Monday, 24 October 2011
Disability Equipment and Services
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I put on the record my support for the Hon. Ms Lensink’s motion to establish a select committee. I, and many if not most of the people in the disability community, are concerned by the necessity of one-off funding for disability services in South Australia. However, from the outset I stress that, if established, the committee must not be used as a vehicle for a witch-hunt against the then minister for disability or the Julia Farr Association.
I have spoken with Robbi Williams at Julia Farr, who told me that as far he was concerned the Julia Farr Association (JFA) has acted above board in all the circumstances. I also met with the former minister for disability, the Hon. Mr Weatherill, yesterday and I must say that I am satisfied that there is nothing sinister about these two payments made to JFA. The former disability minister advised me that he effectively put up his hand for surplus moneys that were found to be in the government coffers toward the end of the financial year.
From my reading of the Auditor-General’s Report and discussions with the minister, these funds were distributed to a non-government organisation because it was too late in a budget cycle for the department to purchase the equipment and there was a risk that, if the moneys were not spent, they would not be carried on to the next budget cycle. I understand that, whilst Julia Farr was not a provider or distributor of equipment, it was provided with the funding for equipment, that the department then purchased the equipment and invoiced Julia Farr for the cost of that equipment.
a run-down of this in the other place, outlining what equipment was bought with the funds, although I must say that I am still concerned at the slow rollout of the funds. Therefore, the government should not be worried about this inquiry. If it has acted in good faith to improve the situation for people with disabilities, that will come to light in the proposed committee’s report.
While I think that it is great that the government sought to use surplus funds for the funding of equipment, I cannot accept that there were and still are people waiting for equipment in this state, and it seems as though the government is treating our people with contempt by expecting us to wait for budget surpluses before funding much needed equipment that is essential for people with disabilities, equipment that will enable us to live full and meaningful lives. The government must stop treating people with disabilities as charity cases who are fed only the scraps.
The government must put these people as a high priority on its list. These people have the right to services and equipment. It is a disgrace that people in this state are waiting for lifters, wheelchairs and handrails, just as people are waiting on the unmet needs list for some in-home support, accommodation and respite. These are essential items and services, not luxuries, and must be funded appropriately, in view of the need that is out there.
That is where we come to the second point of the inquiry in Ms Lensink’s proposed committee—and this is the point that I am interested in exploring further—that is, the appropriateness of one-off funding commitments for disability services in comparison to increased recurrent expenditure. While it may look good for the government to clear unmet needs waiting lists, quite frankly, it is ridiculous that these waiting lists are so long that the government tries to score a few cheap points by clearing them.
The government needs to look at the crisis in our community now. It needs to ensure that disability services are adequately funded both now and in the long-term so that we do not have people who are waiting for funding. If the government wants to make a real commitment to people with disabilities, it will ensure that disability services and equipment are equally funded. One-off funding should be used for one-off projects, not the provision of disability equipment and services in this state.
As Ms Lensink has so rightly pointed out, we cannot continue to drip-feed people with disabilities with one-off grants and the associated media circus and self-congratulatory backslapping that goes along with it. It is about time that we looked at the appropriateness of one-off funding commitments for disability services in comparison to increased recurrent expenditure, and that is why I support this motion.