Not Very Bright !

government is stupidAnd after two weeks of staunch Laborites like me whinging and moaning about the Abbott Government Deaf Australia has done what we all needed. It has laid down the challenge. How the Liberal’s will respond is any one’s guess. But now’s the time to cease the whinging, get our hands dirty and work with what we have. If this media release is anything to go by it shows that Deaf Australia are up for the fight. Let’s get in behind them.

So ended the last Rebuttal. I fancied myself as a sort of latter day Neville Chamberlain. Of course Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of Britain prior to WWII. He famously came back from a meeting with Hitler declaring, “…peace in our time” A few months later WWII was in full swing making a mockery of his statement. In the deaf sector it looks like history is about to repeat itself.

I was quite sincere in my sentiments. I really felt the post election period had been relentlessly negative. Prime Minister Abbott did not help himself with his one-woman cabinet, electing himself as Minister for Women and seemingly demoting disability Ministers to bit part players.

But what was happening was that the criticism coming through really was not about these issues. The criticism just relentlessly targeted Prime Minister Abbott. It became quite demeaning. Sure I laughed at some of the memes going around on Facebook and even shared some. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t. In doing so I simply contributed to the relentless negativity. My apologies to everyone that was forced to read them. Sharing those memes was not very bright.

Of course I am still whining, particularly about the demise of the NBN. I did so yesterday and came in for some ribbing from my mates. “Try living in South Korea…” said Stewart, or words to that effect. Apparently South Korea has the fastest broadband in the world but their lifestyle is no better that Australia’s said Stewart.  Wouldn’t our lifestyle be even better with their broadband?, was my retort. He told me to go back to England if I was that pissed off. (Wounds are still raw since the Aussies were drubbed in the Ashes 😀 )

But anyway my point is that there are some important issues to focus on and we, as communities that have concerns, need to be working together. Equity policy is a point in case. Equitable representation of women in government and equitable opportunities for people of disadvantage would seem to be pressing concerns. For example Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, has flagged the cutting back of targets for disadvantaged groups in higher education. This is something we all need to monitor and work together closely on.[1]

As I said in the last Rebuttal, we need to now to forget the negativity and have a focus on working with the Government. We need to continue the smart fight for the things that we hold dear. I encourage people to work with Deaf Australia and other disability peaks and continue to let them know of the issues that are of concern to them. Hopefully Deaf Australia etal can continue to raise these issues at high levels for us all.

What I do not encourage is blatant point scoring that Deafness Forum demonstrated today. Last week Deaf Australia released a punchy media release. It was a call to arms if you like. They criticized the non-appointment of a Disability Minister to the cabinet. They raised concerns about plans that “appeared” to indicate the slashing of the employment Assistance Fund. This fund included Auslan for employment and captioning in employment. Rumours were that Auslan and captioning funding was to be halved.

Good on Deaf Australia for raising these issues. Deafness Forum decided to investigate with the Government to see if the alleged cutting of the EAF was true. The Government has indicated that there are no “Anticipated”[2] cuts to the EAF. This was good news for all of us. However a word of caution in the use of the word “anticipated” This leaves the door ajar for cuts in the future. I would much rather see them say THERE WILL BE NO CUTS!

Congratulations to Deafness Forum for clarifying the issue and concerns surrounding the EAF. But it is here that my congratulations end. For reasons known only to them, in clarifying concerns about the cutting of the EAF, Deafness Forum took the opportunity to literally SLAM Deaf Australia. Below is the full text of their statement on their Facebook page.

Allegation of cuts to Employment Access Fund

A claim was made recently by an organisation with the deafness sector that the federal government would cut the Employment Assistance Fund.

Deafness Forum does not endorse the claim.

The Employment Assistance Fund helps people with disability by providing financial assistance to purchase a range of work related modifications and services.

Deafness Forum contacted the Department of Social Services and was advised the allegation was baseless.

Deafness Forum contacted the office of the Assistant Minister for Disability & Ageing and was informed the allegation was wrong.

Clearly in this statement Deafness Forum are having a go at Deaf Australia. there are several components of the Deafness Forum statement that are inaccurate. Deaf Australia said there “appear” to be plans to cut the fund which is entirely different from saying the fund WILL be cut. Further they said it was to be cut by 50%, not that it was being completely cut. It is worth noting also that, to my mind, Deaf Australia’s focus was only on the Auslan and captioning component of the EAF. All these things Deafness Forum have conveniently overlooked in their efforts to belittle Deaf Australia.

Australian’s who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing Impaired have grown tired of the constant bickering between our two major peaks. At a time when negotiations with a new Government require our peaks to show a united front, publicly demeaning Deaf Australia in this way is the last thing that we need. Sure they did not mention them by name but it is pretty obvious isn’t it?

All Deafness Forum needed to have done was to contact Deaf Australia and say they have contacted the Minister and this is the response. The two orgs could then have put out a joint statement saying that they were pleased that the EAF was not to be cut. Deaf Australia could have had the opportunity to retract their statement or at least explain where they had received their information.

Thank you for the clarification Deafness Forum but the public demeaning of Deaf Australia in this delicate political climate is, to put it mildly, NOT VERY BRIGHT! Let’s get smarter people, all of us, particularly me.

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13 thoughts on “Not Very Bright !

  1. Dear Rebuttal,

    I respect your right to free speech and defend that right.

    While it is unquestionably a right, it is also a privilege to communicate with the Australian people; one that comes with a responsibility for fairness and accuracy.

    It is not for me to comment on the integrity of another organisation’s public communications, particularly when my organisation was not consulted before its release.

    However, when our members express their concern with a statement made by another organisation, my responsibility is to investigate the matter and ascertain its validity.

    When it is found that such a public statement was erroneous and without foundation, it is my responsibility to report the facts.

    It is unfair to assert that Deafness Forum is in the business of what you call scoring points. I am not at all bothered with such a trivial conceit.

    Perhaps you might have contacted me before misrepresenting my organisation.

    For your consideration

    Steve
    CE of Deafness Forum

    • As you can see Steve we do not censor. I maintain you have gravely erred in your statement. It was unnecessary to take a backhanded swipe. All that was required was to clarify the facts without any mention of any other orgs. Deaf Australia made a brave and strong statement. They asked questions which clearly prompted you into action to seek answers. I am sure they too were seeking answers, possibly had done so but got no response prompting their statement.

      It does appear that they have erred on the issue of the EAF. However, their media release was targeted at issues that were far more than that. You focused only on one issue conveniently neglecting the other valid questions raised in their release.

      Poor form and poor political savvy is my interpretation. We all have to do better than that. It’s not tit for tat. I repeat all you needed to do was state the facts as they were without referring to “a deafness organisation” People are not stupid they knew exactly what was going on. We all have to get smarter. I have owned up to my errors I am hoping you can to yours.

    • Dear Steve CE of Deafness Forum, you state that “I am not at all bothered with such a trivial conceit”. If you look through your response, for example, its all about “my”. Deafness Forum is not YOUR organisation and that is where, I believe, Deafness Forum has gone on the wrong path and fails to really bring about any significant outcomes for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. An organisation such as Deafness Forum belongs to the people. Its dosen’t belong to the Govt. Its part of the business sector. Its a part of civil society. Civil society is separate from Govt and business . Deafness Forum belongs to the people. Not you. Not the board, Not the chair . Not the Govt and so on. All of you should be in the background and working your butts off for the deaf and hoh. That’s what you are meant to be doing. Not trying to be nice to Govt and your funding bodies, but doing something for the people you are meant to be representing! It dosen’t matter who brings up the possibility that the EAF might be cut. You and your staff need to be working your butts off to make sure that EAF dosen’t get cut (despite what the Govt tells you and the poster makes an important point with the use of the word “anticipated”) and that there are other significant outcomes made for the deaf and hoh. The response from people about EAF isn’t about Deaf Australia. Its about the EAF. The EAF is vital and neccessary to deaf and hoh people. Regardless of whether Deaf Australia got it wrong the EAF issue was put out there. Because it gives people who rely on this service the opportunity to consider the risk it may get cut, particularly with the change of Govt. And by getting questions and concerns at DF you can see that this service is important to people, vital. And it shows its something that needs to be closely monitored and fought for.

  2. Dear Steve, the CE of Deafness Forum,

    Welcome to freedom of speech. I applaud Gary’s stand to bring things to the surface for our attention. Your organisation does not fully represent us as we and our issues are constantly pushed aside. I’m tired of the nitty picky between peak organisations and I would appreciate seeing actions on both part to show or demonstrate the willinginess to support and collaborate with others.

    I always used to say when you point your fingers at any direction to also count how many are literally pointing back at yourself.

    Deaf Australia fully sense our position and it’s the only organisation that actually see what affects us and there is close to 100% support. Sometimes parents, service providers and the hard of hearing quadrant do not fully appreciate the barriers we face in a daily basis with rights and access to sign language, and quality service. These issues are completely different when it comes to a collective like myself with a cultural identity and I choose to work with an organisation that best meets my basic requirements , without compromising it with other non-Deaf related perspectives.

    Use this as an excercise to do better rather than confronting others and it never hurts to be kind and collaborate unless the purpose is to single out Deafness Forum’s “image” to minimise your opponents.

    Craig Maynard
    (Member of Deaf Community, member of Deafblind Community and member of Deaf Australia).

  3. You are right. My response did read back as being arrogant (I checked it with my daughters and they said a lot worse).

    I used ‘ I ‘ because i was offering personal comments and not with the permission of my board and members.

    My board has written a letter to Todd Wright. You have permision to read and publish the letter in full by contacting Todd. I hope it will clarify Deafness Forum’s views.

    I hear what you say and will try to lift my game and be more thoughtful in future.

    Steve

    • Steve

      Thank you for your apology.For what it is worth I did not think that you were arrogant. I did however feel that the wording of your release was uneccesarily confronting and failed to recognise the more salient parts of the earlier Deaf Australia release.

      That said your apology is welcome. I trust the Deafness Forum letter to Deaf Australia has gone a long way to healing any wounds that may have opened from the Deafness Forum response. I feel the letter can remain between DF and DA unless DA feel it is important to publish.

      If this is the case I will be happy to publish it.

      Moving on – There is much to be done.

  4. Thanks Garry. As to reading Deafness Forum’s position on the EAF media statement, you on behalf of your readers will make that call. But the offer is there if you care to follow it up.

    Good point that we have more to do. We hope that the federal government will provide funding for a national survey of opinions on the state of services for people with disability entering, remaining and gaining promotion in the workforce. You will know where our emphasis will be. I hope to be able to collaborate with my colleagues at Deaf Australia. If this comes off, you can help by promoting it to your readers. I will be in touch.

    If you would like to read Deafness Forum’s suggestions on how to improve employment participation for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired – http://www.deafnessforum.org.au/images/pdf/Improving%20Employment%20Participation%20–%20DFA%20position%20statement.pdf

    Best wishes
    Steve at Deafness Forum

  5. Oh dear, so sorry for being slow on the uptake and my misunderstanding. I thought we were discussing my personal comments on your webpage.

    I was not offering an apology for Deafness Forum’s concern with the misinformation published in the public domain on the EAF.

    Best wishes
    Steve

    • If that’s the case it is very sad indeed for it is you who have misrepresented them.

      Let me repeat what was said,

      costings, released the day before the election, appear to show plans to pay for election promises by axing 50% of the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF); an already pitifully small fund that covers vital interpreting, captioning and notetaking services, and workplace modifications

      The qualifying word is “Appears”…. And further they referred to the costings that were released before the election. They did not say will … The word was APPEARS.

      Finally the last line of the media release:

      Deaf Australia is calling for the Abbott government to immediately reinstate the Disability Ministry and to clarify their commitment to the Employment Assistance Fund.

      Deaf Australia have clearly asked for clarification as to what is to happen with the EAF … They have mislead no one, they have only expressed their concerns and in a way that shows what they feel. And good on them for that.

      I repeat there was no misinformation … In fact you have misrepresented them. You indeed owe them an apology.

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