Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Matters of Public Importance


5:35 pm

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

Disabled people should have always been put first in the planning and response to the pandemic. We should have never seen the kind of delays and the lack of basic understanding about disabled people's needs in emergency health responses that were in fact the reality when COVID broke out, and we must never see them again. There has been plenty of consultation about pandemic response now, and so, from this point forward, there is no excuse that can be found in the halls of government for the failure to centre disabled people in emergency health responses.

For disabled people, we know that the Morrison government's response to the pandemic was grossly inadequate. The response to the pandemic largely failed to meet the government's obligations under the UNCRPD. The Morrison government failed to roll out the vaccine to disabled people as a priority community and failed to quickly immunise their family members and their workforce, which are central to supporting them. The government were too slow to provide PPE supplies and too slow to provide RATs to the workforce and to disabled people, increasing our risk of infection and transmission. Disabled people and carers were denied the COVID supplement payment that all other vulnerable people received—that was a measure that was in fact supported by both major parties in this place—not to mention that we didn't receive clear, accessible and consistent information.

Disabled people were not consulted or included in planning and rollout processes across the board. It took months, after the government started to respond at all, for an advisory body to be established. Those in residential accommodation settings were often left isolated, distressed and vulnerable. The Morrison government failed to collect adequate data on disabled people contracting the virus or on the deaths associated with the virus. That is a failure which continues to this day under this government, with the absurd reality that, if a person who is disabled contracts or dies from COVID-19 but is not an NDIS participant—I remind the Senate that a vast majority of disabled people are not NDIS participants—then that is not reported anywhere as a disabled person having contracted or died from COVID.

We know all this because there have been many reviews and consultations about responses to the pandemic to this point, including hearings of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. There are also current, ongoing reviews being undertaken about the federal government's and the state and territory governments' responses to COVID-19, including their responses specifically in relation to disabled people. In my home state of Western Australia, there is a review underway right now. The Greens will be closely monitoring the outcomes and recommendations of these reviews, as we are closely monitoring the outcomes and recommendations of the reviews that are looking into the detail of the impacts of things such as long COVID. We will be looking particularly to the disability royal commission for its expected recommendations in its report in September. For these reasons, we will not support this motion at this time.


No comments