Greens Call to Extend Royal Commission to Disability Sector
19 September 2018 at 4:35 pm
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John says he “will not rest” until the aged care royal commission is expanded to cover the disability sector, despite concerns this would “dilute” the effectiveness of the inquiry.
Steele-John unsuccessfully moved a motion on Wednesday to broaden the royal commission to include the abuse, neglect and violence of people with disability in institutional and residential settings.
He said a huge opportunity had been missed, and waiting longer for a separate, second royal commission would ultimately lead to more deaths in the disability community.
“The time for justice is now,” Steele-John said.
“Since  there have been 500 complaints made to the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline… [and] people in my community are dying because this is not being addressed.
“The workforces of both sectors overlap, as do the service providers and the advocates in the space. If the shoe were on the other foot so to speak, I would be right here arguing that older Australians should be included in a royal commission exclusively looking into the disability sector.”
On Tuesday evening, Steele-John fought back tears in the Senate chamber, as he listed the names of 34 Australians with disability who had died through abuse and neglect.
“These are the names that don’t get spoken,” he said.
“These are the human beings. These are the loved ones, the mothers, the fathers, the sons and the partners who need justice, who demand justice, whose lives were worth living, in whose memory I tonight wear a white flower and whose passing fills me with an ironclad determination.
“I will not stop and I will not rest until they find the justice that is so desperately owed them.”
The tears I shed in the chamber today were for all those whose suffering has been met with silence for so long.
— Senator Jordon Steele-John (@Jordonsteele) September 17, 2018
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Tuesday the government did not believe expanding the scope of the recently announced royal commission would be helpful.
“It is a very focused inquiry, it’s important that we keep the focus of the inquiries,” Morrison said.
“If they become an inquiry into everything, they become too broad. I want to ensure that this inquiry remains very focused so it can give us some very clear direction.”
Disability organisations also pushed back against including the disability sector in the inquiry.
A joint statement by Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) and Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) said “only a targeted disability royal commission will deliver the change we need to stop the violence”.
“People with disability have the right to a stand-alone and targeted royal commission that will interrogate and address the full scope of violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability,” the statement said.
Only a targeted #disability Royal Commission will deliver the change we need to stop the violence https://t.co/lDQLDYpzZW Statement from: @DPOAustralia@NEDA_PeakBody @CDA39 @FPDNAus @WWDA_AU pic.twitter.com/IkxNhr2006
— PWD Australia (PWDA) (@PWDAustralia) September 19, 2018
National Disability Services (NDS) added that extending the royal commission to a different sector, with a different operating model, would unnecessarily lengthen the duration and complexity of the inquiry and would “most likely muddy rather than clear the waters”.
NDS CEO Chris Tanti said: “The aged care and disability service sectors are different: the regulations that govern them, the funding models, the practices and philosophies are not the same.
“Extending the aged care royal commission to the disability sector would complicate the inquiry, dilute its effectiveness and double its duration, thus potentially delaying action for years.”
Tanti said it would be more beneficial for the government to take immediate action by implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Quality and Safeguarding system nationwide, as planned, and ensuring it operated effectively.
Responding to these comments, a spokesperson for Senator Steele-John told Pro Bono News it was “ridiculous” to say broadening the inquiry would dilute it, but said rather it would ensure “no stone was left unturned”.
The spokesperson also noted the quality and safeguards framework only covered 10 per cent of the disability community.
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John has called for the disability sector to be included in the royal commission. @Jordonsteele: We know this nation has a systemic problem with the violence, abuse and neglect of those with disabilities.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) September 18, 2018
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the opposition believed it would not be useful to extend the inquiry, but said Labor would push for a separate royal commission into the disability sector if elected.
“I do think [Senator Steele-John] is making an important point… that the problems are not limited to just the aged care sector,” Bowen told Radio National Breakfast.
“There has been instance after instance of [abuse] of people with disability, [but] I do think they are separate issue deserving of separate royal commissions.”