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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1381


Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (18:01): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I commend the commission for the report but take this opportunity to talk about the fact that the review the National Mental Health Commission has undertaken into national, state and territory mental health services and programs that was received by the government on 1 December last year and was the subject of an order for the production of documents on three occasions from this Senate is yet to see the light of day. I have called for this to happen for reasons that go to the transparency of decision making around the future of mental health services in this country. As I said yesterday in this place, I am particularly concerned with the government's response to the order for the production of documents, which in part 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.

That is a new sentence in the government response that we have not seen before. The reason I am particularly concerned about this—and my concern is shared by the mental health community—is that if we are going to design a system to provide quality, well-targeted, affordable mental health services in this country then this is an issue that we are all in together. We need to harness the power, the knowledge and the information of the mental health sector in this next phase—the design phase, the conversation phase. And if it does happen, as I think that sentence indicates that it will, that we receive the report from the Mental Health Commission along with the government response at the same time, then that will preclude that important discussion, consideration, debate and agreement about the way forward.

Yesterday I spoke in the chamber, and there is a lot of interest in this issue. I have had many people—eminent people from the mental health community, people who live with mental illness—contact me in the last two or three days to encourage me to really urge the government to rethink this position. It is my view, and it is a shared view, that the government should release the document from the commission and then conduct a series of consultations around that. The mental health community are very keen to know what has been said about the services and programs in mental health in the interim report and the report that came down in the middle of the year. That is important, but now that we have the final report the opportunity for discussion and debate presents itself. I think it is perfect timing. Let's go and have the conversation. I would have preferred it to be in November last year. I have asked the Senate to agree with me on that, and they have—twice. And this week we have done it again. So, I implore the government to take the views of the mental health community onboard, to publish this document and then facilitate a proper round of consultation, consideration and transparency, which we so deserve and need in order to design the next phase of mental health reform in the country.

I point to Labor's record in this area, and I commend our government for the amazing work we did. But it is work that needs to be continually looked at, built upon and focused on. I also express my concern that the terms of reference that the Mental Health Commission was given seem to indicate that there will be cuts in this area. I am very concerned about that, and so is the mental health sector, who are reporting loss of staff, low morale and loss of services. Please, government, listen to the sector. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.