It’s probably the lamest excuse since Alan Bond went for the memory lapse defence. We’re not saying that former AWB boss Trevor Flugge is lying about his hearing issues, just that using partial deafness as an excuse for not knowing about “trucking fees” is rather embarrassing.

Not to mention insulting. To claim that he couldn’t properly sign off on his duties as AWB head due to hearing impairment is to claim a lower level of competence. This morning, Flugge’s not exactly the poster boy for managing hearing loss in the workplace.

We were “having a bit of a laugh about it” this morning, the CEO of Deafness Forum of Australia Brian Rope told Crikey. Maybe he should have used his million dollars “to buy himself a decent set of hearing aids.”

But seriously, if you’ve got a hearing loss, then “you’ve got to do something to help yourself to overcome the communication difficulties you’ve got.” If you don’t have much money, it can be difficult, says Rope, but “for someone in a high paid job it’s simple, you go out and purchase what you need.”

Meanwhile, there are “plenty of examples of people in senior positions who do help themselves.” In fact, John Howard has a hearing problem and not all that long ago, hearing devices were put into Parliament House for his benefit, notes Rope.

A Crikey reader who is also deaf in the left ear says she’s “slightly pis*ed off” by Flugge’s excuse but will store “this reasoning in my file for use at a later date.”

Has he hindered career paths for the hearing disabled? “I think not! In fact we may have become the person most wanted to head up project teams because when the sh*t hits the fan our defence will be: ‘Didn’t hear, lost context or not sure who said what.'” Flugge can also play the “old discrimination card now and may have protected himself from dismissal.” Oh yes, “there are definite advantages.”

Peter Fray

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