By Luke Voogt
Labor has taken a swipe at Sarah Henderson’s credentials as the new assistant minister for disability services, criticising her role in a controversial incident in 2016.
Corio MP Richard Marles slammed Ms Henderson in parliament on Tuesday for “reprimanding” council after it donated land to a disability provider.
But Ms Henderson hit back, describing Mr Marles’ comments as “misleading” and defending her actions to protect smaller providers from “discrimination”.
In February 2016 Geelong’s council decided to donate land in Ocean Grove to genU for disability housing, a move which several councillors opposed.
The Member for Corangamite criticised the giveaway of $1 million of land, describing the donation as windfall at the expense of other organisations.
In parliament Mr Marles questioned Ms Henderson’s appointment to the assistant ministry based her actions in 2016.
“How can we trust the assistant minister to champion the development of critical infrastructure in communities across the country when she works against disability housing for her own constituents?” he asked.
“It is clear the council was doing its part to address an important issue and help a local organisation deliver life-changing outcomes.
“Thankfully, the Member for Corangamite did not win this. genU did receive the parcel of land from the City of Greater Geelong and a new youth disability house will open soon, with nine residents to be moved in by Christmas.”
But Ms Henderson said her concerns about council “giving away land at no cost, depriving Ocean Grove ratepayers of important revenue” were legitimate.
“These comments by Mr Marles are disingenuous and misleading,” she said.
“My concern at the time was that genU, then Karingal, should have paid some amount for this land, even if it was discounted.
“It received a windfall at the expense of other disability organisations in our region which received no such benefit.
“This was an inequitable arrangement underpinned by poor governance which discriminated against smaller disability organisations.”
But Ms Henderson welcomed the disability housing as a wonderful asset for the Bellarine.
Her government, through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, had committed more than $80 million for disability housing, she added.