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The Southern Cross : November 2011
November 2011 Page 9 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross The Southern Cross opinion | Turned off by boat flip Jenny Brinkworth FEEDBACK When Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister of Australia I, like many other Australian women, rushed to the nearest television to watch this momentous occasion. Sure there has been the odd female Premier but you only have to look at the attendees of corporate functions or flip through the sports pages of our daily newspapers to realise that the concept of gender balance is still a distant reality. I couldn't help but feel a sense of sisterhood pride in Julia Gillard's achievement, not to mention her Adelaide upbringing, as well as a glimmer of hope that somehow Federal politics might be different with a female at the helm. The closely-fought election campaign and ensuing stalemate didn't dampen my enthusiasm -- of course it was going to be tough for a woman to win over the electorate. And her ability to negotiate her way into power with the help of the Independents seemed to suggest she had the right stuff for the job. Her change of heart on the carbon tax was worrying but there had been "on again off again" proposals for carbon trading schemes from both major political parties since 2007 and the growing influence of the Greens meant there were forces at play beyond her control. But then came the Malaysia deal for asylum seekers and all of a sudden I couldn't make excuses for "our Julia". After all, one of the reasons her party won my vote was the scare mongering of Tony Abbott with his "stop the boats" advertisements. Fast forward 14 months and we have a complete turnaround with Gillard accusing Abbott of being responsible for not stopping the boats and Abbott being the one who, for all the wrong reasons, ensured the Parliament upheld the High Court's admirable decision to disallow the foolhardy initiative on the grounds of inadequate safeguards. Anyone who has visited Malaysia and seen the poor standard of living that millions of people endure would know that it is inhumane to send asylum seekers back to this country, regardless of the increased intake from the so-called "queue". Governments and politicians are simply not in a position to play God with people's lives. All they can do is establish policies which are aligned to our obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention, that is, the right of an asylum seeker not to be penalised for illegal entry while their claims are investigated. This means, quite simply, on-shore, community-based processing. The tragic boat wreck off Christmas Island was just that -- a tragedy. And such tragedies have occurred in other seas where desperate people have taken desperate measures to find a place where they think they will get a fair hearing. The Christmas Island tragedy does not require a knee jerk reaction but rather should serve to highlight that it is human beings we are talking about, not boats. As the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference new media blog states: "If the boats stop coming to Australia, they will go somewhere else -- we have not saved them from the journey, we have just altered their destination". (www.mediablog.catholic.org.au) Stand and be counted A very good and trusted friend of mine is being unjustifiably publicly pilloried and defamed by an opportunistic politician, a sensationalist press and a bishop. This unlikely trio clearly has a defined and individually private agenda. Each agenda is based on an assertion of guilt. The assertion is totally false and unfounded. The ongoing public accusations continue and have broadened to include the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide and the Vicar General of the Adelaide Archdiocese. Is the damage being inflicted on them collateral damage as a result of the targeted attack on my friend or is there a strategic target selected in what is without doubt a serious battle? The bishop wants to be a bishop in the Catholic Church, the politician wants publicity and a drum to beat, the press wants a story in any and all circumstances. We, especially the Catholics of the Adelaide Archdiocese are under attack. Our leaders are being targeted -- and all one can hear from our laity is the sound of silence. One very perceptive retired priest identified the lack of public support shown by bishops at large to our own Archbishop. The priest is right. All our clergy is under assault. They are unable to defend themselves. The Archbishop of Sydney, when approached by the press, made a statement even more politically correct than any politician could dream of. In contrast, the Anglican primate has shown strong support to the Leader of the Australian Catholic bishops, Archbishop Wilson. Catholics of Australia it is time to stand up and be publicly counted. Graham Spurling Brighton Stanley connection I have always had somewhere to sleep -- in my own bed, at a friend's or on holiday in a place I chose. When I read of the homes -- Stanley Grove -- that the St Vincent de Paul Society have created for people with nowhere to sleep I knew I'd try to help by sending a small donation and wondered if others who had a friend or relative called Stanley would do likewise. My Stanley married me in London in 1946. Frances Durdin Port Elliot There is a quiet crisis going on around South Australia and people with disabilities are suffering every day because of it. Governments have floundered under the weight of delivering good quality disability services for decades, and have largely failed to do so. Because of this South Australians with disabilities go without things like showers, or are virtual prisoners of their houses when there is not enough support for them to get out. When you speak with these people it is tragically sad to see their potential going to waste. For years Australian Governments of all shapes and sizes have thought about how to address the problem and been defeated by the depth, scale and complexity of something which touches every facet of life. It is not natural for our Government system to deal with a problem which spans across portfolio areas touching everything from housing to education to health to infrastructure. But this year, some great minds were applied at the Federal level and a plausible solution was found. The Productivity Commission was tasked with tackling the problem. Far-reaching research and consultation led them to recommend a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS would work a little like Medicare, in that it would guarantee every Australian a base level of care if they were born with or acquired a disability. It would feature standardised but thorough individual assessments, funding tied to those assessments and a free market-style delivery of services like respite care, which would force the services to operate to a higher standard. The scheme would be centrally funded and operated by the Federal Government, giving consistency across the whole country. For those with a disability who are forced to enter the "postcode lottery" which cruelly determines if you'll get a service depending on which region you fall in, this sounds like utopia. It is also a model which conforms to a wonderful ideal I once heard Monsignor David Cappo outline: "That which is due in justice must never be given in charity." In Australia people with disabilities are still made to feel they are privileged for being offered the most basic of services. The NDIS would allow us to begin to feel that we are worthy of the same quality of life as everyone else. In recent months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has publicly committed to implementing an NDIS, and this is of course a huge step. The only problem is, it could take at least seven years to be fully implemented, and we could see any number of changes in our national political landscape in that time. Additionally, the NDIS is very expensive. It requires an extra $6 billion to be taken out of general revenue every year for it to run appropriately. This will give you some idea of how chronically underfunded the sector is at the moment. To make sure that whoever is in power thinks this revolution is worth the spend, we have to put the public's voice behind it. I hope that people from all kinds of backgrounds, not just those personally touched by disability, can see that this is essential. I hope we can hold our Government to keeping this promise. November 27 to December 3 is 'Spread the Word Week' for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). I hope we can spread the word together. -- Kelly Vincent is the Dignity for Disability MLC in SA Parliament. Desperate need for disability scheme