On Monday I spoke in parliament on the importance of Australian Hearing.
The Liberals are thinking about privatising this service, despite it helping Australians in need since World War II.
Also, watch the speech I gave in parliament below:
Labor believes in a fair go for all, and in 1944 the Curtin government established the Acoustic Research Laboratory to look into the effects of excessive noise on military personnel. It was the last full year of the world war, and there was an attempt to look at the occupational issues that arise from military service—and we know that they are substantial. In 1947, the Chifley government introduced hearing services through that Acoustic Research Laboratory, and in 1947 it also expanded those services for children affected by the 1939 to 1941 rubella outbreaks. Since that time, for 67 years, Australian Hearing and its predecessors have been providing vital services to many Australians—today some 450,000 Australians.
This was not something that was trashed by those opposite in those years; in fact, they built on it. In 1968, the then Liberal government expanded that service to include pensioners as well. That is a good thing: Labor had a good idea and the coalition built on it. Even John Howard, for all his many sins in this place, added to those services, because there is a distinct need in the community, and that need has to be met, and it can only be met by government services.
Australian Hearing provides those services to a diverse section of the population—to the young and the old, to veterans and others. We know that without its support—not just the services it provides but also the laboratory services, the testing and likewise—many people would not be able to receive this assistance. We know that groups like Deaf Children Australia talk about hearing impairments being barriers to personal development and social inclusion for children and young people who are either deaf or hard of hearing. It is obvious to all of us that, if you cannot hear, you really face an uphill climb in terms of learning and participating in society. When we had the recent week of activism, we certainly learnt that from some of the individuals who came up to Canberra to tell us.
What we see here is not a sensible privatisation but simply ideology for ideology's sake. This is simply the government following the recommendations of its Commission of Audit. It put this Commission of Audit in place basically to evade its own election commitments. So we see the GP tax, the cuts to hospitals and the attacks on Australians on welfare, and now what we see is a totally unnecessary privatisation of what has for 67 years been an incredibly important service to pensioners and young people and, prior to that, to all those veterans after World War II.
We know that privatisation will disrupt the service. We know there is a great deal of uncertainty related to the scoping study that this government has imposed upon Australian Hearing. There is great uncertainty for the service and a great chance of a break and disruption in that service. Of course, we know who will suffer most. It will not be those in capital cities on high incomes, who can afford to buy services, it will be those in the outer suburbs, those in regional communities and those in remote communities in the bush. People who live in the suburbs of Warringah, Sturt or North Sydney will not be the people to suffer it will be those furthest from the GPO.
This is just another broken promise by this government. Its schools policy said school children first. Its Indigenous election policy provided a better future, more job opportunities, empowered individuals in communities and a higher standard of living. This privatisation will undercut all of those commitments that were given by this government at the last election.
This government is on an ideological crusade. There has not been a more ruthless, nasty commission of audit since Otto Niemeyer advised the government during the depression. We know what it has given us: the GP tax, cuts to hospitals and schools, attacks to welfare recipients, attacks now to the hearing repaired, devastating their services with a totally unnecessary privatisation, which will disrupt and damage services in what has been an incredibly important service for 67 years.