HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.52 pm]: I rise on the final day of this week’s sitting because I finally want to make comment on an issue that has been raised in both chambers of this Parliament this week. I cannot bite my tongue any more, and I want to speak about this. That is the media injunction that has been issued against releasing the identity of a man who is currently a resident of the disability justice centre.

I have been aware of the nature of this injunction for quite a while. In case anyone thinks that is because there is some sort of conspiracy and the government is telling me what is going on, it is not. It is because I was contacted by a family member of one of the residents of that facility, who was deeply, deeply distressed that people who live within that facility were being vilified, and desperately wanted it to stop. I want to be very clear. I completely, 100 per cent, support the government’s decision to seek that injunction. If the government sought that injunction because there was a statutory obligation, I completely support it. If the government sought that injunction as a combination of needing to do so because it was a statutory requirement, and because it thought it was a good idea, I completely support it. If the government sought that injunction merely because it recognised that it was a very good idea, I completely support it. It was absolutely 100 per cent the right decision to seek that. I support the government in that decision and I support any future efforts to protect individuals who reside in that system.

I want to be very clear. This is not an argument about free speech. For people who try to suggest it is, what an absolute furphy. We are seeing at the national level a steady erosion of the rights of the fourth estate and the right to free speech. We have seen this with the ABC raids. I have already stood up in this place and talked about my concerns about that. In fact, I spoke at a Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance rally about these very concerns only a couple of weeks ago. We have seen things like the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 passed by our federal government, which has been accused of criminalising journalism. Let us be very clear. This is occurring at a federal level. Anyone in this place who wants to talk about free speech, I say: do your homework and look at what is being passed in our federal Parliament and then come back and have a bit of a whinge about this. No, members; this is about protecting the identities of vulnerable people. We already have spent vast amounts of time doing that within the current media framework. We do it for children and for children who are victims and for children who are subject to the Young Offenders Act 1994. We do it for rape victims. In this instance, we are talking about protecting the identity of vulnerable people with disability. I want to be very clear. We are not talking about prisoners. These people are not prisoners. They are not people who have had the opportunity to have their day in court and to plead their case and have evidence tendered against them to demonstrate whether they are guilty of any offence. No; they are people who need to be under a custody order because they are mentally impaired accused people. We are talking about people in the disability justice centre who have intellectual disability, cognitive disability or acquired brain injury. I point out to members also that as a total cohort, we are talking about a very tiny number of extremely vulnerable people within our community.

Referring to the most recent official figures that came out of the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board, we were talking about 38 mentally impaired accused as at 30 June 2018. At that point, only two people were being kept in the disability justice centre. I am very pleased that there are now four and I hope there will be more. We know that one of the things that has been stopping people from getting into that much-needed centre has been the limitations as a result of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996. I cannot wait until we get those reforms.

I remind members that the disability justice centre was built by the previous government and came out of a recommendation of the Holman Review of 2003, a review of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996. It was a welcome, welcome move. However, I remember the nasty campaigns that were run against it in 2013 when the original two locations were posed. I remember the vile campaign run against its current location. I condemned it at the time and I will continue to condemn that. I will say that we cannot continue the condemnation of this very important disability service. The disability justice centre has not been without its problems. It opened with a corrective services culture that has created problems from the outset. It is slowly improving but there is still a long way to go.

I want to comment about the so-called whistleblowers who have been circulating information to the media. They would have more credibility if they were not doing things such as going directly to the media and telling them when these vulnerable people are going to be out and about in the community as they are entitled to be according to the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board. They would have more credibility if they were not putting these vulnerable people in that situation. That is not the action of a genuine whistleblower. I will call that because I condemn it. Not everyone can work with people with disability. I suggest that there might be some people who are still not suited to be working within that centre.

I point out that the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board has independently, with expert advice, determined that these individuals are suitable to be in the disability justice centre. We are talking about people with complex needs. This might come as a bit of a surprise to members, but people with complex disability needs are living right throughout our community. In this instance, we are often talking about people who, for a range of reasons throughout their lifetime, have fallen through the cracks in the disability sector. Sometimes this is the first time that they have received services within the disability sector. I want to be very clear. Demonising these people, using words like “absconding” and talking about people as inmates—all of this—is absolutely not on! I am calling it. Stop it! The only way we can ensure that people with disability get a fair go is if we take a bipartisan approach to recognising that this tiny number of very vulnerable people need the support of our system and everyone within this community. I want to be very clear: a person cannot claim to be a supporter and an advocate of people with disability unless they are prepared to be an advocate for all people with disability. This means that we do not get to pick and choose and say, “I like the little kids in the wheelchairs and I am pro-disability.” It is about not only those kids, but also the complex cases and the people who are difficult, who are messy to manage and who have fallen through the cracks. These are the people whom we are talking about today, members. I really hope that the string of successful injunctions continues. It is fantastic that, to date, the courts have been able to recognise the inherent human rights of these people. However, it is inherent upon all of us to make sure that we do as well.


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