Human rights

NSW Government misses the bus

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Question: Which Government straps disabled kids into makeshift chairs in the back of station wagons to get them to school? Answer: The new NSW Government, reports Peter Wicks.  

If you were ever wondering what the worst thing a government could possibly do was — you might say privatising public assets; slashing workers compensation to emergency service personnel; not telling a community for five days after they were exposed to a deadly chemical spill; giving a record number of MPs parliamentary secretary positions, while cutting the entitlements of every other public servant in the state, cancelling government guaranteed rebates when people tried to do the right thing by going solar; or maybe slashing funds needed to upgrade hospitals, like those at Blacktown and Tamworth. All these things would qualify — and all are achievements of the new NSW Government.

However, we saw the worst in NSW recently under the new Liberal Government when they left hundreds of schoolchildren stranded with no transport. Not only that, but the children were all disabled.

It is hard to believe that any government would leave 740 disabled children stuck at the side of the road. But what is even harder to believe is that the Minister in charge of this fiasco, Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, still has a job. Clearly, he isn’t fit sit on the front bench.

How did this happen, you may be wondering? Well, the Government decided to renegotiate the contracts with the people who operate the specially equipped vehicles. Keen to display that they know how to save a few pennies, the government attempted to play hardball. However, the type of community groups that provide this service don’t have a great deal of room to move, therefore the contracts were not finalised before the previous ones expired. Which, in turn, meant no contract and no transport.

Piccoli was told of this problem looming last October — yes, that’s right, last year. It begs the question of how much notice this Minister needs for such an important issue.

It is inconceivable that a Minister would not realise that, if there were no contracts in place, it would cause a problem. Unfortunately for Adrian Piccoli, it did cause a major problem, and children were left by the roadside in their wheelchairs.

As terrible as that is, it gets worse. Listening to callers affected on talkback radio would make most people despair, as callers described what the O’Farrell Government used as a solution for these poor disabled kids.

Some of you may have seen the footage shown on Four Corners of live sheep being shoved into the boots of cars at markets in the Middle East; what happened under the control of the O’Farrell Government, and Adrian Piccoli, was along similar lines — and is nothing short of an attack on decency and morality.

It became clear that road safety was high on the O’Farrell agenda when, in a vote grab, he promised to decommission some of the State’s speed cameras. A week after one of those cameras was removed, a speeding ute collided with a truck, which ended up going through a house and killing a sleeping child at Urunga in the states north — right where the camera used to be.

Now we have this, an all new low in road safety. To try and put a band aid on a gaping wound, we saw from this Government use makeshift chairs put in the back of station wagons, and disabled kids shoved in. This breach of virtually every road rule in existence was the Government’s solution — cattle in this state are transported with greater care.

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Meanwhile, proud mother, and Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, has found a way to make foster care cheaper for the government. Simple, make the kids pay their foster carers.

As you may recall me writing about in a previous IA article, Goward and the O’Farrell Government decided to repay the hard work of foster carers of children aged 17 and over by slashing their support payments by $214 a fortnight. As the NSW Government talked about trying to help out with the cost of living, these vulnerable foster carers were dealt the cruelest of blows.

The Minister, Pru Goward, suggested to these foster carers on the ABC Breakfast Show with Adam Spencer, that these carers should attempt to make the kids pay them for the costs associated with their upbringing.

Barry O’Farrell needs to show some leadership and integrity on these issues.

Pru Goward should not be a Minister — her portfolio is to look after these people, not penalise them.

Adrian Piccoli should be stood down without question — he has caused embarrassment not only to the Government, but to the entire country.

The Liberal Party needs to remind Barry O’Farrell that Queenslanders are watching.

(This story was originally published in Wixxy's Blog on 13 February 2013 in a slightly different form, and has been republished with permission.)

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