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Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Health

Senator for New South Wales
10 July 2015


Parents of deaf children felt so sidelined by the Abbott Governments process of
privatising a vital federal hearing service that they commenced a freedom of
information request for access to a government-commissioned report, a Senate
hearing was told today.
Parents of Deaf Children and Aussie Deaf Kids have been denied access to the
scoping report commissioned by Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann.
Despite numerous requests they have been unable to view
PricewaterhouseCoopers recommendations about the sale of Australian Hearing
and National Acoustic Laboratories.
The groups told the Senate Select Committee on Health they are concerned the
privatisation of Australian Hearing would shift hefty costs for services and
hearing devices to families, as well as expose stressed parents of deaf newborns
to the confusion of an open marketplace.
Chair of the committee, Senator Deborah ONeill, said hearing care in Australia
was at a crossroads with the ongoing roll-out of the National Disability Insurance
Senator ONeill said it was appalling to hear evidence that parents were being
kept in the dark about the sell-off of a service that is so critical to the early
intervention, care and support of deaf children and their families, many without
the finances to pay for such care.
Mark Wyburn of Parents of Deaf Children (PODC) told the Senate hearing that the
parent support groups had to put our foot in the door to make a submission to
the PwC inquiry examining the break-up of Australia Hearing.
There was no call for participation (in the inquiry), Mr Wyburn told the
committee. Weve been trying to get engagement with the Government, they
should be talking to the people with the most skin in the game.
PODC and CEO of Aussie Deaf Kids, Ann Porter, told the hearing they needed to
see the scoping report on the future of Australian Hearing, a national

organisation that provides wholistic care at a time when parents are least able
to deal with their situation an incredibly challenging time, Ms Porter said.
Mr Wyburn said the groups which are not for profit were told the report was
commercial in confidence and cabinet in confidence, and that if they wished to
proceed with the FOI they would have to come up with an initial $1700 payment
just to determine whether a request could be processed. If they proceeded there
was no guarantee the redacted in-confidence sections would be released.
Senator ONeill said Senator Cormanns promise of further consultation was in
name only, as stakeholders were arbitrarily invited, and in any case would be
commenting on a scoping report they had not seen.
This is not the way to treat parents concerned about the hearing care of their
children, young adults and pensioners who fear Australian Hearing will be sold off
with no input into what form replacement services will take, Senator ONeill
The very real outcome is that a privatised Australian Hearing will move from
providing affordable hearing care to a user-pays model and shift cost to clients,
many of whom cannot afford fully commercial hearing services.
The fact remains, Australian Hearing is extremely successful, it is recognised
around the world, it is cost effective, so why does the Abbott Government want it
broken up?

Anne Charlton 0400 433 743