Page 2299 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

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in the territory. I have to acknowledge at this point the $190 million from the Rudd government, and I sincerely hope our minister here is quickly liaising with the commonwealth to see how that money can be best spent here in the territory

When the minister was asked if she could provide a summary of autism services provided to ACT families, notably children under six years of age, a suite of departmental officials and the minister were all unable to answer that most basic question. What was the question? How many children under six years of age are currently diagnosed with autism in the ACT, and how many hours of support are provided to each family? The government is so out of touch. The minister argued that the question would take days to answer, taking up staff time. She said I would “just have to wait”—not a good look but an accurate reflection of what this government is or is not doing.

Another dubious claim to fame for the government is the ACT’s lack of funding for an autism and Asperger’s association. We are the only state or territory in Australia that does not provide government funding for an association. I think that is very mean spirited and I think again it shows how we are lagging behind in a critical area. Sadly, there is only one reference in the ACT budget to autism—as “severe and challenging behaviour”.

The time for excuses has passed. The government must do much better in disability services. It is a sleeping giant. We have a cohort of people who are not grumblers, who are not complainers, particularly the ageing population. But what we do not see in this budget is a demonstration of being able to meet that unmet need when it becomes a real need. The government’s failure to do anything belies its commitment to any projected tsunami of the future, when the number of people with a disability is likely to increase sharply with the ageing of the population.

I said at the beginning that we need to put on the record a very good and comprehensive dissenting report by my colleagues Mrs Dunne and Mr Smyth.

Mrs Dunne: Not as comprehensive as we would have liked it to be, Mrs Burke.

MRS BURKE: That is absolutely right, but then you will only get ticked off for working too hard and asking too many questions, Mrs Dunne.

Paragraph 11.2 at page 37 of that report states:

We recommend that the Government give a higher priority to disability services, particularly with respect to providing assistive technologies.

We have heard the government talk a lot about e-health. The minister has talked a lot about how that is going to improve; it is always “gunna”, “it’s gunna”. Well, we hope to see that particularly people with disabilities are given every opportunity to be included in society. You are the party that talk high and loud about inclusion, human rights. I would hope that we will be able to do much more than we are doing right now in terms of providing assisted technologies to those people in our community who need such equipment. I would at this time applaud the efforts of Sean Fitzgerald

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