Parliament: Speeches on Bills

Supply Bill

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I rise today to place on the record some comments about the Supply Bill 2011 which, of course, provides interim funding to keep the state’s Public Service afloat until the budget and Appropriation Bill have been passed in this and, indeed, the other place.

First, I indicate that I will be supporting the bill, as the Public Service must be able to operate in order to provide services to the people of this state. However, I must say that I am somewhat disappointed that the government needs to introduce this bill at all. It would be preferable to be speaking to the actual budget bill and its associated Appropriation Bill, but it seems that the government has not quite got its act together to this extent as yet.

I cannot help but think that this government may not be spending our money effectively. I often think, for example, about those people who are fit for discharge but are stuck in our hospitals waiting for in-home support. For many of these people it costs much more to keep them in hospitals. I thought that it was all taxpayers’ money, but the silo mentality of the Department of Health and the Department for Families and Communities means that, if the DFC budget does not stretch far enough to pay for the in-home support, then the person will be left waiting in hospital relying on health budget’s purse.

This government does not get it. Whether it be funds provided to the DFC or the Department of Health, it is all our money; it is all one purse. I would like to take the opportunity to remind this government to think long and hard about the way in which it is spending our money and to recognise that it is letting some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens down, while, at the same time, flittering away hundreds of millions of dollars on football stadiums and the like.

One only needs to look at the unmet needs data to realise that this government is letting people with disabilities down, to say the least. For example, this government is further disabling the 1,117 people with disabilities who are waiting for the government to provide them with supported accommodation. This includes people like Tiffany, who has been on a priority 1 waiting list for more than 12 months and who has been told by the department that it will take years to find the accommodation that she needs.

It is further disabling the 993 people with disabilities who are waiting for the government to provide personal support services. This includes people like Rebecca, who has been waiting in hospital for nearly one year for additional in-home support. It is further disabling the 599 people with disabilities who are waiting for this government to provide with community support such as therapy services. It is further disabling the 344 people who are waiting for this government to provide them with community access programs such as day options and recreational holiday programs.

It is further disabling the 429 people who are waiting for the government to provide them with respite. This includes people like Tanya, who has a child with significant disabilities, but has only had respite once in the past five months. It is further disabling those people with intellectual disabilities who will be forced to transfer their funds from Disability SA Trust Management to the Public Trustee. This may seem harmless; however, as I have touched on earlier in this place, this decision could result in disability support pensioners paying thousands of dollars in additional charges each year.

It is further disabling the 10 students with disabilities from Trinity Gardens School who have lost their accessible school bus and will now have to rely on the already overstretched access cab service. This government is further disabling Carolyn, who has an intellectual disability and is unable to use public transport; nonetheless, she is ineligible for Journey to Work Scheme vouchers and is therefore forced to spend $200 a week on taxis. This government is further disabling people with disabilities like Charmaine, who is waiting for the government to provide her with orthopaedic shoes. This government is further disabling the families and loved ones of people with disabilities—people like Christine, who is worried about what will happen to her sister when her ageing parents, who have provided a lifetime of care and support to their daughter, are unable to care for her sister.

This government is further disabling the hundreds of people who wanted to use access cabs last Christmas Day but were unable to make a booking because there are only 90 wheelchair-accessible taxis to service 6,800 people. This government is further disabling people with MS and Parkinson’s Disease, for instance, who have heat intolerance, as a result of their disability, and cannot afford cooling costs. This government is further disabling young people who are forced to live in nursing homes—people in their 20s living with people in their 90s.

I could clearly go on all day about how this government is further disabling people with disabilities in South Australia, but I think what I have said here today paints enough of a picture to show that the government is letting our people down. I appreciate that this government, in the last budget, did provide additional funds for people with disabilities. It provided an additional $4.2 million for people with autism, plus an additional $70.9 million over four years for Disability SA, plus an additional $13.8 million over four years to reduce the equipment waiting list. However, this additional money does not seem to even touch the surface. This money seems to be a drop in the ocean compared with what is really needed.

There are thousands of people in this state who are in crisis because their needs have been ignored for too long, and an additional $88.9 million in the disability budget does little to assist these people. Frankly, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am incensed that this government is happy to spend $535 million on a sports stadium while offering an additional $88.9 million to help people with disabilities live a full and dignified life, as we all hope to do and have the right to do.

The government accepts that there is a significant level of demand for disability services in South Australia, which is rapidly growing and will continue to grow, particularly as the population ages. I cannot help but note that as this level of unmet need grows so does the quagmire of despair and, as the quagmire deepens, the problems are becoming more entrenched, more difficult to overcome. So, as I said, I cannot help but think that this government may not be using our money effectively and is therefore playing a bizarre type of ‘human lottery’ with the life of our fellow South Australians with disabilities.

I am all for choice and autonomy and I would therefore not usually dare to assume that I speak for all people in the disability community, but I think that, in this instance, it is pretty safe to assume that I speak for all of us when I say that we have had enough. We have had enough of going without the very basics which we need in order to live and enjoy the same intrinsic dignity and rights which are afforded to our non-disabled peers. We have had enough of this government saving itself some precious cash by relying on unpaid family carers, including ageing parents, to take care of people with disabilities until they are too old, too frail or too dead to do so.

We have had enough of living in a South Australia where families even have to consider, and sometimes proceed with, relinquishing a child or loved one with disabilities in order to give the family a chance to be a family instead a mere team of carers. We have had enough of people with disabilities not being afforded control and autonomy over their own disability funding and therefore their own life. But most of all, we have had enough of people with disabilities being told constantly, time and time again, to wait—wait for the results of this report and then another report; wait for a reply from the minister’s office; and, most of all, wait for next year’s budget.

So, yes, Mr President, the government is spending our money ineffectively when it comes to disability. Yes, we need a complete paradigm shift in the way in which the system is managed and services are delivered, such as self-managed funding and a national disability insurance scheme, which I, of course, have touched on previously in this place many times and will continue to do so. We need this government to address the silo mentality which exists between the health and disability budgets so that people with disabilities are no longer treated like boomerangs, constantly being tossed back and forth between the two. Broadly speaking, we need a disability services system which enables us, not further disables us. But what we also need, as well as this long-term systematic change, is this government—and in fact every member in this place here today—to join me in standing up and saying ‘Enough is enough.’

People with disabilities are among the most disadvantaged, both socially and economically, in this so-called rich country in which we live. South Australia, and indeed the nation, has the opportunity to demonstrate best practice and become a world leader in disability care and service provision. We have the opportunity to do that right now, yet this government continues to ignore that amazing opportunity, and we continue living in a state in which people with disabilities feel—and are—disadvantaged, mistreated, frustrated, desperate, shunned, ignored and shut out. Yes, we need planning and forward thinking—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Ms Vincent—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Take it outside!

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Yes, we need planning and forward thinking, such as that which is proposed by Monsignor David Cappo and the Social Inclusion Board with their blueprint for the future of disability services. We also need this government to recognise that without immediate change in the form of funding, the tragic fact is that people with disabilities will not actually have much of a future, just the woeful status quo.

As the government is well aware, the Productivity Commission recently handed down its draft report into the feasibility of implementing a national disability insurance scheme in Australia. Not only that, the productivity commissioners—who, as I understand it, are usually known for being somewhat economically conservative—recommend the implementation of an NDIS, despite the fact that it would require an extra $6.3 billion; that is, a doubling of the current disability budget. They also recommended an urgent and immediate injection of funds to address the crisis in the sector, and address it now.

In light of this, I would like to conclude by demanding that this government not only listen to me, not only listen to people with disabilities all around this state, but also listen to its own Productivity Commission, which says that enough is enough. I once again call on this government and its Treasurer to clear the disability unmet needs waiting list—and, clearly, the government must do this now, unless, of course, it is willing to look its citizens with disabilities squarely in the eye and tell them outright that it is going to willingly deny them their futures. If the government is willing to do this through inadequate funding and constant inaction and resistance to change, then, simply put, it would seem that my beloved state is perhaps not as great as I thought she was.

With that, I implore that what I have just said be treated as more than rhetoric and empty words because to me, to my party, and to anyone within the disability community who understands the issues and sentiments I have just described, they are so much more. These words are our lives, these words are our hope, these words are our present, and only the government can write our future.