Disability advocates are outraged and disappointed in Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Minister Stuart Robert for his “crass” and “offensive” comments about people with disabilities using sex therapy services.
Minister Robert said legislation is being initiated to prevent taxpayer money from being used to acquire what he called “prostitution services.”
In an interview with 2GB’s Ray Hadley, Minister Robert discussed a Federal Court case in which the judge ruled a disabled woman was legally entitled to receive funding for sex therapy.
Minister Robert said to Hadley: “I never thought you and I would be talking about prostitutes.”
Disability advocacy groups are saying the Minister’s attitude is demeaning.
“To start talking about prostitutes in this really inflammatory way to a shock-jock is something that we wouldn’t expect from the minister,” President of People with Disability Australia Samantha O’Connor told SBS News.
“The idea that it’s funding prostitutes.
We’re talking about professional sex services for a wide-range of people,” said O’Connor.
According to The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Australia has signed, people with disabilities have a right to enjoy the highest level of health without discrimination.
O’Connor suggested that Minister Robert was trying to trigger “outrage” in an effort to have the legislation approved.
A proposal to change the NDIS funding rules was turned down by state and territory ministers on both political sides.
The Australia Capital Territory are in opposition of banning sex services from the NDIS, while other states have asked for additional information or said they would not support the federal government’s legislation.
Minister Robert said the failure to reach an agreement meant he has been “forced to legislate.” He stated, “I will move to actually define what is reasonable and necessary so we can meet community standards because I do not believe that the federal government using taxpayer’s money to pay for prostitutes meets that standard,” adding “If states and territories wish to fund prostitutes they can pay for it themselves.”
Minister Robert said NDIS participants were “welcome to avail themselves of anything that is lawful and they can pay for themselves,” without taxpayer funding.
A spokesman for the Minister said, “At no stage has Minister Robert said people with disability should not be able to access such services. As the Minister has made clear, the Commonwealth has made the determination it will not fund sex work through the NDIS as it is not in line with the intent of the scheme nor with community expectations and will legislate to that effect.
If state and territory governments wish to fund such services for people with disability they are able to do so.”