Advocates evaluate Election policies from parties and independents

Posted 2 years ago by Anna Christian
Commitments from parties and candidates across the political spectrum have been analysed by disability advocates. [Source: AdobeStock]
Commitments from parties and candidates across the political spectrum have been analysed by disability advocates. [Source: AdobeStock]

Just over a week out from the Federal Election, peak advocacy groups for people with disability are assessing policies and ranking some of the key contenders.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has put together a survey report on the responses of major political parties and independent candidates to its election platform.

The candidates were asked about 18 commitments across seven areas of life: health and wellbeing; employment and financial security; inclusive homes and communities; safety, rights and justice; National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) reforms; education and learning; and community attitudes.

PWDA says the Greens and independent Andrew Wilkie committed to almost all of its requests for change, while the Labor Party and Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie were at least partially committed to most of the ideas.

Samantha Connor, President of PWDA, says the organisation’s policy team reviewed and evaluated the responses as well as any commitments made during the Election campaign to come up with the report.

“While a range of commitments have been made by various parties and candidates, the Greens and independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, have demonstrated very clear and worthwhile support across pretty much all the issues outlined in PWDA’s election platform, so they get the most thumbs up from us,” says Ms Connor.

“Their positions in relation to increasing financial security for people with disability and extending the NDIS to people over 65 years of age are of key interest.

“In close pursuit is Labor and Centre Alliance candidate for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie.

“Labor has provided very positive commitments across several key areas including the NDIS, housing and employment.

“In particular, Labor’s plan for a better future for the NDIS is a comprehensive plan that responds well to what people with disability and our families have been calling for.

“Ms Sharkie is giving full or partial commitments across most areas, including increasing the Disability Support Pension to levels people with disability can live on.”

While other parties and candidates have not addressed as many areas of the campaign, Ms Connor says the Liberal/National Coalition and independent Member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, did still offer some positive responses.

“The Coalition has confirmed it will continue to deliver on its existing commitments in relation to disability but has not noted any new commitments,” she says.

“Ms Steggall has backed better responses to the COVID-19 pandemic for people with disability and an end to age discrimination on the NDIS.”

PWDA has produced a scorecard comparing the parties and candidates involved in the report, which can be found on their website, and will update this comparison if any further commitments are made.

Election requests from some advocates not addressed

The requests of key advocacy groups have been overlooked during the Election campaign, particularly the issues Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) have raised.

Executive Director of WWDA, Carolyn Frohmader, says, “Until this country is prepared to address the segregation, seeing people with disability as ‘other’, then we will never ever stop this epidemic that is violence and abuse against women and girls with disability.”

WWDA’s platform asks for change to support women, girls, feminine-identifying and non-binary people with disability in the areas of:

  • Safety from all forms of gender-based violence
  • The NDIS
  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • Climate change, emergency planning and disaster mitigation
  • Economic security
  • Leadership and decision-making

Some of the more general aspects of the platform, such as lifting the Disability Support Pension above the poverty line and reviewing the eligibility criteria of the NDIS, have been shared by other advocacy groups and addressed by some of the candidates.

However, WWDA’s more specific requests around improving the lives of women and non-binary people with disability have not been discussed by candidates.

These include developing an NDIS Gender Strategy and a trauma-informed approach within the Scheme, making it illegal for children to be sterilised or for adults to be forcibly sterilised, and addressing forced contraception.

The full WWDA platform can be found on the organisation’s website.

Meanwhile, CYDA’s calls for truly inclusive education have not been addressed by the major political parties.

Although parties have discussed getting young people into higher education, work, and involvement in co-designing the systems they use, these discussions have not included a specific focus on what can be done to better support young people with disability.

CYDA’s full election platform is also available on its website.

COVID-19 recovery a key issue for the elected Government

National disability organisations have collectively been calling for a COVID-19 recovery plan that protects people with disability to be implemented by whichever party forms Government after the Election.

The organisations say the plan needs to address the harm caused to the disability community during the pandemic, be a blueprint for the future, and address the needs of people with ‘Long COVID’.

The COVID-19 Recovery Plan is being endorsed and advocated for, by:

  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  • First Peoples Disability Network Australia
  • Inclusion Australia
  • Disability Advocacy Network Australia
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
  • People with Disability Australia
  • Women with Disabilities Australia

Together, the organisations have created a plan for the next Government to implement, with the key factors being increased health services to address the harm caused, accessible information from the Federal Government, an extension of the Disability Royal Commission and acceptance of its recommendations, and a continuation of remote school and work arrangements for those who need them.

NEDA Policy Officer, Dominic Golding, says, “The pandemic isn’t over for our community and we need a Recovery Plan to make sure people with disability are not left behind.

“Migrant and refugee people with disability need specific information, services and support to keep our community safe from COVID-19.”

Inclusion Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Catherine McAlpine, says the plan must also support people with intellectual disability.

“People with an intellectual disability are at high risk from COVID-19, and many have missed out on essential supports during the pandemic,” says Ms McAlpine.

“We want all disability support providers to ensure that people with disability can access support during an emergency.

“People with an intellectual disability must also have equal access to healthcare if they get COVID-19, as well as vaccines.”

The full COVID-19 Recovery Plan suggested by the organisations can be read on Inclusion Australia’s website.