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Funding cuts to Human Rights Commission an irresponsible step

The Australian Greens said today that the Government's decision to axe funding from the Australian Human Rights Commission is an irresponsible step that will put more pressure on work for people with disabilities and older Australians, as the Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan takes on the responsibilities Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

"It is reckless for the Government to weaken crucial roles by stripping funding from the Human Rights Commission while at the same time working towards significant reforms to our social security and income support systems," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.

"Both the age and disability discrimination commissioners play important roles in addressing discrimination and issues that substantially affect the lives of people with disability and older Australians.

"The Government is planning to make significant changes to our social security system, including their budget measures to cut the indexation of pensions, increase the retirement age and subject some people receiving the DSP to reassessment, with a view to dumping them onto the lower Newstart Allowance. The Interim McClure Review opens the door for more extensive changes to disability support payments and carers. It is likely that more people with disability will be placed on lower, inadequate income support payments.

"The Government approach to income support is putting more pressure on people to find work, without addressing the barriers they face.

"During the most recent round of Senate Estimates, the outgoing Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes voiced concern that this policy constituted a ‘punishment' for people with disability. Estimates was also told that the highest level of complaints the Human Rights Commission receive relate to disabilities, and 45% of those complaints relate to employment, pointing to the significant employment problems facing people with disability.

"The changes to DSP touted by Government will create a two-tiered system of payments for people with disability exposing many people, including those with a partial disability, mental health issues or an episodic illness to poverty and disadvantage. The would lower peoples' quality of life and create even more barriers to employment.

"We know that discrimination is also a barrier for older jobseekers and is a problem faced by the growing number of older Australians on Newstart. The number of people in their 50s and 60s receiving Newstart has increased by more than 41% since 2010, and as the Government seeks to increase the retirement age, older jobseekers will come under more and more pressure to find work.

"Graeme Innes as Disability Discrimination Commissioner has been a tireless advocate for people with disability and for strong improvements to make our community fairer and more inclusive. I wish him well for the future.

"The position of Disability Discrimination Commissioner should remain a full time position and I urge the Government to rethink their approach," concluded Senator Siewert.

 

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