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Wednesday, 29 August 2001
Page: 26864

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (12:05 PM) —This is a very important issue because hearing loss is a very important issue; as I recall, the Senate passed a motion yesterday relating to Hearing Awareness Week. As the son of a former ear, nose and throat surgeon, I have had a long understanding of these issues. My dad actually owned his own hearing testing booth, so I have a better understanding of these issues than most others. The government proposal requires that a person suffer a further five per cent hearing loss before they can receive any further compensation payment. This further threshold of five per cent is proposed as it is the threshold at which further hearing loss can be effectively assessed. This is the nub of the matter. It is not a figure that has been plucked out of the air; it is a figure we have taken advice on from the National Acoustic Laboratories. I think most people would agree that theirs is the most expert advice available, and their advice is that, if the threshold is any lower than five per cent, it is difficult to medically determine whether a person has actually suffered a further hearing loss. The National Acoustic Laboratories' advice to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission is that the threshold should be five per cent. Both the commission and the government have accepted this advice. If a lower threshold is set, not only would the level of hearing loss be more difficult to determine and the potential for error be greater but there would also be a significant increase in administrative costs, which would surely outweigh the benefits.