And 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.
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” 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.