House debates

Monday, 25 October 2010

Private Members’ Business

Mental Health

7:37 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

They did. They capped it in 2004, when Tony Abbott was the minister for health. That is what they did. We have made a strong commitment and we are funding more doctors, more nurses and more training places. E-health is another aspect important to mental health. Again, we had the shadow minister for communications here today in this place sitting opposite, where the member for Dickson currently sits, with a private member’s motion. He was in the House earlier today with a bill with respect to, really, attempting to procrastinate and delay on the National Broadband Network, which is so critical for e-health. So the coalition have form with respect to this issue, and it is a bit rich for them to come in here and start lecturing us on these types of matters.

The truth is that we are the first government ever to have a minister for mental health. We make no secret of the fact—the minister said this today in question time—that there is a lot more to do. We have started, and the COAG reforms have invested significant additional resources in mental health. This includes the headspace and EPPIC sites, not to mention a major investment in subacute beds. As the minister said in his answer today, many of those are associated with mental health. Of course, this comes on top of our primary care and hospital reforms, which we believe will have a significant impact across the whole spectrum of patients, including those suffering from mental health problems.

In my electorate, we have seen significant investments in health and hospitals, including significant investment in Ipswich General Hospital. We have seen a substantial increase in funding, and the Ipswich General Hospital is the hub around which the health service operates in the city of Ipswich. There is additional funding to assist great organisations in my local community that deal with people suffering from ill health. This supports wonderful people like Diane Bos, who is the manager of the Ipswich and West Moreton Lifeline service. It supports Southern Cross community care, Focal Extended and ALARA—wonderful organisations receiving assistance from the federal government to provide help for those people suffering from mental disability.

The coalition purports to give us lectures on funding for mental health, and we have seen tonight spokespeople for those opposite saying that they put a lot more money into mental health and propose to do so in future. Let us have a look at the record. With respect to mental health funding under the Medicare Benefits Schedule, pharmaceutical benefits funding and funding for mental-health-specific programs, including Indigenous programs to do with mental health services, we will nearly double that over the next four years—$1.2 billion from 2010-11 to 2013-14. That compares to—wait for it—only $516.3 million from 2004-05 to 2007-08. Five hundred and sixteen million dollars is not the same as $1.2 billion, the money that this government is putting in. The Howard government put nothing like the kind of funding that the federal Labor government has put since 2007 and will put into mental health services. Furthermore, as part of our election commitment, there is $277 million allocated over four years for mental health. That will go principally towards tackling issues of suicide. I have dealt with many chaplains in my electorate, and they do wonderful work in the schools with young people suffering from depression, anxiety and other kinds of difficulties. I have dealt with the wonderful organisations I have spoken about tonight, who do great work with people who are suffering challenges in their lives from mental illness, particularly depression. Three-quarters of those people who kill themselves are men, so mental health with respect to men is a big challenge.

There is a lot more to do, but the funding we are putting into front-line services will make a difference. There is nearly $114 million to provide services to those at greatest risk of suicide, including psychology and psychiatric services and non-clinical support to assist people with severe mental illness and carers with day-to-day needs. That is why I said the psychology clinic on the University of Queensland Ipswich campus, receiving federal government funding via the division of general practice, will make a difference in the lives of people locally.

I mentioned Lifeline before. Lifeline Australia is also receiving assistance. There is $74.3 million for direct suicide prevention and crisis intervention, including funding to provide safety at suicide hot spots. There are more services, particularly through Lifeline Australia. I want to pay tribute to the Reverend Diane Bos, who I mentioned before. She is a pillar of the local Uniting Church and has been involved as the general manager of Lifeline in Ipswich. The work that she does should not be underestimated—it is tremendous. Her love, affection and capacity to show care for those in need are so evident in her life. She puts her concern for her fellow human beings into practice, and I want to pay tribute to her.

I mentioned assistance to men in greatest need before: $22.8 million to provide services and support to men at greatest risk. Funding through beyondblue will assist up to 30,000 additional men each year. I also mentioned young people. There are many great chaplains, counsellors and people who work with young people in my electorate. There is $66 million to promote good mental health and resilience in young people, to prevent suicide later in life. Much of what we are doing comes from the COAG process, working in consultation with the states and territories to achieve good outcomes.

Every community suffers problems with mental health and illness. Some people suffer these problems temporarily. For some it is chronic, severe, debilitating, employment inhibiting and stifling to recreation. This is a serious problem, and I would hope and expect that those opposite would adopt a more conciliatory and bipartisan approach and not use these motions to simply attack us.


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