Our six point election plan – Labor responds
We asked all parties to support our six point election plan. Today Labor responded. Here’s what they said:
Labor recognises that more could be done to prevent and detect hearing loss in Australia, and to provide better care and support to Australians with impaired hearing.
A Shorten Labor Government will work with the Deafness Forum of Australia and other stakeholders to identify and address these needs and will work closely with the states and territories, given their shared responsibility for preventing, detecting and treating hearing loss. In particular, a Shorten Labor Government will work with States and Territories to ensure that no matter which state they live in, children can access hearing checks at key stages of life.
A Shorten Labor Government will build on Labor’s strong record on hearing health. The last Labor Government welcomed the Hear Us inquiry and responded proactively to its recommendations extending the Hearing Services Program to include young people up to the age of 26, and improving services for children, young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and people with complex hearing issues.
In addition to these reforms, Labor has provided strong ongoing support for the Hearing Services Program. In its last year in Government (2012-13), Labor invested over $400 million to better fund hearing services for more than 650,000 Australians.
Labor understands the importance of primary care and prevention and the importance of access to universal health care. A Shorten Labor Government will restore indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule from 1 January 2017. This will apply to all services provided by GPs, allied health and other health practitioners, and medical specialists. We will also reverse Mr Turnbull’s funding cuts which will reduce bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging, and increase the cost of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payments.
These measures will ensure that people have affordable access to seeing GPs and specialists, including to look after their hearing health. A Shorten Labor Government will work with Deafness Forum to raise awareness of hearing health, particularly as people get older, and that hearing loss is not simply a part of ageing but that early detection and treatment are vital to maintaining health. As part of this we will consult with Deafness Forum of Australia, doctors and other stakeholders on ways to ensure affordable access to hearing checks for people over 50.
On 1 July 2016, the NDIS will begin rolling out around the country. Over the next three years, around 460,000 people with disability, including deaf and deafblind Australians, will get access to the NDIS. This will be transformative for people with disability, their carers and families. Under the NDIS, people with disability will have choice and control over the services and supports they receive, for the very first time.
Under the NDIS, people will get access to interpreter services, Auslan training and deafblind support services.
Labor built the NDIS because we knew that the services and supports for Australians with disability were entirely inadequate. Labor will work with the deaf community to ensure the interests of deaf and deafblind Australians are at the core of the rollout of the NDIS. Labor is also committed to ensuring that people outside the NDIS get the help they need and will address any gaps for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment as a priority in Government.
Labor understands the importance of affordable access to hearing devices and will engage with Deafness Forum further on ways to address this. While Labor would be open to the discussion of options, tax deductibility for a health related expense would not be Labor’s preferred method as is it regressive and those with the lowest incomes are unable to benefit from tax deductions.
A Shorten Labor Government will ensure people with disability will have strong advocates to make sure their interests are never sidelined, never ignored and never forgotten. Labor will provide an additional $2 million a year to peak disability advocacy organisations to ensure people with disability have a powerful voice in the debates and decisions that affect their lives.
In contrast, the Liberals have done all they can to silence the voices of people with disability, cutting funding for peak disability advocacy organisations like the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and Deafness Forum of Australia. While a very small part of this funding has since been reinstated, this funding is inadequate and the future of these organisations remains in doubt after 1 July 2016.
The Liberals also abolished the full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, silencing another powerful voice for people with disability, only recently reinstating the position.
The Turnbull Liberal Government are continuing to push for the privatisation of Australian Hearing, a world-class hearing service provider, despite overwhelming opposition from people living with hearing health issues. Australian Hearing has been providing services to infants, young people, age pensioners, Indigenous Australians and veterans for over 60 years. If privatised, this world- class service will be under threat, leaving people – particularly in remote and rural areas – without access to a quality hearing service.
Labor will keep Australian Hearing and the National Acoustic Laboratories in public hands and oppose Malcolm Turnbull’s plans to privatise these vital services. A Shorten Labor Government will support Australian Hearing to continue its vital work and will review the parameters of Australian Hearing’s services so it can meet the challenges of operating under the contestable funding model of the NDIS.
A Shorten Labor Government would look forward to engaging further with Deafness Forum on the issues raised in your platform.