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Mental Health

Rachel Siewert 16 Nov 2010

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia) (3.59 pm)—I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 80 standing in my name for today relating to mental health funding. I move the motion as amended:

That the Senate—
(a)    notes that:
-  mental illness is a significant health issue in our community and it must be considered a fundamental component of the national health reform plan, 
-  45 per cent of the nation’s population will experience a mental health disorder at some point in life,
-  mental illness required nearly two million occupied bed days in Australian public hospitals in 2007-08, and
-  it is estimated that approximately $380 million per year is spent providing acute hospital care to patients better cared for in other settings;

(b) calls on the Government to:
(i)    provide additional funding of at least $450 million per year for mental health over the next 4 years to fund:
-  $250 million per year for early intervention mental health programs including ‘headspace’ and early psychosis prevention services, 
-  $100 million per year to expand ongoing primary health care programs to target those in need, the vulnerable and long-term clientele working with the community and non-government organisation sector, and 
- $100 million per year for alternatives to emergency department treatment such as multi-disciplinary community-based sub-acute services  that supports ‘stepped’ (two-staged) prevention and recovery care,
(ii) establish a:
- dedicated Mental Health Commission to oversee the development of appropriate mental health services and transparent accountability at arms length from government, such as exists in New Zealand and Canada, and
- national network of one-stop shop community mental health centres accessible by public transport and centrally located, and
(iii) provide additional training for general practitioners and nurses to triage mental health appropriately; and

(c) send a message to the House of Representatives informing it of this resolution and requesting it concur.

Question negatived.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (4.00 pm)—Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statement. The DEPUTY PRESIDENT—Senator, normally that would be done before we take the vote. Leave is granted for two minutes. Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS—The coalition has not supported this motion. I am sorry to say that this is a case of the Greens trying to play catch-up. The Greens had the opportunity on 26 October to support the coalition’s motion that called on the government to expand mental health services but failed to do so. That motion passed the Senate thanks to the support of Senators Fielding and Xenophon. Senator Siewert’s excuse was that our motion had no costings; but, as the senator is well aware, the coalition’s motion was a mirror of our mental health policy, which was fully costed at $1.5 billion. The coalition policy has been endorsed by leading mental health practitioners, while the Labor Party has failed to act on mental health in its first term. Labor promised to

make mental health a second-term priority, but all we got were certain cuts. Thanks to a backflip this week, the Better Access initiative funding has been reinstated.

Can I also say it is a bit rich of the Greens to now call on the Senate to support a motion on mental health so that they can save face with their constituents after the public backlash they received for not supporting the coalition’s motion on 26 October. GetUp! has an automatic email on its website urging the Greens to support the same coalition motion in the lower house. I ask the Greens: how many emails did you get funnelled through GetUp! which have now pushed you to put forward this motion?

The Greens have used as an excuse to not support the coalition’s motion that there were no costings. The motion today asked for $450 million a year for four years, but where is the money coming from? There are no costings for the dedicated mental health commission, no costings for the one-shop community mental health centres and no costings for the additional training for GPs. This is a double standard by the Greens. We believe in real action and call on the government to act on the motion already passed by the Senate on 26 October.

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia)

(4.02 pm)—Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statement. The DEPUTY PRESIDENT—Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator SIEWERT—At the time the coalition put their motion on mental health, I indicated that there was no costing and also that the fundamental problem with it was that it dealt with one area of mental health, which was early intervention. At that time I made it clear that the Greens support a comprehensive approach to mental health funding and the provision of mental health services which not only includes early intervention, head-space and the EPPIC model for centres but also deals with the issue of finding alternatives to emergency departments, as well as a commission for mental health et cetera. We were really clear on that.

Contrary to what was said about my motion being in response to GetUp!, I tabled the motion on Thursday so that it could be dealt with today. I am happy to say that we received over 6,000 emails from GetUp! I put that on the record. But do you know what? When I responded very comprehensively to those emails, I got an overwhelming response saying, ‘Well done, the Greens, because you are taking a comprehensive approach to mental health funding and not just focusing on early intervention.’ In fact you, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, would probably have got emails as well—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT—Order! Senator, address the chair.

Senator SIEWERT—I am sorry. Through you, Mr Deputy President, I am sure Senator Fierravanti-Wells also got a range of emails from mental health experts saying they are very concerned with the focus only on early intervention. The Greens are well on the record for supporting early intervention, but we are also on the record for supporting a comprehensive approach to mental health funding which requires not just investing in early intervention. That is supported very broadly by the experts working in mental health. We consulted very widely in our policy. Senator Fierravanti-Wells— through you, Mr Deputy President—also let the cat out of the bag before when she said that coalition policy is simply what they were implementing with their motion, not taking a comprehensive approach.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT—Order, Senator Siewert! You were given leave for two minutes.

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