The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, representing the Minister for Disability, a question about correspondence on disability issues.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: A constituent of mine whom I will not name but who will be well known to the minister’s office has been in contact with me in relation to her situation. I have not had a chance to discuss raising this matter and using her name, therefore, I will be happy to provide copies of this correspondence to the minister’s office.
She is the mother of a severely disabled daughter who is 27 years old, and who had brain injury at birth which has given her physical and intellectual disabilities. She also has life-threatening epilepsy, and has high health care needs.
This young lady lives at home with her mother and receives a package of care which originally provided 60 hours per week of support. The funding now pays for only 30 hours of support. I understand that these people have been at the top of the crisis list for additional funding for the past 2½ years;
in that time the family has fallen into times of crisis. This lady has written to the minister, the Hon. Jay Weatherill. In a letter dated 16 October she raised a number of issues with the minister. I also wrote a letter on their behalf on 27 October this year, and I received an acknowledgment of that letter on 29 November stating:
The Minister for Families and Communities, Housing, Ageing and Disability. . . has asked me to acknowledge your letter of 27 October. . . on behalf of [this family] regarding funding. The minister has also received a letter from [Ms X] and is having the matters raised examined. We will forward a copy of his response to you at the earliest opportunity.
I was somewhat surprised to receive a photocopy of a letter addressed from a Grace Portolesi, Chief of Staff to the Minister for Disability, which I received on 23 November. It is addressed to the constituent, and it states:
Dear [Ms X]
Thank you for your letter of 16 October. . . concerning your daughter. While he does appreciate your difficulties the minister is not able to meet with individual clients to take on ‘case management’ issues.
If you believe you are being treated unfairly by IDSC, your situation can be investigated. I would also encourage you to continue working with IDSC as the relevant case-management agency.
My questions to the minister are:
1. Is this the format in which members of parliament can now expect to receive responses from the Minister for Disability?
2. Is the minister going to now take the tack of replying to people who are caring for people with disabilities in this manner: ‘I’m not interested in case management issues’?
3. When was this policy changed?
I note that the previous minister (Hon. Stephanie Key) had written a much more fulsome reply dated 29 May 2003. It is certainly not my understanding that such short and curt letters are in order.
The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation): I will refer those questions to the minister in another place and bring back a reply. I add that the minister himself, whom I know personally and have for a long time, is a very caring minister. He has done all he can within his own portfolios to carry the issues associated with disabilities into the cabinet and this parliament to try to get the funding that was so badly needed because of the slow starting point from which the budget process had to commence.
We were coming off a program that needed a large injection of funds. The minister has carried that into the cabinet adequately and, over time, programs will be put in place so that this state will catch up with the rest of the states after lagging behind for some considerable time.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. Can the minister advise whether this is an acceptable form of response to members of this parliament to have a ‘With Compliments’ slip and a photocopied letter in response to genuine requests?
The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: I am not sure. If the honourable member wants to show me afterwards, I might proffer an opinion and take it back to the minister in relation to the complaint made. Each department has its own way of dealing with correspondence and there may have been reasons for that correspondence to be drafted in that way.