The Sin Of Spin

Clarke and Dawes last Thursday synthesised the last few weeks of my life. If you value language and truth its worth meeting Mr Lars Torders. It’s on ABC iView. http//:::iview.abc.net.au/program/clarke

As a cricket tragic I never thought I’d describe spin as a sin. It’s not in the cricket world. But in the world where I work-
Australian human rights, politics and the media, the sin of spin has reached a new high for me.

Last week the Daily Telegraph (no link provided as I do not want to encourage you to read it) ranted. Surprise surprise you might say- isn’t this a daily event. This rant, which was actually a re-run from 2011 (originality runs out everywhere eventually) was about the huge increase in the number of people receiving the Disability Support Pension.

Rational analysis, however, shows that – when taken as a proportion of the Australian population – DSP numbers have not increased in the last decade, and dropped one percentage point in the last twelve months. Of course, as our population increases, the numbers on the DSP will increase- just as the number of tax-payers, employees, voters, or for that matter Daily Telegraph readers- will increase.

The Tele – in this same re-run rant – contrasted the so-called sins of these DSP recipients against the bravery of Australian soldiers, by use of the absolutely irrelevant fact that more Australians receive the DSP than had been wounded in wars. In the process, they slurred DSP recipients, and insulted many of our soldiers, who – as a result of their service- are currently in receipt of the DSP. But to not misrepresent the figures, and to take the feelings of those people into consideration would be to spoil a “good yarn.”

The Tele then went on to talk about how these DSP recipients lived in beach-side suburbs on the far north coast of NSW, trying to suggest enjoyment of “the good life”. If you can have a good life when you have a disability, and live on less than $20000 a year. They chose to ignore the fact that these places are some of the lowest socio-economic regions of NSW. And given that 45% of Australians with disabilities live in poverty according to OECD figures, its not surprising that they would live in areas where the costs of living are less.

But my favourite in the “let’s support our point with absolutely meaningless statistics” stakes was that NSW has the biggest number of DSP recipients. Well Hullo. NSW has the biggest population.

But life wouldn’t be too bad if the sin of spin confined itself to the pages of the Tele- everyone expects it there. But I have encountered it in a number of other places, which is far more concerning.

First, the Brisbane City Council. They impose a curfew on blind people by turning off the audio traffic signals at 9:30 at night, and back on at 6:30 in the morning. They don’t turn off the visual traffic information- just the audio. So anyone in Brisbane who is blind risks their safety if they venture out two and a half hours before Cinderella’s transport does a pumpkin imitation. They say that the noise of the signals disturbs the sleep of the good burghers of Brisbane. But in truth, if the noise-limiting controls are properly maintained on the audible traffic signals, they can’t be heard more than 2 or 3 meters away. Not too many of those good burghers hunker down for the night within a spit of the traffic light pole.

Then we had the Queensland judge who decided that a Deaf woman could not serve on a jury because she sought to use an Auslan interpreter. He said that not being able to hear, she would “only” receive the evidence through lip-reading or Auslan. This wouldn’t be good enough, and any way there was a problem with having a “thirteenth person” break the sanctity of the jury room. This could some how “corrupt” the jury process. In fact, studies done both at Macquarie University in Sydney, and Gallaudet university in the US, have found that Deaf people- using lip-reading and Auslan – have a better understanding of the evidence in criminal trials than do hearing jurors. So more spin to suit the negative assumptions made about people with disabilities.

But what pushed my credulity meter way into zone red were the explanations given in Senate Estimates this week of the governments decision to make a $400.000 annual saving by having one less Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission when my term ends on 4 July. Firstly it was asserted that this decision was not targeting the Disability Discrimination Commission position- even though it was known to government which position would become vacant first. Secondly, the position was not being abolished (technically correct, as this would require an amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act- although let’s start carefully monitoring all consequential amendment bills. Thirdly, the position was not being down-graded- it was going to be filled by one of the other Commissioners on a part-time basis, as well as doing their primary job.

The position is now full-time, filled by a person with lived experience of disability, and a detailed knowledge of the disability sector. In July it will become part-time, filled by a person without lived experience of disability, and who – whilst very knowledgeable in their own sector – will have little knowledge of the disability sector.

Check your dictionary of choice, and tell me that is not a down-grade. And while you’re doing that, keep one eye open for aeronautical Peppa.

All this spin, and who is disadvantaged. The four million Australians with disabilities, 45% of whom live in poverty, who are employed at a rate 30 % less than the general population, who have half the general pass rate at year 12, who disproportionately appear in the justice system as victims and offenders. Added to all of that, we experience the sin of being viewed in a negative and limiting way- we’re not even good enough to sit on a jury and judge our peers. And the spin exacerbates the sin.

So of course we don’t need a full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner with lived experience of disability. I’ll just go back and watch more Clarke and Dawes on iView.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s