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Turia: Signing of Agreement on Disability Issues

Hon Tariana Turia

Minister for Disability Issues


30 July 2014

Signing of Agreement - Disabled People’s Organisations and Chief Executives Group on Disability Issues - Parliament

I am so glad to be able to join with you today in celebrating the success of the Disability Action Plan and your commitment to take it further.

Ever since my valedictory speech last Thursday, I have been even more aware of the significance of certain achievements and experiences I have gathered during my eighteen years in Parliament. It is absolutely clear to me that the progress that I have watched so keenly in the disability sector has been one of those ‘stand-out’ moments for me of my time here.

I have been so impressed by the staunch determination, the awesome vision and the consistent dedication of all those in the sector, who have talked to me about the dream represented in Enabling Good Lives.

You have shared with me your fervent desire to set your own pathway, your own way.

And so today is a good chance to say thank you for all that you are and everything you have done.

And it is therefore extremely pleasing to be here to celebrate the Disability Action Plan and to ensure the plan is supported in a way which will demand our best efforts over the next four years.

There is a whakatauki which seems particularly apt:

He ao te rangi ka uhia, mā te huruhuru te manu ka rere ai.

As clouds bedeck the heavens, so do feathers to enable birds to fly.

This new Disability Action Plan is indeed the fuel and the feathers which will enable persons with disabilities to fly.

The plan requires government agencies to work together with each other and I thank Brendan Boyle, Chai Chuah and Martin Matthews for being here today. Great to see Government working with the wider community to deliver the four shared results, which disabled people have said matter the most to them.

The vision is “All New Zealanders experience equal rights of citizenship.”

I want to just deviate a little to look at this concept of equal rights.

You may have been aware of some hot air in the media today around the concept of being equal under the law. It’s a rhetorical question of course.

Some political parties interpret equal as meaning ‘one size fits all - everybody being treated exactly the same. Under this framework, equality inevitably benefits the majority but doesn’t take account of the distinctive differences of any groups that fall outside their frame of reference.

The question I would always ask is whether we are talking about equal opportunities or equal outcome – there is a massive difference. And within that debate, equity of treatment is desirable, not sameness. In other words, when we say equity, we refer to the qualities of justness, fairness, impartiality and even handedness. When we say equality, we mean an exact division, equal sharing.

In a real world example, if we serve up a pie for dinner, equality would mean everyone would get exactly the same slice of pie. Equity would mean, those with the greatest need would get a larger slice than those who aren’t hungry or prefer not to eat pie.

It is a very interesting debate, and I encourage further discussion about the terminology you apply towards achieving your goals. The United Nations Convention does provide us with some clarity – stating that parties are required to promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and ensure that they enjoy full equality under the law.

All that I ask, is that you continue to ask yourself, who is defining our terminology, whose voices are being heard, where are the gaps, and how do we work for the greatest outcomes for all?

I do want to encourage government agencies to take on the new way of working together. It is just as important that community stakeholders share responsibility for the collaborative approach encompassed in this plan.

The Disability Action Plan has priorities that are driven by disabled persons – we must take our lead from their vision.

As Minister for Disability Issues, I have been determined to support real change that reaches disabled people in their everyday lives. We have started on a journey, but we need to keep the momentum going.

If there is one thing I have loved about working with this community and their families, is their courage in holding government agencies and Ministers to account so that we will deliver real change.

I welcome the leadership of the Chief Executives’ Group on Disability Issues in taking up the challenge to set the benchmark high, recognising the value to be gained from involving disabled persons organisations.

My experience with the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues is that Ministers particularly benefitted from the annual meetings with the Independent Monitors, including disabled persons organisations, where the voices of disabled peoples were just as vital to the discussion as the Cabinet Ministers attending the meeting. I want to mihi to Rachel Noble for the difference she has made at this table.

The new way of working together is a practical demonstration of New Zealand’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is indeed a classic model for living out the mantra of nothing about us without us.

Article 4(3) of the Convention obliges States to ensure that the authentic voice of disabled people can be present alongside government agencies developing legislation, policy and services impacting on disabled persons.

This obligation acknowledges the long history of exclusion and invisibility of disabled people from government policy development and other matters that affect them.

Now is the time for your people to have their voice heard, for their advice and expertise to be taken into account.

I look forward to the new way of working together becoming business-as-usual for government agencies.

The agreement that you are signing today is helpful guidance for the journey that lies ahead of you.

I leave you to carry out this work full of hope and ambition that New Zealand will become a fully inclusive society. Do not withdraw from the challenges you will face. Embrace opportunities to learn from each other.

ENDS


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