Commissioner for Kangaroo Island Bill

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I speak today on behalf of Dignity for Disability against the second reading of this bill. Dignity for Disability does so after very careful consideration, and with appreciation of the support that the majority of Kangaroo Island residents in particular have expressed for this bill. I would like to thank the persons of Kangaroo Island for expressing those opinions, either to my office or publicly, and I certainly understand their perspective and that they want the very best for their island and for everyone who calls KI home.

I would particularly like to thank the mayor of Kangaroo Island, Ms Jayne Bates, for making the time to come and meet with me here at Parliament House, and also to Matt Kandelaars from the Deputy Premier’s office for arranging a briefing with my office, and Kristina Roberts, the General Manager of the Kangaroo Island Futures Authority. However, in spite of these briefings and impassioned pleas to support this bill, and acknowledging once again that there are the numbers on this floor today to pass the bill regardless of Dignity for Disability’s opposition, we cannot support the establishment of a Kangaroo Island commissioner.

Let me elaborate as to why. We cannot, on principle, support it at a cost to taxpayers of around $1 million, when the same government will not support the establishment of a disability services commissioner, nor enshrine in legislation a community visitor scheme for people with disability, nor pass other pieces of legislation to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community living with disability.

The argument that Kangaroo Islanders have significant problems in integrating local, state and commonwealth government services may well be a very valid one, but I can assure you that the disability community has its own share of economic, social and systematic issues, and I would argue that they are far more serious. Given that one in five of us live with disability, I would argue that these issues affect more of us.

Kangaroo Island and its 4,600 residents (or thereabouts) are important members of the South Australian community—and I want to make that very clear—but they are not more important than the 300,000 South Australians with disabilities that range from mild to profound. According to the briefing my office received, 47 per cent of the 4,600 islanders currently live on the mainland. While poverty, illiteracy and the transport mobility challenges associated with living on an island are important, the fact that half of the islanders commute between the island and the mainland demonstrates, I believe, a reasonable level of wealth.

I am sure that people who are stuck on the island and those with disabilities, those with low literacy levels and those with limited job prospects need support but I do not know that a commissioner for Kangaroo Island is going to solve this, at least not alone. I think a management plan to thread the 1,000 plus services available could be established without a commissioner. I think relevant government services, whether it is the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) at commonwealth level, or the health department at a state level, or the Kangaroo Island Council for rubbish removal, for example, should provide relevant services in a relevant and collaborative manner.

I also note that I find this Kangaroo Island commissioner move particularly interesting, given that when I queried my colleague in this place, the Hon. Ian Hunter, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, about disability services or health services or education services for people in the APY lands, I am told that it is the Minister for Disability, say, not the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who is in charge of providing services. It seems that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is not responsible for ensuring that services provided to APY lands residents are done in an integrated fashion. Why then is it an appropriate answer for Kangaroo Island? Why isn’t the Minister for Social Housing responsible for ensuring that KI housing is relevant to islander needs? Why isn’t the disability minister charged with ensuring high standards of disability services are being provided on the island?

I call on members to also remember that some 45 per cent of people with disability currently live at or below the poverty line Australia-wide and that this same community is between four and seven times more likely to be sexually or physically abused in their lifetime than non-disabled peers. Kangaroo Islanders, as a whole, face no such shocking statistic, as far as I am aware. We need protections and commissioners in the disability community long before we establish a commissioner for one region of South Australia.

I think the potential vulnerability and social disadvantage of people with disability (in the Indigenous communities in particular) far outweighs the challenges that Kangaroo Island faces at this time and, for this reason, on behalf of Dignity for Disability, I cannot support this bill. I understand that this may be disappointing to some members here in the chamber today and to some members of the public, and I understand that I have a broad role as a member of parliament to represent, as best I can, the needs of all communities whom I do my best to represent. However, on certain issues, I believe that it is right for me to stand up and protect and attempt to enshrine the rights of my core constituency—that is, people with disabilities—and I do so today.