Mercure Hotel Sydney, 30 August 2013

On behalf of People with Disability Australia I’d like to welcome you to tonight’s election forum whether you are joining us here at the Mercure Hotel in Sydney or tuning in via the webcast right around Australia.

I want to acknowledge that we are meeting on the lands of indigenous people and we respect their elders.

Tonight we’re bringing together the disability community and a great political panel in a conversation about the future.

I acknowledge Senator Jan McLucas, Senator Mitch Fifield and Senator Rachel Siewart. How great is it to have the main parties in the room talking disability a week away from the election!
This is a first for us and speaks volumes about support across the aisle in Canberra. Thank you.

We’ve got a fantastic MC, Tim Ferguson. Tim is a widely acclaimed comedian, writer and producer. He’s toured the world performing stand-up and musical comedy, co-writing dozens of live stage comedy shows and light entertainment programmes.

Tim was a member of comedy trio The Doug Anthony Allstars. He has written and produced sitcoms, and is Australia’s foremost teacher of screen comedy.

I’m also delighted to be joining a great panel with Joan Hume OAM who is a Founding and Life Member of People with Disability Australia; Former Director of PWD; and a current Director of Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

I welcome Sam Connor Member of NDIS Expert Committee on Workforce Development and Sector Capacity; and Member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability WA. Diva’s don’t come any bolshier than Sam!

Tonight isn’t just a debate – it’s a conversation and a place to ask questions & get involved. If you’re on social media send us your questions. The hashtag is #pwdaqanda and there is also an event happening right now on our Facebook page.

We’re doing this because it’s a vital election as we consolidate the reforms around disability driven by thousands of advocates from across Australia over the last few years.

PWD was started in the International Year of People with Disability in 1981 so we know how easy it is for disability to fall off the radar.

That is why we have been working hard, building bridges and setting agendas in the lead up to this election

We have visited more than 30 candidates, Members and Senators, including people in leadership positions from The Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Labor Party and The Greens.

We have held seven social media forums since January to spark a community conversation.

When they stopped the petition on we started a new one and worked to reframe the discussion on jobs.

We have been talking directly to the people in the press and online. In The Australian, The ABC, The Financial Review and Fairfax online.

We have given countless interviews and spoken at events, from the ACOSS election launch to the ABC Peoples Parliament.

We have developed a PWDA Disability Election Platform 2013 with four priorities based on what you told us. We have ideas and solutions; not just a wish list or a set of complaints.

These are to Get Real on Jobs, Deliver DisabilityCare, Stop the Abuse and Make the Convention Real.

It is appropriate that we launch the policy on the Convention tonight. Work on the Convention was bipartisan.

It started under the Howard Government. When I met with Phillip Ruddock two months back we acknowledged the energy and the effort that he had made in New York.

And the National Disability Strategy to make the convention real and pull levels of Government together was initiated by Kevin Rudd and then launched by Julia Gillard.

I believe disability rights cuts across the divide.

It’s not our way to take sides in elections and we never will.

Our project in disability has never been narrow.

Neither is it about creating a culture of “care”, even though there are entitlements that are a fulcrum in our lives.

We know better than anybody - with the possible exception of first Australians - that the wrong kind of care - can be the care that drags you down.

Disability rights is about freedoms, rights and responsibilities.

Freedoms from abuse, neglect, violence and places that trap us. Freedom to purchase our own services. Freedom to control our lives and to make our own decisions rather than having them made for us.

Reagan said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction; some of us can remember within our lives being shut in, shut out and shut away in places like Lumeah. And some of us are still stuck behind walls.

Our project is also about rights - to access the places and spaces that other people take for granted. To justice and a fair go.

We don’t want to shirk responsibility – we embrace it:

  • Responsibilities to be part of work, volunteering, community and as citizens.
  • To create our own families, including for mums and dads with an intellectual disability.
  • To participate in all areas of Australian life. Getting on the bus going to school, going to work, being volunteers and being campaigners, buying or renting a house.
  • These might seem ordinary, but for some of us, they are the green light we run towards.

The campaign for an NDIS is what happens when we work together and find common cause on these things.

But our battle isn’t won:

  • It’s not over while Australia ranks last in the OECD in poverty and employment of people with disability;
  • It’s not over while we have inaccessible buses and taxis that leave people stranded in the rain for hours;
  • It’s not over when getting a mammogram or going to the GP is too hard because the chair is too high;
  • It is not over while we have people trapped in lives of desperation and violence in boarding houses;
  • It is not over while people earn a few dollars an hour for hard work in a factory just because they have a disability.
  • It is not over while children are locked out of schooling, tied down or segregated in cages.
  • It’s not over while people say we might as well be dead and the media reports murder as mercy.
  • It’s not over while an indigenous person with disability can spend a decade in jail without charge as a result of having a disability

That's what's at stake. That's why we’re here tonight.

But if we can keep going, join your political parties, call talk back radio shows, talk to your candidates, sign petitions, call out businesses or depts that don’t step up; if you comment on blogs; spread the word on Facebook and Twitter; if you make the case with your friends, families, neighbours, if you get on board with PWD to campaign with us, to join with us and fight with us then – we will not just land the NDIS, we will change this country for good and forever.

Thank you.

Craig Wallace, PWDA Election Forum 2013