Autism policy in the Tasmanian state election 2014


More information is now available about the policies of the major parties relating to people affected by autism spectrum disorder ahead of the Tasmanian state election. You can download information from the three major parties from the following links:

  • Labor Party
  • Liberal Party
  • The Greens

    A brief summary is that:

    1. The Labor Party will maintain its existing policy that discriminates (albeit lawfully) against people with autism. It will continue disability policy that delivers abysmal outcomes in education and workforce participation, outcomes that are far worse for people with autism than the outcomes people with disability generally experience (see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4428.0main+features62009 and http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4428.0main+features72009). Labor refuses to recognise and address these massively worse outcomes for people with autism, compared to people with disability more generally. This seems to be a position of "implausible deniability" from senior Labor politicians.
    2. The Liberal Party is maintaining its policy of action for early intervention for young children with autism. Of the three policies, this one has the most credibility; it is consistent with the advice that the Commonwealth Health and Social Security departments provide for families of children with autism ... and with international experts. And it is a policy of action.
    3. The Greens policy is a plan for more talk, for delay and inaction. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will overtake it anyway.

    Labor's refusal to recognise and address the needs of people with autism is more than disappointing, it is immoral. Clearly, continuing to ignore the specific needs of the growing number of people with autism leaves this segment of the population at massive disadvantage. Labor's apparent expectation that offering people with autism access to the existing "specialist disability services" provided anything like equal benefit for people with autism is misleading (likely deliberately) and pure spin. The ABS data (links above) shows that Government has information showing clearly that any benefit is not equal.

    Labor's policy for people with autism is like insisting all people with a health issue should be given panadol and sent on their way. As with autism and the disability sector, Labor's one-size-fits-all approach is inequitable and suits very few.

    Labor also chooses to ignore the scale of the autism challenge. In July 2012, there were 1,130 Tasmanian children (aged 0 to 15 years) diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and registered with Centrelink for their families to receive Carer Allowance. These are all children with severe disability. Yet the Tasmanian Premier's letter (link above) says just 479 people with autism (that would be 42% if all who received services are under 16 years of age) received any service or support from the state disability service. In other words, substantially fewer than half the Tasmanian children with severe disability due to their autism received any disability service at all.

    In 2004, there were 323 Tasmanian children diagnosed with autism (including Asperger's Disorder) registered with Centrelink. Labor refuses to recognise the 3½ times growth in autism numbers over the eight year period from 2004 to 2012. This type of growth needs a corresponding increase in services and support resources; which the Tasmanian Labor Government refuses to address.

    Labor Governments and the Labor Party are taking a consistent approach to autism around the country. Concerns relating to autism were raised in the run up to the last ACT election (see http://sofasd.org.au/sofasd/node/3 and http://sofasd.org.au/sofasd/node/20)... and the response was similar to that given in Tasmania. Previously, federal Labor (in Government) also chose to ignore these issues (see the section on The Shorten Curlies, a series of questions put to Bill Shorten when he was Parliamentary Secretary for Disability, in A4 Updates in 2009 ... http://a4.org.au/a4/sites/au.a4/files/docs/A4Updates/2009/A4-2009-Update... and http://a4.org.au/a4/sites/au.a4/files/docs/A4Updates/2009/A4-2009-Update...). A4 and the autism/ASD community never got a response from the Labor Government on these issues.

    Outcomes for people with autism in Tasmania, as in the rest of the country, are clearly abysmal. Tasmanian Labor plans to persist with its failed and failing policy. Surely, anyone whose life is affected by autism cannot vote for Labor in Tasmania in the coming election ... unless Tasmanian Labor significantly improves its autism policy.

    The Tasmanian Liberals are persisting with their policy of action that they introduced in the 2010 election (see http://a4.org.au/a4/sites/au.a4/files/A4-2010-Update02_0.pdf).

    Another commentary on the latest policies is available in ATAC's newsletter (link below).

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