Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Health, Stephen Jones today demanded the Abbott Government reject the recommendation by the Commission of Audit to privatise Australian Hearing Services.
In his address to Parliament, Jones said he is deeply concerned the sell-off will result in a lack of affordable services in regional areas like the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, where incomes are lower, care is more expensive and distances to travel more vast.
“For local kids like Felix Williams of Windang and his family, the support of Australian Hearing Services is immeasurable”, said Jones.
“The organisation has a bulk-purchasing arrangement that allows families on lower incomes to access new technologies, upgrades and parts for their child’s hearing devices at below market cost.
“When costs for a Cochlear upgrade can be anywhere up to $20,000, a lack of support services like Australian Hearing would mean a huge blow to the hip-pocket of local families.
“Especially when the new device will make the difference between whether their child reaches all the academic, physical and social goals of other kids their age.
“The sad reality is that a lot of children will fall behind as their families do not have the resources to provide for their hearing treatment during those crucial first five years.”
Stephen Jones says it is not just young children who stand to be significantly disadvantaged by the privatisation of Australian Hearing Services.
“Hearing loss affects over 4 million Australians, half of these of working age”, said Jones.
“A male with hearing disability is 20 per cent more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population, and over 16 per cent more likely for a female. We cannot underestimate the importance of this issue.
“It is not good enough for the Abbott Government to say ‘let’s leave it to the market’. There is a clear need for Australian Government intervention.”
“I’m calling on Tony Abbott and Minister for Human Services Marise Payne to act in the interest of over 4 million Australians with hearing loss and reject the reckless recommendations of the Commission of Audit to sell-off Australian Hearing Services.”