PM Stalls Disability Royal Commission
27 February 2019 at 4:12 pm
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for delaying calling a royal commission into the abuse of people with disability until he garners support from the states and territories.
Morrison has written a letter to state and territory leaders asking for them to back the probe, arguing the broad scope needed for the inquiry includes state-regulated areas and disability services provided before the National Disability Insurance Scheme was established.
“I think we can all agree that violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability is abhorrent and that we should be doing all that we can to ensure a safe and secure Australia,” Morrison wrote.
“I am now seeking your in-principle agreement for the establishment of a joint royal commission and the most appropriate consultation pathways to progress this important matter.”
Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have already thrown their support behind the inquiry, but Morrison will hold off announcing the commission until he hears back from every leader.
Here's the letter the PM sent to state and territory leaders asking for in-principle support for a royal commission into the disability sector. There would be cost-sharing arrangements. pic.twitter.com/2CG0REdFsh
— Henry Belot (@Henry_Belot) February 26, 2019
Labor and the Greens slammed the government for delaying action on the issue, and for asking state and territory leaders in the letter to consider “any cost sharing arrangements that may be appropriate” for the inquiry.
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John attacked the prime minister for trying to “pass the buck” on who foots the bill.
“It is time for the government to stop finding more excuses to delay taking the action they should have taken years ago,” Steele-John told Pro Bono News.
“There should not be a cost sharing arrangement with the states. The Commonwealth should foot the bill and we should get on with this inquiry.”
In a joint Labor statement, Tanya Plibersek, Mark Dreyfus, Linda Burney and Senator Carol Brown said it was a “cheapskate move” for the government to haggle with states and territories over commission funding.
“Scott Morrison continues to defer and delay, by trying to offload the cost of this royal commission onto the states and territories,” they said.
“This didn’t happen with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, nor the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety – why is this any different?”
Labor said it is committed to a fully federally funded royal commission and has pledged at least $26 million for the inquiry if elected.
While it is not yet known how much a disability inquiry would cost, the aged care royal commission is expected to cost nearly $100 million and the baking royal commission cost about $75 million.
But Morrison said on Wednesday that a disability royal commission should be of “a similar size and standing” to the $373 million child sexual abuse inquiry, which lasted five years.
A Royal Commission into abuse and misconduct in the disability sector now appears virtually certain, after the Prime Minister received support from another State for the proposal. @Fi_Willan #9NEws pic.twitter.com/2wKU0dRAdx
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) February 27, 2019
Therese Sands, co-CEO of People with Disability Australia and spokesperson for Disabled People’s Organisations Australia, warned that the question about who funds the royal commission should not delay its commencement.
“Previous royal commissions have not had to wait for other levels of government to agree to funding, so neither should we,” Sands told Pro Bono News.
“We urge politicians in every government across Australia to put people with disability first, and fund our royal commission at the level we need to get overdue justice for the violence, abuse and neglect we experience.”
Sands called on all governments to put politics aside and to provide the necessary support, funding and resourcing to ensure a wide-ranging commission is established.
“We have campaigned for a royal commission for many years, and we’re looking forward to working with the federal government to make the terms of reference inclusive of all people with disability,” she said.
“People with disability will also want our royal commission to have the considerable supports and resources we need to fully participate, including outreach, counselling, information and legal advice.”
A Senate inquiry recommended holding a royal commission in 2015, after finding widespread rates of violence and abuse against people with disability.
A Greens motion for a disability royal commission passed the lower house last week with government support, despite the Coalition initially using stalling tactics to block a vote on the issue.