Senate debates

Monday, 17 September 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Disability Services

3:29 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 Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Steele-John today relating to the abuse and neglect of people with disability.

Earlier in this chamber, I expressed a frustration which has been building within me for over a year. I have, since entering this place under the most unexpected circumstances, worked relentlessly to try to get this issue on the political agenda. I have had behind-the-scenes conversations. I have spoken with three subsequent social services ministers. I have asked nicely. I have asked firmly. I have put forward argument after argument after argument, pleading with this government to give me a satisfactory answer as to why the violence against, abuse of and neglect of disabled people in this nation is not worthy of a royal commission.

Today, for the fourth time, the government could summon no better answer than that which I have received three times in the past. Senator Cormann comes into this place and suggests to this chamber that the existence of the quality and safeguards regime under the NDIS makes the need for a royal commission unnecessary. I would ask Senator Cormann to reflect upon the fact that the aged-care sector is currently under almost an identical quality and safeguard regime. So then why is that a reason for disabled people to be denied their opportunity to make their voices heard when it is not the case for aged care?

We have seen investigation after investigation reveal again and again to this government that there is a systemic, a profound, issue in this nation. Thousands of disabled people suffer daily in this country and are subject to horrors which I am sure Senator Cormann cannot conceive of, and yet there is nothing but silence from this government. There is nothing but useless, repeated excuses. The human rights and dignity of disabled people in this country apparently mean nothing to this government. Your response is that my people can suffer, their screams stifled by your profound inability to conceive of their humanity, to take action that would safeguard their rights. Your godforsaken inability to get to grips with this issue, your apparent comfort to allow years to elapse, casts a long and disgraceful shadow over this parliament and over this Prime Minister, who in 2015 received the very report which should well have informed him of what is continuing to occur under his nose, his government.

Scott Morrison would like us to believe that he is a different kind of politician, that he is a different kind of leader. But all I see in his silence is the same deadpan politics which I have fought against from the moment I arrived—the same cold, uninterested, mechanical governance which so drives the frustration and hatred that the Australian people hold in their hearts for our so-called leaders.

This is a moment in time where there is an opportunity before this government to act, to do justice, to absolve itself of the sin of inaction. It must take it. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.