International Day Of Disabled Persons

02 Mar 2005 speecharchive

This speech is to indicate that the liberal party support the International Day of Disabled Persons motion.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise on behalf of Liberal members to indicate that we also support this motion. I would like to preface my remarks by congratulating the Hon. Kate Reynolds for her role in highlighting the plight of people with disabilities in South Australia and, in particular, the organisation Dignity for Disabled. We have had a number of briefings in Parliament House, and Dignity for Disabled deserves commendation for raising the profile

The Hon. R.I. Lucas interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This is true; there have not been too many government members attending, and it would have been nice to see a few there.

The Hon. R.K. Sneath: I haven't seen you out there when I was at the spinal research barbecues.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have attended all the briefings that have been held here in Parliament House, but I will try not to be distracted by the Hon. Mr Sneath.

The PRESIDENT: That is very wise.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I think it has been very useful for all South Australians to be aware of the needs of people with disabilities. It is quite a difficult thing for someone without a disability to discuss issues for people with a disability, because we always run the risk of being patronis¬ing, so I apologise if any of my remarks do stray into that area.

In terms of diversity, which is part (a) of the second part of the motion, I recall, from my days working for Robert Lawson when he was minister for disability services, attending a number of arts functions organised for people with disabilities. In particular, I would like to highlight the High Beam festival and the arts group No Strings Attached who, I think, provide people with disabilities with a fabulous experience—certainly, the people who were involved obviously greatly enjoyed themselves at those functions. One of the participants in No Strings Attached—a girl by the name of Jane whose surname, unfortunately, escapes me just at the moment—was actually our instructor last year for the Christmas Pageant clown school. She assisted all of us to find our inner clown—although some might say that as a politi¬cian I did not need any assistance there—and she clearly had a great deal of experience in training people in drama and so forth.

I think it is hard for us to understand the barriers that people with disabilities experience, and for that reason alone I believe we need to recognise that people with disabilities probably have to try harder to get on in this world than we do. That brings me to part (b) of the motion—the barriers to employment, education and so forth. Throughout history, and in our society today, I think people who are different from others will always be treated a little bit differently. That is a shame, and we need to recognise that we have to embrace people who may be different from us and assist them so that they can fully participate in our society—and that would certainly meet the aims of social justice and full participation.

Some of those barriers do, indeed, become financial, as is addressed in part (c) of the motion, and I know several parents of people with disabilities and the struggles they go through just to maintain their lives. Frequently, carers are on a pension because the time they spend in caring necessarily prohibits them from having a full-time job and, perhaps, a greater financial income. It is particularly difficult for them, and they are heavily reliant on Centrelink payments and any other concessions they may be able to obtain.

Last year, I visited a lady called Margaret Skrypek and her daughter, Katrina. At that stage, Katrina was 23. She is severely physically and intellectually disabled. Several years ago, her mother had a car accident which resulted in spinal injuries. The government decided that Katrina was not high enough in the queue for a hoist, yet Margaret told me that the carers would not transfer Katrina by themselves but would always use two people. So, the underlying assumption was that Margaret could continue to struggle on by herself and continue to wear down her spine.

I thought that was not good enough, and I was pleased when the minister changed his decision. Margaret and Katrina now have a hoist and a high-low bed and are functioning much more easily. That is just one example of the things we can do. Margaret had almost accepted the fact that she did not receive a hoist, and I think that is typical of parents with disabilities. However, I was quite outraged that the govern¬ment could take this attitude towards its carers. In hospitals and throughout the health sector there is a `no lift' policy, so why one rule should apply to government employees and another to parents of people with disabilities was beyond me.

The Hon. Kate Reynolds: Out of sight out of mind.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Indeed. Similarly, another constituent, to whom I have referred anonymously in this place, wrote to the minister and received a reply from one of his advisers. My version had a `with compliments' slip stapled to it with no personal response. I hope that is not the standard the government adopts towards people who complain about their situation. I know that any parent would take on the task of caring for their child with a disability, but I do not think too many of us, with all our freedom, would trade places with them.

The third part of the motion calls upon the federal government to lead an active response to unmet need. We need to look at funding arrangements quite significantly. Work has been done on quantifying that need but, as is usual with state and commonwealth funding disagreements, there is a split between who funds what. In an ideal world, those sorts of arrangements should be amalgamated more effective¬ly so that people with disabilities receive a seamless service and obtain funding for that service.

I do not wish to be too political but, in rebutting the Hon. Gail Gago's contribution (in which she took a swipe at the funding activities of the last Liberal government), I say that South Australia was the first state to accept the common¬wealth's offer of funding for unmet need. Some of the Labor state governments held out, beat their chests and criticised us for doing so, but that was an historic event. Given that this government receives a great deal more funding from GST, land tax and other property taxes, it is quite amazing that it does not do mor, or attend briefings at Parliament House but I digress.

This motion has been on the Notice Paper for quite a while, and I think we need to deal with it, so I do not want to speak for much longer to it. However, as a community, I think we have come a long way in disability standards from the `activity therapy centres' of the eighties, as they were described, where people with disabilities were parked in front of television sets and treated like two year olds. I hope that we take a much more developmental approach so that people with disabilities can reach their full potential and participate actively in our community.