Government to Restore Disability Commissioner
21 March 2016 at 11:06 am
The Turnbull Government has moved to restore the position of Disability Discrimination Commissioner after two years of controversy surrounding the post.
The Attorney General’s Department placed advertisements at the weekend for the full time disability position which will begin in July – the same time as the full roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
In 2014, Attorney General Senator George Brandis removed Graeme Innes as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner when his tenure expired and the position was abolished.
On July 2015, Aged Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan was given the additional position of acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner after Graeme Innes finished his term.
Since then the government has refused to reveal its intentions over the future of the role.
Graeme Innes told Pro Bono Australia News at the time that the government’s decision to split Ryan’s responsibilities between Aged Discrimination Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner was actively increasing levels of disadvantage for people with disability.
“There’s no doubt that the disadvantage experienced by people with disability has increased,” Innes said.
“I hear everyday from people I’m linked to in the network of circumstances where a full time Commissioner with lived experience of disability could be advocating to reduce that disadvantage.”
However, the Federal Labor party claimed the new advertisement for the role provided more questions than answers.
“Now they are advertising for three positions – a Disability Commissioner, Age Discrimination Commissioner and Human Rights Commissioner. But the advertisement says without explanation there will be five total commissioners plus the President rather than the statutory seven required by the Human Rights Commission Act 1986,” Shadow Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin said.
“Will they sack or seek to merge more Commissioner positions in the Budget? How will they fund these new roles? Nobody knows, and if its recent chaotic performance is any guide, that probably includes the government.”
Labor has called on the Turnbull Government to make clear how many commissioners it plans to appoint to the Human Rights Commission and how they will be funded.
“Importantly the government must say whether it plans to sack or merge existing Commissioner positions,” Macklin said.
“Sacking the Disability Discrimination Commissioner silenced a powerful voice for Australians with disability.
“It says everything about the priorities of the Liberal Government that they appointed a Commissioner for wind farms but sacked a Commissioner for people with disability.”
Macklin said Labor had campaigned for two years to restore a disability discrimination commissioner, alongside people with disability, their families and advocates.
“As the National Disability Insurance Scheme is rolling out, it is more important than ever for people with disability to have a Commissioner devoted to advocating their interests and protecting their rights,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General said no decisions have been made regarding the division of roles between commissioners.
The government advertisement said the Sydney-based Disability Discrimination Commissioner would be specifically responsible for advocating for the rights of people with disability including education campaigns and monitoring legislation and policy for compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
It said the expected commencement date of the appointment is July 2016. The period of appointment is expected to be five years.
Outgoing Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson won a hotly contested party battle to be selected as the Liberal candidate in the Victorian seat of Goldstein at the weekend.