Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Disabled Prisoners

3:32 pm

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

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for International Development and the Pacific (Senator Fierravanti-Wells) to a question without notice asked by Senator Steele-John today relating to the treatment of people with disabilities in institutional and residential settings.

In my time in this chamber I've learnt that many things that come before us are difficult. Many things are complex. They require careful judgement by this place to balance competing needs and interests of the peoples and organisations which send us here. However, the issue of abuse and neglect faced by people with disabilities in institutional and residential settings should not be and is not one of those issues.

So that nobody in this chamber can claim that they do not know what is within the contents of the Human Rights Watch report, I shall repeat it: people being forced to spend hours and hours in nappies because of the inaccessibility of the prison environment, people being incarcerated within solitary confinement for days on end and people being cared for by registered and convicted sex offenders who are paid to perform that service. This is the lived experience of the Australians with disabilities within our prison system. And these horrendous cases detailed within the report sit alongside the litany of disgusting cases which were brought before the Senate inquiry two years or more ago.

There can be no more urgent issue in the space of human rights in Australia in relation to people with disabilities than the issue which has been brought to light by the Human Rights Watch report. There is an urgent need for the establishment of a royal commission, such as that which was created in the aftermath of the Don Dale reporting, to ensure that these cases of disgusting rights violations are documented and addressed. There can be no excuse from this government for delaying on this issue. The millions of Australians with disabilities demand that you take heed of this issue and that you act with the swiftness and decisiveness that you have in the past proven yourself capable of when the political environment necessitated it. Your conscience should necessitate that action of you, and, if it does not, I would ask you to reflect upon how the hell you manage to sleep at night. I thank the chamber for its time.

Question agreed to.