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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29420


Ms LIVERMORE (9:40 AM) —I wish to draw the attention of this House to the plight of the hearing impaired in my electorate of Capricornia. I bring to the House just two examples of the many people who are affected by the failure of this Howard government to assist those people in our community who are hearing impaired. World War II veteran Gordon Ohl of Keppel Sands has had to wait six months for replacement hearing aids through the federal government public health system. This has had a terrible effect on the quality of life of this 83-year-old. He can no longer enjoy watching television, has difficulty following conversations and talking on the telephone and feels endangered every time he crosses the road. Mr Ohl first contacted Australian Hearing Services in January this year but did not get a hearing test until 5 May. He was then told that he would not get a hearing aid until the end of June. Since my intervention, that has been brought forward to 4 June, but that still represents a six-month wait for Mr Ohl. I understand from my inquiries that Australian Hearing Services in our region is understaffed at present, but surely that is a problem for the government to fix. It should not be people like Mr Ohl who pay the price for this government's neglect of essential health services.

Clearly, this situation is unacceptable, but the situation facing another of my constituents is even worse. Gregory McDougall was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of four. He was supplied with hearing aids through the National Acoustics Laboratory until he turned 21. Gregory is now 33 and his position is that, while he has hearing aids, he is able to study. However, without aids he is unable to either study or find employment. The hearing aids he received just before he turned 21 are now beyond repair. Centrelink has informed him that there are no provisions for anyone on Newstart to be given hearing aids. However, as a recipient of Newstart the cost of purchasing hearing aids is well beyond his capacity. Does this mean that he will have to try to survive without hearing aids until he reaches 65? Will he still be expected to try to study or find employment without the assistance of hearing aids? It would seem that, whatever way he goes, there is no provision under the present guidelines for assistance to people like Gregory with hearing disabilities.

Surely we must do whatever we can to support young people like Gregory to actively study or seek employment. For this to occur, Gregory should be provided with hearing aids, while remaining on the Newstart allowance. I am asking the Minister for Health and Ageing to personally review Gregory's case, as it is obviously one where the system is failing and real assistance is needed to ensure that this man is given every opportunity to lead a fulfilled and worthwhile life in our society and does not spend the next 30 years waiting for a pension at 65 so that he can finally receive the hearing aids he needs to take his place in our society.