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Social Justice Issues Remain High as Labor Sweeps into Power in WA

12 March 2017 at 6:35 pm
Lina Caneva
Social justice issues remain a major concern in Western Australia despite the Labor party’s landslide election victory at the weekend, according to the social services sector in that state.

Lina Caneva | 12 March 2017 at 6:35 pm


Social Justice Issues Remain High as Labor Sweeps into Power in WA
12 March 2017 at 6:35 pm

Social justice issues remain a major concern in Western Australia despite the Labor party’s landslide election victory at the weekend, according to the social services sector in that state.

The WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS) congratulated Labor leader Mark McGowan saying that now the election is over there is still significant work to be done.

The Labor party won in a landslide victory securing more than 40 seats in the lower house of Parliament, sweeping Colin Barnett’s Liberal government out of office after more than eight years.

WACOSS CEO Louise Giolitto told Pro Bono News: “There’s no denying that McGowan has become premier at a time when WA is facing some serious social and economic issues.”

“Mark McGowan and Labor did release policies around social justice and social reinvestment and we are very keen to work with them on that to make sure that it meets the community’s needs, especially Aboriginal communities.

“We need to rethink how we work with Aboriginal young people in particular and steer them away from the justice system and look at the deep entrenched trauma that has affected the aboriginal community.

“Labor does have a policy platform and we are keen to ensure that they work with the community service sector and especially the Indigenous communities on how that will look and operate.”

Giolitto said she was not surprised by the swing to Labor but she was surprised by the size of the swing.

“The Liberal government of Colin Barnett worked very cooperatively and had opened up communications with the community service sector and we have had a strong working relationship with the Barnett government and that shouldn’t be lost,” she said.

“In saying that one of the biggest reasons why [this occurred], is because of the growing level of unemployment and the growing level of inequality and poverty in this state.

“There is real concern amongst everyday families about the impact this is actually having on the community. Almost everyone you speak to knows someone who is doing it really tough and in this election the Barnett government had invested in the future of this state in infrastructure but there wasn’t enough focus on everyday Australians and the issues they are facing are around the growing cost of living plus growing unemployment.”

She said one of the first issues that the incoming government would need to deal with would be the significant funding uncertainty facing the community services sector with the end of a swathe of contracts and the future of the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) which is up in the air.

“Losing funding for these services will mean job losses, a decrease in available services, and more people experiencing significant hardship,” she said.

“All the funding ends in June so we have high hopes that now the Labor government will work very strongly with the community service sector to ensure the homelessness services will have guaranteed funding beyond June.

“WA is very open to the discussions about changing the model to the affordable housing part of the NAHA strategies as long as it is done in consultation with the sector so that there are no unintended consequences.”

Giolitto said it was very encouraging to hear Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison talking about not only affordable housing but affordable rental prices.

“It is really pleasing to see that change in the conversation. Because it is not just about affordable housing and people buying their first homes. That is still not a reality for many Australians,” she said.

“One of the messages we want to give to the incoming Labor government is that restoring the state budget must follow an inclusive course that does not look for repair at the cost of the most vulnerable people and disadvantaged in our community because that has also been a big part of the growing debt in this state and a big part of the election campaign on both sides.

“We need to see a serious investment in social housing in this state. We need funding for financial counsellors to be reinstated and increased. We need to make sure everyone is able to access high-quality health and legal services, regardless of where they live or what they earn.

“If we don’t do these things, we will see disadvantage and inequality become further entrenched in our state, which will cost us all so much more in the long run.”

McGowan is yet to reveal Labor’s position on WA’s future disability services delivery model and stand-alone, state-run National Disability Insurance Scheme.

However the federal Labor opposition has previously expressed concern that the proposed WA NDIS model could leave people with disability in Western Australia worse off.

In the week before the WA election, a damning trial evaluation report into the WA NDIS was released revealing it had surveyed just 21 participants.

The National Disability Insurance Agency ran the national trial and the Disability Services Commission managed the WA NDIS trial.

Inaugural chair of the NDIA Bruce Bonyhady said the evaluation, conducted by Stantons International and released by the WA government, failed to fulfil this commitment.

“The release of the evaluation report… which has been kept secret until now, confirms what was suspected: there is no authoritative evaluation available to support the decision to adopt the so-called WA NDIS,” Bonyhady said.

The criticism of the evaluation largely focuses on the fact that only 21 participants were surveyed out of more than 4,000 participants in each trial site.

Federal Minister for Social Services Christian Porter said the quality of the report was “not high enough”.

“I am aware that Western Australia placed a significant reliance on the report’s contents in reaching its long-standing determination to not join a full national NDIS delivery model,” Porter said.  

“The Commonwealth’s consistent position was a strong preference for WA to join the national NDIS delivery model and the quality of the report was not high enough to change the Commonwealth’s position.

“However, the Western Australian position was to insist on a stand-alone delivery model for WA, even if that was more expensive in budgetary terms to the state.

“Given that insistence from WA, agreement was sought to 11 non-negotiable conditions to ensure that the outcome in WA would be consistent on all the key elements including access, eligibility, reasonable supports, funding and full portability. The agreement ultimately reached provided for consistent services and support, but with the increased administrative expense not being borne by the Commonwealth.”

The Commonwealth and WA governments finalised their NDIS negotiations in February before the state government went into caretaker mode.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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