming to particular policy positions in relation to legislation that shapes their lives. I thank the chamber for its time.


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