In view of the Labor landslide, the need to hold the state government to account and dealing with the Federal Government’s attempts to weaken the NDIS
By Senator Jordon Steele-John
The last couple of months have seen some really big changes happen in WA ‒ changes that are bad for our climate, bad for those in our community who are most at risk and, frankly, bad for our democracy.
But, before I reflect further on that, I would like to reiterate just how proud I am of our state election campaign. We knocked on more doors and made more phone calls than we’ve ever done before, having thousands of meaningful conversations around the state about the things that matter to us. We should be proud of our result too; no one could have predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have had on electoral politics here in WA and in that context, the Greens (WA) held our ground.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Alison Xamon, Diane Evers and Tim Clifford, our incredible MPs who will sadly not be returning to state parliament, for their contribution over the last four years on a huge range of issues from homelessness and housing, to mental health and disability rights, political integrity and industrial relations, to climate change and protecting our beautiful South West forests. You have gone above and beyond; I can’t thank you enough.
I would also like to thank Robin Chapple who has served as our MP for the North of our beautiful state since 2001, leaving behind an incredible legacy of protecting our unique and precious places, advocating for regional communities and working with First Nations people to preserve heritage.
The McGowan Labor government has managed to win a majority in both houses of our state parliament; holding them to account matters now, more than ever before. They are in an unprecedented and enviable position of being able to pass legislation but we know from experience that they will not use this opportunity to take meaningful action on climate change, address inequality and end the housing crisis, or our overhaul our electoral laws to ban corporate donations, making politics fairer for all.
With Brad in parliament as our new member for South Metro, and more than a decade of experience behind him as the Mayor of Fremantle, we can continue to speak up on the issues that matter to us and hold Labor to account. As a movement, I know that we will continue to do the important grassroots work to grow genuinely progressive politics in this country.
In my office, our major focus over the last little while has been building our campaign to fix the NDIS. The Morrison government has proposed a raft of changes to the scheme which will significantly harm disabled people. From leaked documents, we’ve discovered that the internal goals of these changes ‒ contrary to the publicly stated aims ‒ are to reduce funding to people’s NDIS plans and, where possible, kick people off the scheme altogether!
The worst of these proposed changes are called ‘Compulsory Independent Assessments’. Although the Morrison government claims the purpose is to ensure that every disabled person has the same opportunity to access the NDIS, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Can you imagine trying to explain every facet of your life to a stranger in just 3 hours? For a disabled person who has spent their entire life fighting back against a medical system that discriminates against them, slowly building trust with individuals who understand their complex and often varied support needs this prospect is terrifying.
There is currently a trial of independent assessments underway yet the Morrison government has already issued almost $340 million worth of contracts to private companies to administer them, leaving many to rightly question whether there is any intention of genuinely listening to the feedback from these trials or consulting with disabled people.
Over the last two weeks the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS has held public hearings into Independent Assessments in Melbourne and Perth, with the evidence overwhelmingly finding that the Morrison government should immediately halt the current trial process. There was particularly damning evidence from Professor Bruce Bonyhady, one of the original architects of the NDIS, who labelled independent assessments as “robo-planning” with the potential to “blow up the scheme”. We also heard clearly from First Nations people that independent assessments would further perpetuate systemic racism in the scheme, making it even more difficult for First Nations people ‒ particularly those living on country and in remote areas ‒ to access the supports and services they need to live a good life.
As we prepare to head back to Canberra for the Federal budget in a couple of weeks time, it’s important to remember that even though the Morrison government is promising an “anti-austerity” budget, this does not mean they’ll be winding back their punitive economic policies that disproportionately impact disabled people, First Nations people, CALD communities, our LGBTIQ+ communities and women. It’s much more likely that we’ll see even more corporate handouts and subsidies for the billionaires and big corporations that will only serve to further entrench inequality in this country!
This is why ‒ despite a disheartening state election result ‒ our movement has to keep fighting, together for a better future for all of us!
Header photo: At the Women's March 4 Justice in Canberra featuring our federal MPs, from left to right: Jordon, Mehreen, Adam, Larissa, Janet, Rachel, Nick, Lidia. Tim Oliver