Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Order for the Production of Documents
I seek leave to take note of the report that has been tabled.
This is a response to my request that was carried by the Senate yesterday to require the Minister for Health to table two interim reports and a final report of the National Mental Health Commission's inquiry into mental health services and programs in our country. This is the third time the Senate has agreed it is in the interests of our nation that these reports be tabled. I am very concerned that the government is again refusing to comply with the order of the Senate to present these documents for the public to be able to have a proper conversation about mental health services in our country.
I did not oppose the government's decision to undertake a review into mental health services. That is a reasonable thing to do. But I am critical of the way that this review has been conducted. It has been conducted by and large in secret. Firstly, we know that many of the organisational submissions to the inquiry have not been published, so there is not a proper open conversation. There is no transparency around what people have said to the commission as part of their submissions. Then we had the interim report in February and again in June. Neither of those reports to government have been published. There is no understanding in the mental health sector of what is being recommended in those essentially data collecting processes for the first two reports. Therefore, people are not aware of what data has been collected.
The reason I moved this motion yesterday was that the government had received, on 1 December last year, the final report from the commission. It should have been published there and then. The community and the mental health sector want to know what is in the report. They want to know what the recommendations are so that they can participate in a discussion with government to be able to come to an agreed position about the future for mental health in our country. That is the way it should be done.
Instead, what I see in the document that has just been tabled, the minister says: 'I again note that the tabling of these documents prior to deliberation by government would inhibit the ability of government to properly respond to the review.' I read that to say that the government will respond to the review at the same time as it is tabled. That is not a good and proper way to conduct a public conversation about mental health services. I am not the only one who has that view. This is increasingly discussed in the mental health sector. Increasingly, very well respected organisations in the mental health sector are joining with me to call on the government to publish this document.
If we receive the government response at the same time that the report of the Mental Health Commission is received, it is done and dusted; there is no opportunity for an informed discussion around mental health services and programs in the country to then ensue. So I call on the minister to indicate to the Senate whether the government is going to produce not only the Mental Health Commission's report but also the government response at the same time. Please advise the Senate so that we can have a conversation about that. That is not what the mental health community wants to happen. We want to have an open conversation about mental health services. As someone said to me today, it is not just the government who is in this game; if we are going to improve mental health services in our country, we all have to be engaged—mental health consumers, the people who provide services to people living with mental illness, the government and the states and territories have to be engaged. That will not happen if the report and the government response are produced at the same time.
Question agreed to.