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Media Releases
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MEDIA Release May 20, 2016

 

Civil Society Statement of Concern

The media and Mr Duncan Storrar

Friday 20 May 2016

We are a diverse group of community leaders, commentators and thinkers in civil society and civic participation coming together to express concerns about the media treatment of Mr Duncan Storrar and what this says about the current state of our democracy.

Mr Storrar is a person with a disability experiencing a low income who has been subject to intense and intrusive negative scrutiny after asking a question about tax inequality on a current affairs program.

On the ABC’s
Q&A program on Monday 9 May 2016 Mr Storrar asked a question about the Budget, tax cuts, and income inequality.  In speaking to these topical current affairs matters he identified as a person with disability who is struggling to support a family while experiencing a low income. Mr Storrar engaged in appropriate and civil discussion inside the program format and made a valid response that all people pay tax including via taxes applied to petrol, goods and services.

Since asking that question Mr Storrar has been subject to an onslaught of personal investigations, attacks, intrusion into his privacy, family and ridicule in a range of publications, including
The Australian and The Herald Sun newspapers.  The patent disregard of the impact of this reporting on an individual is an abuse of power. The reporting has also been a further example of the willingness of parts of the media to vilify and demonise people on low incomes or from marginalised backgrounds.

We believe it’s time to ask why a member of the community is being targeted in an extreme way for simply asking a question about the fairness of a tax cut on a national broadcaster during an election campaign.

The issues involved go beyond one individual and represent a turning point for the open debate, discussion, criticism and dissent which underpin our free society.

It’s also time we heard where our leaders stand on the rights of all people, particularly community members, to participate in public debates without bullying and intimidation.  Political leaders have a positive obligation to protect public participation by people who are less powerful, knowing that more powerful people will otherwise dominate our democracy.

It is a public right to ask questions. It is the job of the media to report them and the responsibility of parliamentarians to protect our ability to do so.

Therefore:

We are concerned
that:

  • a member of the community is being targeted in an extreme and disproportionate way for peacefully expressing widely held views on income and equality issues on the national broadcaster during the federal election campaign;
  • the treatment of Mr Storrar sets a dangerous precedent across the democratic process.  Any person who writes a letter, takes part in a newspaper ‘vox pop’ or rings a talk back radio station with views about income inequality or fairness now has a reasonable basis for feeling under threat of retribution through intrusive and personalised attacks;
  • that people on low incomes or people with a disability, people living with a mental illness who are vulnerable or marginalised are systematically excluded from the democratic process when it comes to participating in public debates. This is a dangerous and unhelpful position which reverses democratic tradition dating back to the abolition of property rights for suffrage; and
  • there appears to be a lack of leadership from politicians, institutions and the media to safeguard long held rights for all people to express their lived experience as part of the democratic process during a Federal Election.  

We call on:

  • Our national leaders including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to clearly and publically reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of all people regardless of background, disabilities or income level, to take part in public debate and to express diverse opinions in the public square in a peaceful way free from bullying, personal intrusion, harassment or intimidation;
  • The incoming Human Rights Commissioner to begin a dialogue on responsible measures, such as an Australian Bill of Rights, to safeguard the rights of members of the community and civil society organisations to engage in civil discourse and public debate free from gags, threats, bullying and harassment;
  • The Press Council and the Australian Communications and Media Authority to investigate whether the media treatment and extreme overreach in the response to Mr Storrar’s question on the national broadcaster constitutes a breach of their Standards and requirements. These include to avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest; and
  • Media organisations to recognise and affirm that the ability of individuals to speak in the public arena free from interference, bullying and intimidation is entwined with their own freedom to publish without interference, bullying and intimidation from the State.
  • In doing so we invite all media outlets concerned with the coverage of Mr Storrar to reflect on the articles which underpin the Charter for a Free Press in Australia agreed by the Press Council in 2003.
  • The charter preamble underpinned through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Article 19 of the Declaration provides: "Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers".

 

This Civil Society Statement of Concern is supported by:

Robert Altamore, Executive Officer, People with Disability ACT (PWD ACT)

Greg Barns, Barrister and Former National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance

Karen Batt, Community and Public Sector Union Joint National Secretary

Jackie Brady, Executive Director, Family Relationships Services Australia

Julian Burnside AO QC 

Irina Cattalini, Chief Executive Officer, WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS)
Kasy Chambers, Executive Director, Anglicare Australia
Dwayne Cranfield, Chief Executive Officer, National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
Dr John Falzon, Chief Executive Officer, St Vincent de Paul Society, National Council of Australia
Carolyn Frohmader, Executive Director, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer, ACT Shelter Inc
Dr Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
Kym Goodes, Chief Executive Officer, Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS)
Damian Griffis, Chief Executive Officer, First Peoples Disability Network (Australia)
Meredith Hammat, Secretary, UnionsWA
Max Hardy, Consultant, author and advocate for citizen voice

Susan Helyar, Director, ACT Council of Social Service Inc. (ACTCOSS)

Mark Henley, Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS)

Ged Kearney, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

Tim Kennedy, National Secretary, National Union of Workers.
Emma King, Chief Executive Officer, Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS)
Dr Caroline Lambert, Executive Officer, YWCA

Marcelle Mogg, Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Social Services Australia
Wendy Morton, Chief Executive Officer, NT Council of Social Service (NTCOSS)

Michele O'Neil, National Secretary, National Secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia
Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer National Shelter
Christina Ryan, Chief Executive Officer, Advocacy for Inclusion
Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary, United Voice

Gerard Thomas, Policy & Media Officer, Welfare Rights Centre Sydney
David Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, Jobs Australia
Craig Wallace, President, People with Disability Australia (PWDA)
Alex White, Secretary, UnionsACT
Greg Withers, Chief Executive Officer, Community Housing Industry Association
Ross Womersley, Chief Executive Officer, SA Council of Social Service (SACOSS) 
Heather Yeatman, Board President Public Health Association Australia.

 

 

Media first contact: Craig Wallace, President, People with Disability Australia 0413 135 731

Alternate contacts:  Dr Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) 0419 626 155 and Dr John Falzon, Chief Executive Officer, St Vincent de Paul Society, National Council of Australia  0421 332 247.

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MEDIA Release May 19, 2016

The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) is again disappointed by recent comments made by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Mr. Peter Dutton.

 

Minister Dutton, linked Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake to higher unemployment rates and went on to say that most refugees were illiterate in their language, let alone English.

 

These comments came in response to the call from the Greens to increase our humanitarian refugee intake to 50,000 in the wake of the global crisis.

 

NEDA President Suresh Rajan stated “I am disgusted that this Government continues to play wedge politics with some of the most vulnerable people in society. This Minister has continued to engage in dog-whistle politics. At its worst this panders to the extreme right and those people who are ill-informed as to the nature and the realities that refugees face. We must also remember that many Australians are from a refugee background, for example, people such as Frank Lowy and Dr. Karl came to Australia as refugees and have gained statuses as eminent citizens”.

 

Dwayne Cranfield NEDA CEO stated that “this shows just how ill-informed Minister Dutton is, his ignorance with regard to the educational standards and the capacity of refugees to contribute, is just astounding”.

 

NEDA echoes the calls of like-minded NGO’s in the sector, urging our political leaders to have a more rational and open discussion based on facts, our human rights obligations, and not wedge politics that incite fear. “Like all societies, people have varied skills and abilities: however we all aim to strive to the best of our abilities,” stated Dwayne Cranfield CEO.

 

Suresh Rajan NEDA President continued “it’s difficult not to be cynical given that we have just entered an election cycle; these comments seem to be aimed at those in the community who have a bias against immigration and Islam. It would seem that the only purpose of this type of comment by the Minister is to gain votes by being divisive”.

 

“The Liberals are not the only party playing this card,” said the NEDA President. ”We have seen this type of conduct and wedge politics from successive Governments, on both sides, and it must stop.”

 

NEDA supports the comments of FECCA’s Chairperson Joe Caputo who said, “At FECCA we are calling for the discussion to be brought within the bounds of acceptable discourse.” 

 

“Immigration enriches the Australian culture. These people bring with them skill-sets and cultural experiences that broaden the life experience of us all. When will we see their contribution to Australian society and not view them as a burden?” stated the NEDA President.

 

For further information, please contact NEDA CEO Mr. Dwayne Cranfield on 02 62626867 or NEDA President Mr. Suresh Rajan on 0413436001.

 

www.neda.org.au                                 @NEDA_PeakBody                                                           

 

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MEDIA Release May 6, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Cross Disability Alliance welcomes new Commissioners

The Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA) congratulates the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC for the appointment of three new Commissioners to the Australian Human Rights Commission. We particularly welcome the reinstatement of a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

ACDA looks forward to working with all three new Commissioners to progress the rights of people with disability:

  • Mr Alistair McEwin as Disability Discrimination Commissioner
  • The Hon Dr Kay Paterson as Age Discrimination Commissioner
  • Mr Edward Santow as Human Rights Commissioner

ACDA spokespeople made the following comments regarding these announcements:

Mr Suresh Rajan, President of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) said, “We applaud this announcement at a time when the national disability landscape is undergoing such significant change with the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and when people with disability are under increasing pressure to find and keep work. A dedicated full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner is critical to identify and address systemic disability discrimination and to promote public dialogue on issues and concerns for people with disability.”

Ms Gayle Rankine, Chairperson of First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) said, “Addressing violence against people with disability, removing barriers to accessing justice, and improving social and economic inclusion by addressing discrimination in transport, housing, education, employment and health are crucial issues requiring coordinated high-level national leadership.”

Mr Craig Wallace, President of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) said, “We particularly congratulate Mr Alistair McEwan, who is well known to us at PWDA as a former CEO of our organisation. Alastair is a strong choice, and is a great advocate for the rights of people with disability. We very much look forward to working with all three new Commissioners in progressing the human rights of all people with disability.”      


Media Contact

Craig Wallace 0413 135 731
President, People with Disability Australia (PWDA)


The Australian Cross Disability Alliance is an alliance of four national Disabled People’s Organisations (organisations made up of and led by people with disability). The ACDA was founded by, and is made up of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDNA) representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) representing people with disability from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) a national cross disability organisation and Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), the national organisation representing women and girls with disability.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA)

First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN)

National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)

Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)