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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 1291


Mrs D’ATH (2:23 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. What is the government doing to improve the mental health of Australians?


Mr Pyne interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt will withdraw.


Mr Pyne —I withdraw, Mr Speaker.


Mr BUTLER (Minister for Mental Health and Ageing) —I thank the honourable member for her question. While the Prime Minister has said that there is more that we need to do as a national government in mental health—and with the greatest respect, of course, she is right about that—there is much that we are already doing. The current forward estimates include around $1.2 billion of specific funding for mental health initiatives additional to the MBS and the PBS, which is more than double the investment made in mental health during the last four years of the Howard government.

This significant increase includes a range of new programs such as the perinatal depression plan, which recognises the critical importance for a person’s long-term mental health, their lifetime mental health, of their earliest years of life. We are also rolling out the first 10 of up to 30 new Headspace sites. I have recently written to my state colleagues formally seeking their interest in partnering with the Commonwealth to develop early psychosis prevention and intervention centres in their jurisdictions. This is the first ever Commonwealth investment in the EPPIC model that has been around since the early 1990s. We also expect significant numbers of the 1,300 subacute beds committed at COAG earlier this year to be directed towards mental health. Already, we have heard from the South Australian government that around 80 per cent of their allocation will be used for step-up, step-down mental health facilities.

Labor’s $277 million suicide prevention plan announced by the Prime Minister in the election campaign will boost frontline services like Lifeline, which will be able to take tens of thousands of additional life-saving telephone calls, as well as connecting mobile phones for the first time toll free. The government will fund infrastructure to prevent suicide at notorious hot spots. Already I have met with the Woollahra local council to talk to them about fast tracking funding and getting work underway as soon as possible to fund infrastructure at the most notorious suicide hot spot in the country, The Gap at Watsons Bay in Sydney. Other elements of the plan will focus on: building resilience in our young children through a huge expansion of the successful KidsMatter program; expanding beyondblue’s very successful programs that target men, who still account for three-quarters of the nation’s suicides; funding initiatives in hard-to-reach, high-risk communities like Indigenous Australia; and much, much more.

After literally decades of underinvestment and vastly different state systems, mental health reform is not easy. It requires action across a range of fronts—building resilience in our young children, supporting young Australians with emerging mental health disorders including psychosis, case managing adults who have severe and persistent mental illness and tackling the tragedy of suicide. It is a reform process that will rely heavily on the government’s broader health reform agenda such as things like building a 21st century e-health system and building a much stronger primary healthcare network.

The opposition brings to this debate a hollow promise built on the dodgiest election costings in decades of election history, funded with Monopoly money and a willingness to trash some of the most fundamental primary healthcare reforms included in the health reform agenda. Labor, dare I say, brings real action.