State support grows for disability inquiry

Australia

Momentum for a royal commission into abuse against Australians with a disability appears to be growing, with three states telling the federal government they are on board with the idea.

Scott Morrison last week wrote to state and territory leaders seeking their support for the inquiry.

NSW, Victoria and South Australia have told the Commonwealth they would back an inquiry, with positive discussions also underway between the Morrison government and Tasmania.

The federal government is yet to hear from Queensland or Western Australia.

In his letter, the prime minister told leaders it is “crucial that all governments work closely and collaboratively” to respond to the issue.

“I think we can all agree that violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability is abhorrent and that we should be doing all that we can to ensure a safe and secure Australia,” he wrote.

“I am now seeking your in-principle agreement for the establishment of a joint royal commission and the most appropriate consultation pathways to progress this important matter.”

Any final agreement would have to come through the Council of Australian Governments process.

The coalition government backed a motion supporting the royal commission in the House of Representatives last week under pressure from Labor and the Greens.

It passed the Senate four days earlier without coalition support.

Mr Morrison vowed to seek further advice from the states and territories, noting they previously rejected a call for such an inquiry.

The issue has a long history, with a 2015 Senate inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with a disability recommending a royal commission.

The government dismissed the recommendation in its formal response to the committee in 2017.

It stressed that until the National Disability Insurance Scheme was fully rolled out, the states and territories remained responsible for disability services.

The idea of a royal commission was later considered by states and territories in COAG but they did not indicate support.

Labor began pushing for an inquiry in May 2017.

The issue came to the fore in February’s parliamentary sitting week after being raised in the upper house by Greens senator Jordon Steele-John.

He wrote to state and territory leaders a day before Mr Morrison, personally asking for in-principle support, and said on Twitter that six of the eight premiers and chief ministers had given it.

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