Speeches

GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH; Address-in-Reply (1)

July 22, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (11:38): When I was last speaking on this matter, I was talking about the very poor rollout of the government's NDIS and the way it had been impacting on constituents in my electorate and, no doubt, on constituents of most of the electorates represented by members here. Unfortunately, the issue that we get to deal with in my office on a very, very regular basis is several complaints from various frustrated constituents with regard to the inefficient coordination between planners, local area coordinators and the staff of the NDIA.

In a recent discussion to paper, published by Autism Advisory & Support Service, they argue that much of the miscommunication has resulted from the participants being forced to justify their need in order to have the funds and support of services restored to them. Bear in mind, the NDIS is a system where we're bringing together a number of existing state systems that look after people in need—people with disabilities. This is having all sorts of consequences, particularly for those coming from migrant backgrounds. In many cases, insufficient funding for support services and the wait times for reviews have seen participants incur significant out-of-pocket costs. With the unexpected surge in applications for a review of plans, waiting times for a review of plans for people with disabilities can be anything up to six months. The consequence of that is that it simply can't be afforded by people with disabilities or families looking after children with disabilities.

With my community, another aspect of it is that Western Sydney has received one-fifth of Australia's recent refugee intake. Local service providers, particularly in Fairfield and Liverpool, have been put under considerable strain and pressure as they try to assist families to settle and integrate into our local community. The lack of funding to support these services has meant that there has been a reduction in the level of critical settlement service activity in my electorate. As members of parliament, I believe we have an obligation to show leadership and influence better outcomes for people. We must effectively invest in the settlement of refugees. We must ensure that they are given the same opportunities to contribute to our society, rather than allowing them to fall through the cracks and revert to some form of unsafe methods or systems of support.

Another aspect which takes some prominence in my community is the issue of human rights. The issue of human rights is one that my community is very passionate about, given the make up of my community. Many people in my community come from war-torn countries—particularly from Cambodia, Vietnam and other areas—and have taken refuge in this country. As a parliament, our position on human rights should be firm. It should be unwavering. This is especially the case given our membership to the United Nations Human Rights Council. There are far too many situations of human rights abuses within our region for us to turn a blind eye regardless of issues around trade relationships. Whether it be the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, the arbitrary detention of the Uyghurs in China, the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the crackdown on the freedom of expression and threat to democratic processes in Cambodia or even the oppression of basic rights and freedoms in Vietnam, we must call out bad behaviour.

In a recent statement issued by the director of Human Rights Watch Australia, Elaine Pearson, she says that this government has always preferred an approach of 'quiet diplomacy' when addressing human rights violation within our region. Simply put, we have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that, where we seek to maintain and benefit from trade relations with our neighbours, we must also be committed to ensuring that human rights abuses, wherever they occur, are promptly addressed. On that matter, I commend the government and the minister, in particular, for supporting the UNHRC's resolution for the investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines. Australia should continue to use our voice as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council to demand justice for victims and to ensure that human rights violators are held accountable for their crimes.

I again take the opportunity to thank my constituents for entrusting me with the honour of representing them in our federal parliament. It is an honour that I never take for granted. I hope I can live up to their expectations.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST