Friday, 2 March 2012

Disability: Always the Policy Backwater

In the wake of Rudd’s departure as foreign minister, comes the news that former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr will be appointed as his successor. Behind this headline is the far more distressing news that the current Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services, Jan McLucas has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary (in addition to her existing portfolios), arguably the most demanding position for anyone outside the Ministry.

So is the Prime Minister really serious when she suggests that she is committed to disability reform, despite the lack of merit in the NDIS? Gillard supposedly regards it as ‘...the biggest reform since Medicare’, at least rhetorically. This evidence suggests otherwise.

I’m reminded of a piece I wrote for RampUp in January last year:
In political terms, the members of government who are assigned to look after the Disability portfolio usually fit into two distinct categories. The first type is often seen as dead political wood whose lack of talent cannot be scrutinised by the media due to the portfolio's low profile (see the various successions of office holders in the Howard Government). Alternatively, the position is given to an up and coming political talent who is not quite ready to be promoted in to the Ministry and is assigned to Disability as a stop gap measure until they gain more experience (for example, Bill Shorten). In both cases this demonstrates that disability policy does not have the respect it is entitled to… 
Disability policy in this country is a classic case of all talk and no action. Governments trumpet increases of funding to show the public that they are compassionate. They expect people with disabilities to be thankful to them for being so generous. When the support I require just to go to the toilet each year actually does cost the same as a mortgage on an average house, I'll be thankful. Until then I remain skeptical.
The announcement today just further illustrates these points.

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