Hearing loss is Australia's invisible condition. In spite of this, it is one of the most common of physical impairments.
The Hearing Care Industry Association estimates that there are approximately 16,000 people in the Hunter electorate who have a hearing impairment. One in six Australians suffer from some degree of hearing loss. By 2050 this will increase to one in four.
The effects of hearing loss can be far-reaching, with reduced educational and employment opportunities and social isolation. Only one in four people who could benefit from a hearing aid have one. The average age of people accessing hearing services under the Commonwealth Government scheme is 79 years, yet half the people with hearing loss are under the age of 65 years of age.
Funding for hearing services is fragmented across Commonwealth and State agencies, and between the public and private sectors.
I’ve had a number of people ask me about the coming redistribution of Commonwealth electorate boundaries. To retain the principle of one vote one value, it is important to ensure each electorate across the country has the same number (or as close to) of voters. Further, of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, each State is allocated a share based on population.
Every seven years the Australian Electoral Commission reviews the boundaries and state quotas to consider whether shifts in population necessitate changes to the electoral map. That’s the process we are going through now.
The first stage of the process determined that Western Australia will gain an electorate at the expense of NSW. The commissioners are now working out which seat will be abolished and then, how the people of NSW will be placed into 48 rather than 49 electorates.
So there is plenty of speculation around at the moment as experts and the not-so-expert speculate about which electorate disappears and how the boundaries of the remaining electorates will be changed. Indeed because our own electorate is low on numbers, some say we are for the chop.
But I’ve been through four re-distributions and more often than not, the speculation has been wrong. In any case, while they can abolish a seat they can’t abolish towns!
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To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.