Family fights to stop hearing service sale

CONCERNS: Pictured with his FM system to help at school, Jacob Floyd has been a major beneficiary of Australian Hearing. Picture: ADAM HOLMES

CONCERNS: Pictured with his FM system to help at school, Jacob Floyd has been a major beneficiary of Australian Hearing. Picture: ADAM HOLMES

BENDIGO'S Floyd family had a number of goals as they set off for Canberra last week.

Nine year-old Jacob, who was born completely deaf, was due to speak at the Power of Speech Awards where he was the Victorian nomination for a national award for children aged 9 to 12.

He received two cochlear implants aged 19 months, procedures made possible by the publicly-owned Australian Hearing. Jacob's speech is now perfect.

The body is now mooted for sale, along with Australian Mint and Defence Housing Australia.

The family met with opposition leader Bill Shorten to voice their concerns last week. Mr Shorten then questioned federal treasurer Joe Hockey over the proposed sale in parliament.

The treasurer argued it was not the government's responsibility to own Australian Hearing and it made an unfair playing field with other private operators.

Jacob's mother Andrea Floyd said the treasurer's response was inadequate.

"It might be true that Australian Hearing competes with others for adult services, but it's the only pediatric provider," she said.

"If it's sold and it's then operated as a private business, what are they going to do? Either increase prices or reduce services."

What are they going to do? Either increase prices or reduce services. - Andrea Floyd

The question caused a heated exchange in parliament, with constant interjections from both sides.

Mr Hockey said the opposition was using the Floyd family as a political football.

"Australian Hearing competes with a range of other private sector providers. It competes in the private market," he said.

"Is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that those other providers do not provide appropriate services?"

Australian Hearing had already faced financial hardship and had been forced to redirect part of its funding.

It redirected $800,000 from its voucher program for people to visit audiologists to its community services obligations program, which supports pediatric services.

Mrs Floyd said one of the most helpful aspects of Australian Hearing was that it did not create a bias within the deaf community.

"There's an assumption that children regain their hearing in the same way," she said.

"We had access to early intervention for Jacob, and having the service based here in Bendigo has meant we don't need to travel to Melbourne."

While the public will hear a lot more about the sale of Australian Hearing in the coming months, Jacob was just happy to be able to complete his schooling at Kennington Primary School.

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