Dylan Alcott has added his name to a growing list of people who have criticised Scott Morrison over a controversial comment about disabilities.
Dylan Alcott has added his name to the growing list of politicians and disability advocates who have blasted Prime Minister Scott Morrison for saying he and wife Jenny were “blessed” to have children without disability.
Mr Morrison was questioned about what the future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme would look like under his government by an audience member at the Sky News/The Courier Mail People’s Forum on Wednesday evening in Brisbane.
The woman, Catherine, said she had a four-year-old autistic son, and his NDIS funding had been cut by 30 per cent.
Mr Morrison then asked questions about Catherine’s son and what his name was before he spoke about his own family.
“I can’t …,” he began.
“Jenny and I have been blessed, we have two children who haven’t had to go through that,” he continued.
“And so for parents, with children who are disabled, I can only try and understand your aspirations for those children.
“And then I think that is the beauty of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”
Former Australian of the Year Grace Tame – who is autistic herself – was quick to hit out at the Prime Minister for his comments.
“Autism blesses those of us who have it with the ability to spot fakes from a mile off,” she said in a tweet, accompanied by the now infamous picture of her side-eyeing Mr Morrison.
Tennis star and current Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott was also critical of the Prime Minister’s remark.
“Woke up this morning feeling very blessed to be disabled – I reckon my parents are pretty happy about it too,” he wrote.
“Feeling sorry for us and our families doesn’t help. Treating us equally, and giving us the choice and control over our own lives does.”
Meanwhile, Paralympian Kurt Fearnley used the opportunity to crack a joke about the situation: “Did I miss much, or was I blessed to miss it?”
Mr Morrison’s words caused mixed reviews during the forum, with some, including Labor’s NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten pointing out “every child is a blessing.”
Speaking with Channel 7 on Thursday morning, Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher said Mr Morrison’s comments upset her as a parent of a daughter with autism.
“I found it really offending and quite shocking, and it is something that people who have a disability, children with autism, it is a kind of response they get all the time,” she said.
“That people are blessed not to have what they have when, in actual fact, every child is a blessing.”
However, Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes, also a mum of a son with autism, slammed Mr Morrison’s opponents for “politicising” the issue and missing the point.
“I cannot believe that this is what they want to focus on,” she told Sydney’s 2GB radio.
“You know, (the Prime Minister and Jenny) were blessed. They tried for 14 years to have children. And they’re blessed with two beautiful daughters.
“But if that’s what you want to pick up from the Prime Minister, if you want to push this point that somehow he’s disregarding the experience … go away, stop politicising our experience if you’ve never been through it.”
She added while she was “blessed” herself to have three children, there were times when her child was younger that she “did not feel particularly blessed”.
“I can tell you I felt like I was parenting at an absolute master’s level … It was hard in those early days,” Senator Hughes said.
Respected disability advocate Craig Wallace agreed, taking to Twitter to say the gaffe was “careless” but not malicious.
“But it does speak to disability as a cosmic tragedy visited from the sky and it doesn’t have to be,” he wrote.
“If we are ‘cursed’ it’s because society didn’t choose to end barriers, discrimination and neglect.”
However, the comment also drew the ire of Autism Awareness Australia which warned people with disability will remember his words on polling day.
“Your words speak volumes about how you perceive people with a disability,” the organisation tweeted.
“Perhaps you should spend more time fixing and fully funding our NDIS, and less time counting your ‘blessings’.
In his answer, Mr Morrison paid credit to Julia Gillard for initiating the scheme when she was Prime Minister.
“It was a very complex system, it’s bigger than Medicare now,” he said.
“It actually costs more every year than it costs to run Medicare and those costs will continue to increase.”
Mr Morrison said the thing he loved about the NDIS was that it helped people with disabilities live their best life, bringing up the example of his brother-in-law who has multiple sclerosis.
“He gets support through the NDIS to ensure that he has the wheelchair he needs and the aids he needs at home to work as a call centre operator and do things like that,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Morrison said he believed the NDIS was worth investing in, but the government was working to get assessments right.