Summaries of arguments on whether the disability community should lobby for a Federal Minister of Disabled

June 1981 – Handiways Winter Issue

Advantages of a Ministry of Disabled for Australia

Do we in Australia need a special Minister of Disabled? At first glance, the idea of a Ministry of Disabled may seem good. Administratively, there are advantages in keeping all matters concerning disability under the same roof and the possibility of one-stop enquiries certainly has great public appeal.

Critique of British experience of Ministry of Disabled

The British experience of a Ministry of Disabled however, gives warning of a number of problems and
is already generally conceded not to be working in the best interests of disabled people. While the
originator, a strong and dedicated Minister, Mr. Alfred Morris held the position, all was well. His
personal interest and Cabinet strength won victories and changed many attitudes towards the disabled. Since then, most benefit has gone to politicians by providing another highly paid ministerial

Quality of Minister

One problem is that of the quality of Minister. Disabled people are politically far from top priority. Ministries are most likely to go to those whose political stars are already setting or at best, as junior portfolios to competent ministers.

Funding not spread across portfolios

Neither is a ministry a guarantee for extra funds, in fact it is more likely to have an opposite effect.
The very visibility of bringing all the finance designated for disabled people into one source could
result in the same backlash experienced by Medibank.

Separate Ministry divisive

For those interested in the integration of disabled people into the community generally, a separate
Ministry is divisive. This separating effect is perhaps the greatest criticism. The current Australian scene gives the opportunity of knocking on a variety of doors and thereby influencing a broader spectrum of people, ministries and politics, while at the same time, retaining the sense of universality and integration.

Drawing all areas of concern to people with disabilities into the one position allows other ministries
to escape their duties in providing for all community members. It becomes a simple matter for a
Minister of Housing or Transport to avoid responsibility in providing total service by referring
disabled people to their special Minister.

Australian consensus against a Ministers for the Disabled

Early in its deliberations in 1980, the National Committee of Non-Government Organisations IYDP 1981, debated the issue of a special Ministry. It concluded that politicians stood to gain most rather than we disabled people in the community. Consequently, the National Committee passed a resolution against the establishment of Ministries for the Disabled.