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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2746

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (18:28): I express my grave concern about the draft WA Mental Health Bill 2011, currently a matter of public discussion. Mental health is an issue of concern to us all. If this bill were to proceed in its current form, it would return us to treatment of people with mental ill health and mental illness that is draconian, a violation of liberties and a denial of dignity. Even a cursory read of the bill is rather frightening. A member of my family first alerted me to it, telling me it had gone viral on the web, with people expressing disbelief and outrage. I later received emails about it, and today I read in the Australian newspaper comments of concern by Professor McGorry and by Professor Jon Jureidini, from Flinders University, a child and adolescent mental health expert, who is quoted as describing the draft legislation as 'bizarre' and 'absurd'. The Mental Health Law Centre WA principal solicitor and general manager, Sandra Boulter, in their submission to the government consultation, nailed it, saying inter alia:

We are most concerned about many aspects of the Bill, which include:

Addition of sterilisation as a treatment for mental illness (nowhere else in Australia)

Certain persons, including 12yo girls and boys can consent to sterilisation, ECT, and psychosurgery without the consent/despite the refusal of the parent/guardian, without any requirement to go to a Tribunal or Court

The Bill is silent about who will decide whether or not the child has the maturity to consent, and no doubt will be the treating psychiatrist, who has a clear conflict of interest, because he wants to give the treatment.

Broadening of the criteria for involuntary detention

Removal of the complaint jurisdiction from the Tribunal

Removal of the inspection powers of the Official Visitors (shocking move)

Removal of the right to second opinion for ECT, Sterilisation, Psychosurgery

Reduction in the strength of the current Act's safeguards against errors made arising from cultural and linguistic diversity.

…   …   …

The Bill has removed the express provisions of the current Act that:

Give a right to the consumer to call and give evidence, examine and cross examine witnesses and make submissions (current clause 2 of Schedule 2 of the Act)

Give a right to representation (current clause 3 of Schedule 2 of the Act)

Support funding for our service (Part 8 of the Act)

Furthermore, the Bill has new provisions that:

Appear to give the Tribunal the right to exclude a patient's lawyer—

and it cites a number of provisions, and—

Make it an offence for anyone, including the very unwell patient, to be in contempt of the Tribunal, with a fine available of up to $10,000 (clause 364).

I was shocked when I read it. I cannot believe that any jurisdiction—anybody—would even think to impose that on people with mental illness.