The House of Representatives has passed a motion calling for the establishment of a royal commission into abuse and neglect in the disability services sector. Coalition MPs supported a Senate motion, introduced by Greens disability spokesperson Jordon Steele-John on Friday, laying out draft terms of reference for a commission, despite government senators voting against it on Friday. Speaking on the motion, opposition leader Bill Shorten said “we have to recognise that while we’re a nation who devalues people with disability, then we will never get to the root cause of violence and the prevention of violence, abuse and neglect”.
Federal police and national security agencies have raised concern about departmental incompetence and political interference. In Senate estimates yesterday, Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin blamed a lack of timely communication from department of home affairs officials for the detention of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi in Thailand. Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram admitted that “human error occurred within the ABF process”, resulting in Australia not notifying Interpol that a Bahraini red notice issued on al-Araibi should not be acted upon because of his refugee status. Meanwhile, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general of security, Duncan Lewis, hit out at a front-page report in The Australian last week that claimed ASIO advised independent MP Kerryn Phelps’ medivac bill was a security risk. “When reporting wrongly attributes advice from ASIO, or where our classified advice is leaked, it undermines all that we stand for. Breakdowns in these controls are seriously damaging,” Lewis said.
More than 2000 people died after receiving an automated debt notice from Centrelink in one 27-month period, according to new figures from the department of human services. A total of 663 of those were classified as “vulnerable”, indicating complicating factors such as alcohol or drug abuse, mental health issues, or domestic violence. Greens senator Rachel Siewert said “these numbers are disturbing, and it indicates to me that the department should investigate further”. Earlier this month, Victoria Legal Aid filed a court challenge to Centrelink’s “robodebt” system, which issued more than 70,000 notices for inaccurate or non-existent debts from July 2016 to October 2018. A department of human services spokesperson told triple j’s Hack that “any suggestion that the department of human services' debt recovery efforts have contributed to customer deaths is simply not supported by the facts or statistics”.
And New South Wales opposition leader Michael Daley has announced state Labor would establish a publicly owned renewable energy company if it wins the state election next month. Speaking on Monday, Daley said the state must “produce our own energy, create our own jobs and give energy security to our own people”. Environmental groups welcomed Labor’s accompanying pledge to build seven gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030, with Nature Conservation Council chief executive Kate Smolski calling the policy “a game-changer that would make NSW a leader in clean energy in Australia, slash the state’s carbon emissions by 12 per cent and power about three million households”. The announcement comes a week after NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a scheme offering no-interest loans for solar energy and home storage systems.