Home google Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan urged to apologise over 'autistic' banks comment - ABC Online

Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan urged to apologise over 'autistic' banks comment - ABC Online

Posted November 27, 2017 16:32:52

A prominent Australian human rights lawyer and former disability discrimination commissioner has slammed comments made by Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan that major banks have shown an "almost autistic disregard" for the law.

Senator O'Sullivan made the controversial comparison last week as he pushed the case for an independent commission of inquiry into unethical and unlawful practices at Australia's major banks.

The comments are hurtful to people with autism and the senator should apologise said Dr Graeme Innes, the Australian Human Rights Commission's former disability discrimination commissioner.

"I was appalled by that comment and I think that the senator owes an apology to people with autism throughout Australia," Dr Innes told ABC's The World Today.

"I've spoke to a number of people in the autism community who are deeply hurt by the use of that language.

"The old saying that sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me is just not true.

"All the research shows that and people are already disadvantaged are hurt and damaged but such inappropriate use of handicappist language."

Speaking on RN Breakfast last week, Senator O'Sullivan said banks "show an almost autistic disregard for banks prudential regulation and law", claiming he was close to support for a parliamentary inquiry.

Backlash from ABC audiences

The ABC has been contacted over the past week by readers and listeners outraged by Senator O'Sullivan's comments, including parents of children with autism.

Some of the comments the received by the ABC were:

"Such blatant, ignorant, outdated and abhorrent discrimination should not go unchallenged."

"I have two high-functioning sons on the autism spectrum who need to be part of an inclusive society."

"By using the word "autistic" as an adjective, Senator O'Sullivan is perpetuating an archaic view of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It devalues them. Different is not disabled. He (Senator O'Sullivan) is in dire need of re-education."

"Did he (Senator O'Sullivan) really use the word 'autistic' in such a manner? It is utterly shameful. I am a proud parent of a son with ASD and I cannot believe he said that."

Senator O'Sullivan's office has been contacted by the ABC for a response to calls for him to apologise.

Dr Innes criticised the senator after being appointed by the Australian Bankers' Association to review banking accessibility standards for people with disabilities.

"Banks led the way on voluntary industry standards in the '90s," Dr Innes said.

"I'm happy to be involved to be working with them again to make those standards relevant for today.

"As a former disability discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, I am passionate about equality and access to services.

"Technology has moved so quickly that we need to ensure that products are not just fit for today, but also for the future."

Dr Innes will work with TCC Strategic Consulting to examine potential improvements to electronic banking for people with disabilities, and will consult with the disability sector, banks, government agencies and the technology sector.

Follow Peter Ryan on Twitter @peter_f_ryan.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, banking, government-and-politics

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