DISABILITY AMENDMENT BILL 2012 – Tuesday, 27 Mar 2012

Posted on 05. Apr, 2012 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I rise to speak on the Disability Amendment Bill 2012. This bill makes mainly administrative amendments to the Disability Act 2006. That act was a landmark piece of legislation initiated by the previous Labor government. As well as replacing the Disability Services Act 1991 the disability act repealed the Intellectually Disabled Persons’ Services Act 1986. We on this side of the house are rightly proud of the Disability Act. As well as treating a disability as a disability regardless of whether it was intellectual or physical, it enshrined in legislation the human rights of those people with a disability, including the right to quality services.

At this juncture it would be remiss of me not to mention that I come from a culture where traditionally disability is a matter of shame, of not wanting to reveal the extent of the disability and of hiding the member of your family away from being seen and so forth, so I am very proud to be part of this Parliament on this journey to keep improving the quality of life for the disabled.

Having said that, it would also be remiss of me not to pay tribute to one of the local services in my electorate that has done tremendous work in this area since its inception in 1984. I am referring to Waverley Industries, which is a non‑profit organisation that provides sheltered employment for over 250 disabled people. It provides a whole range of services. There is the manufacturing division, which specialises in point‑of‑sale displays, shopfitting fabrication, signage and rehabilitation products made from wood, perspex, metal and plastics. The company also has a catering services division, which specialises in providing customers with all their food and beverage catering needs at a competitive price. It also has a packaging division, which is located in Hallam.

I had the opportunity and occasion to visit Waverley Industries with the federal Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, the Honourable Bill Shorten, and it was very inspiring to see these people. I have never seen any group of workers so committed and so proud of their work, and the quality of the work was second to none. Their esprit de corps, commitment to their work and pride in their achievement was humbling, given their disability.

To be able to identify strongly with legislation that will enrich their quality of life is even more humbling. This bill, which the opposition does not oppose, speaks volumes about the fact that there will be a continuing need for us to respect and improve their quality of life. Any community can be assessed in terms of how it treats its disabled. I think that in the state of Victoria and in Australia generally we need have nothing but pride in the way we treat our disabled people. There are many parts of the world where disabled people are treated shoddily, treated very miserably and treated without dignity or respect.

In her second‑reading speech the minister made the right noises about better outcomes for clients. However, these need to be matched by resources. The minister needs to guarantee that, despite the government sacking 3600 staff, no front‑line jobs will disappear in the disability sector, as this would affect the rights of disabled people.

As I said, there are a number of administrative changes in this bill. I want to focus on two that are more than just technical. Firstly, clause 7 of the bill amends the eligibility requirements for membership of the disability services board. Section 20(3)(c) of the principal act, the Disability Act 2006, precludes from serving on the disability services board:

… disability service providers or disability service users or members of any association which acts as a representative, advocate or adviser for disability service providers or disability service users …

That is significant. This amendment will widen the pool of eligible appointees with expertise and a commitment to the disability field. I assume the original provision was to prevent a conflict of interest, which is very important. While a conflict of interest can be dealt with on a case‑by‑case basis, I hope the minister ensures that there are sufficient policies and guidelines in place so that board members understand that they must disqualify themselves from any matter in which they may have a conflict of interest.

Secondly, I want to pick up on the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee’s (SARC) Alert Digest No. 4 of 2012, in which the committee stated:

The committee will write to the minister seeking further information as to the compatibility of clauses 54 (which limits the existing regime for restrictive interventions to persons with a disability who are not on a treatment plan), 61 (which modifies the requirement for an independent person to explain all changes to behavioural support plans to the person with a disability) and 82 (which creates a new regime for restrictive interventions for persons with a disability who are on a treatment plan) with the charter rights of persons with a disability who are or may be subject to restrictive interventions other than restraint or seclusion.

As I understand it, what SARC is saying is that there are rigorous procedures set under legislation for restraint and seclusion. However, in regard to other forms of behaviour and support plans, the amendments in this bill mean that an independent person would only have to explain them to the individual concerned once annually. SARC is concerned that this engages the charter rights of persons.

To follow on from what SARC is saying, I assume a real‑life example would be behaviour modification. As part of a behaviour plan a client might receive time out, not be allowed to watch television or be denied an excursion. If this has to be explained to the client only once a year, then along with SARC I have concerns about human rights implications.

Owing to the time restriction I will now talk about the national disability insurance scheme, which lots of other members have touched on. As I mentioned earlier, this is a significant bill in that it pays respect to those in the disabled sector of our community. These people are the unsung heroes of our community, and we should treat them accordingly and respect their dignity.


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