Australia’s Department of Human Services has issued a stiff rebuttal after its 2014-15 Annual Report sparked allegations that it had slapped an ‘available for sale’ notice on the country’s hearing service
The exchange is the latest in an ongoing war of words over the possible privatisation of Australian Hearing, set up in 1947 to provide hearing rehabilitation services and hearing aids to children and adults with complex hearing problems.
A National Commission of Audit report published in February 2014 recommended that several entities, including Australian Hearing, be privatised ‘in the near term’. The proposal was criticised by organisations representing the deaf and hearing impaired community, including the Deafness Forum of Australia.
Almost two years later the government is yet to make clear whether it intends to act on the advice although it has promised to do so by the end of this year.
The latest flare up is the result of the Department of Human Services 2014–15 Annual Report containing a standard note on the administered investments of Australian Hearing, that they are ‘available for sale’. This was seized on by critics as an indication that the privatisation of the service is to go ahead.
In a statement issued to the media the Department of Human Services said:
‘The “available for sale” description is consistent with the Commonwealth Entities Financial Statements Guide and has been used in relation to Australian Hearing administered investments since at least the 2010–11 annual report.
‘Classifying administered investments as “available for sale” does not imply that they are held for sale.’
There are an estimated four million Australians and their families living with hearing health issues.