What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Election with the Missing Disability Policies

It's Election Fever in Australia, the nation will be going to the polls on the 24th of November to elect a national government.
Did you know that there is only one political party in Australia (not counting the newly formed Carers Alliance) that has an actual disability policy?

I was surprised by this fact.
For many years, the two major parties – Labor and Liberal – have ruled this country, and neither seem to have found the need to have a comprehensive policy on disability issues. Or at least, none that I seem to be able to find on their publicly available websites.

I did a quick search this morning, and it is sad but true.

The Liberal Party has one statement on disability issues on their website. It announces the annual payment of $ 1,000 to people with a disabilities and their cares (about which I posted previously in the post Thanks But…) and the extension of the Utilities Allowance to all those receiving Carer Payment (but not Carer Allowance, the lower government subsidy, which is what most people qualify for). There is also an announcement of additional funding for people with a disability, but that is actually the same announcement as the thousand dollars one. Nothing else. Hmm. A bit minimal if you ask me. Here is a suggestion I will take to my local member and John Howard. There are nearly 4 million people with a disability in Australia (that is one in five Australians) and 2.6 million people (many parents) who care for them. Maybe we deserve a bit more of a coherent approach?

The Labor Party has nothing. Zero Zilch. Not a single reference to people with a disability or their carers. Guess if you don’t work in the monetary economy you don’t count much for labor. Here is a suggestion I will take to my local member and Kevin Rudd – move with the times and beyond the old divisions and be a bit more inclusive. Please.

The only major party that has a comprehensive policy is The Greens. And it’s a good one too. Yes, I have to declare that I am not entirely impartial. I am a member of The Greens, and I have briefly been a member of The Greens Disability Working Group (before baby Boo Boo was born, in the days that I actually had some time) and was involved in starting the review of the old policy. I cannot claim any credit for the actual policy, though, as I have not been involved in drafting it, bar maybe two e-mail I sent with my five cents worth on the first two drafts.

Anyway, it is an excellent policy. You can find the whole text on The Greens website, but here is the quote that makes this policy so good – finally a positive definition of disability:

"there are a variety of medical, societal and environmental reasons why peoples' individual abilities differ; disability arises when society fails to accommodate these differences and creates, or fails to remove, barriers to equitable access for all."

I admit to being a long-time Greenie, but I know they're not everybody's cup of tea. But it seems to me that if you have a disability, or are a carer for someone with a disability, the major parties are not interested in you or your vote. In a political climate like that, is anyone really surprised by the formation of the Carers Alliance? I have my reservations over their emphasis on carers over people with a disability (although I wholeheartedly support their efforts to give carers a voice), but I feel tempted to join their party. Something to think about.

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