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Monday, 31 May 2010
Page: 4697

Mrs HULL (6:36 PM) —I will have less than five minutes to speak before 90-second statements come on—and I suggest I will have to finish my speech tomorrow—so it will not be easy for me to cover the issues in the appropriation bills that I need to cover, including mental health cuts. I will speak on budget portfolio statement 2010-11 budget related paper No. 1.11 and the issue of mental health on page 313. As we go through these pages, commencing at page 313, we find significant reason for regional Australia to be enormously concerned about the intentions of the minister and the government, particularly in relation to the cuts in mental health services and the transfer of funding out of one pot and into another. This will have a disproportionate impact on regional Australians.

I recognise that the minister has had to back down on her decision about when these health cuts will take effect. These cuts have now been deferred for nine months, so perhaps the minister can take a look at this. The minister has decided to defer the starting date for these cuts. I would like to discuss how mental health works in regional Australia and why I think the minister has erred in her attempt to assist on mental health. In fact, what she has done has made things excessively worse. I am not talking about very small regional communities that do not have access to a whole host of allied health services and social workers and psychologists. I am talking about large inland cities.

I come from a large inland city, Wagga Wagga, and I might start my explanation of my concerns by explaining just how the process works in mental health when you are in a large regional inland city. When a client presents themselves to a community health team and they are initially assessed, if they are not considered a priority—that is, they are not considered to be at risk of harm—then the client will be referred out to a social worker or to a psychologist through the division of general practice or a doctor’s surgery. The mental health team will always refer clients—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr KJ Thomson)—Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192. The debate is adjourned, and the resumption will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed on a future day.