Senator the Honourable Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment, is getting bad advice. Without having asked his Department for relevant information, Senator Abetz told the ABC's Q&A audience
The circumstances and the statistics that have been put to me on many occasions and to the Government indicates that the growth in the Disability Support Pension is unrelated to the other factors that you might suspect would see that change ...
Bad advice leads to bad policy and mad Government. [Wrong] assumptions are the fathers of all great f**k-ups.
The Department's response to the Freedom of Information request (see below) shows that what the Minister described as "the circumstances and the statistics that have been put to me" did not include anything on the record from the Minister's own Department. The record shows this Minister did not even ask his own Department of Employment for relevant information about employment and DSP recipients.
A4's recent letter to Senator Abetz (see http://a4.org.au/node/790) shows that the Minister's belief that "growth in the Disability Support Pension is unrelated to the other factors that you might suspect would see that change" is simply wrong. The growth in DSP is more than accounted for by obvious and well known factors ... such as population growth, the ageing population, etc.
He should have asked his Department for information.
He could have asked (or looked in) the Parliamentary Library. The Library reported on the subject relatively recently. It said:
“The increase in DSP has been extensively analysed, but ... this growth has been driven by an ageing population and the closure or restriction of some other income support payments (in particular the raising of the Age Pension age for women). In fact, the proportion of the population with a disability who are in receipt of some form
of income support has fallen, however these recipients are now concentrated in the DSP numbers, whereas they were previously spread across a range of payments including Parenting Payments, Veterans’ payments and other non-activity tested payments, many of which have now been closed to new entrants.”
Senator Abetz could have ask the Discrimination Commissioner (see http://a4.org.au/a4/node/796). The Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, already advised "while there had been an increase in people with a mental illness coming on to the DSP, as a percentage of the working age population, the number had actually fallen slightly from 5.5 per cent of the population in 2011 to 5.4 per cent in 2012".
Disability representatives are not aware that Senator Abetz, or anyone in the Government, asked people with a disability (or their representatives) about these matters.
So where is he getting his advice?
Possibly this government gets its advice from people like Gina Rinehart, who compares Australian workers to workers in the poorest nations in the world saying "Africans want to work, and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day." (see http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-05/rinehart-says-aussie-workers-overp... or http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2198868/Gina-Rinehart-Worlds-ric...). Ms Rinehart recently expressed very negative views on any welfare safety net for people with a disability.
It seems this Government is getting its economic and policy advice from a person (or people) whose vision for Australia is an economy like the poorest African nations, and Australians with a disability pushed even further into poverty than now? Australia has the worst poverty for people with a disability in the OECD (see http://a4.org.au/a4/node/426). This is very bad advice.
Along similar lines, Michael Pascoe reminds our politicians of an apt quote: "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts." (from http://www.smh.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/please-mr-abbott-sti...). But issues around whether Ministers get "frank and fearless independent advice" are irrelevant if they don't even ask for it.
All previous Governments in recent times have tried to force people with disabilities off the DSP into work; so called "welfare to work" schemes. All their schemes failed abysmally; they fell well short of their targets and served only to further vilify and demoralise people with a disability. A4 warned the Government but they ignored our concerns (see http://a4.org.au/a4/node/779).
Government policy makers refuse to acknowledge even the Government's own reports of especially poor outcomes for people with autism in work force participation (see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4428.0main+features72009), and in education - the foundation for employment (see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4428.0main+features62009). There is no prospect for improvement when Government won't recognise any need for it.
How can we have any faith in Ministers who fail to adequately inform themselves? This is not good Government.