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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2182


Mr ROB MITCHELL (McEwen) (18:47): That would be the most boring contribution of rubbish I've ever heard in this place! On Sunday, I was honoured to attend the Mitchell Shire Suicide Prevention Network's community walk. The day's theme was 'walk, talk and support', something I was proud to get behind with so many in my community. I'm a strong believer that every step we take to save a life is a step that benefits each of us, whether it be directly or indirectly. In that spirit, it was great to see so many local groups show up and support such an important cause. It was great to see my parliamentary colleagues and local councillors with their runners on, alongside members of Victoria Police, the Wesley Mission, Rotary, the ADF, Lions, OKRFM, Nexus, the CFA, Bully Zero, Love Action, Assumption College and of course the Mitchell Shire Suicide Prevention Network community members, including Phil Clancy and Roger Fletcher. These are two gentlemen that I could never speak highly enough of. The work they did in putting this whole event together was absolutely sensational.

For me as the member for McEwen, it's an absolute privilege to be an ambassador for Bully Zero, an organisation which strives to provide genuine, enduring care for bullying victims and their families. Bully Zero and so many other community groups I've mentioned play an integral role at the coalface of our community by tackling suicide through prevention, intervention and postvention. Mental ill health is an issue that begins overnight, and it certainly can't heal overnight. But, when we bring the community together in this way to shine a light, we are making a difference one step at a time.

Suicide prevention is particularly important in my electorate of McEwen, because we know the rate of suicide among those who live outside the capital cities is a lot higher than the rate for those in town. Suicide doesn't end the chances of life getting worse. What it does is eliminate any chance of it getting better. Losing one person in our community is far too many. So we must hold ourselves to be aware—aware of the signs, of how to help and of when the support of those around us just isn't enough. Each of these steps is so important to making a difference in someone's life, but the community can't do it alone.

Being outside the cities and towns, we are in most need of access to services and support in moments of crisis, for ongoing interventions and for the very important recovery phase. This is why the Abbott and Turnbull government's cuts to mental health programs and support, and the impact they're having, have been such a big concern to communities outside of Melbourne. We know those opposite have no interest in this. They've shown no care, no compassion and no interest in mental health. That's why they cut the funding in 2013. They did that because their idea of supporting people is to leave them to themselves.

Labor are committed to providing each and every Australian with health care that they deserve, which is why we pioneered headspace. We saw a gap in mental health care for our young Australians and we filled it. The Craigieburn headspace clinic was funded and opened by the Labor government to offer accessible and affordable mental healthcare services to young people in our communities. We are committed to providing services to the rapidly growing northern Melbourne community, with a growing young population of over 50,000, through the Craigieburn headspace clinic. The service has been extremely popular and much needed, with around 600 young people visiting the headspace clinic over the past year on an average of five or six times per young person.

The staff at Craigieburn headspace are working day in, day out to provide support for young people in all walks of life. On top of this, they take their outreach programs to the local schools. But they are increasingly expected to do more with less and less funding. It is an actual fact that these headspace services are delivering more and more on less and less because this government would rather give banks tax cuts than help those who are out in mental health services. Not only are they working tirelessly in the Craigieburn area but they've also been forced to take on the Willesee area because Willesee's bid for a headspace clinic wasn't successful. Because of this, over 40 per cent of young people turning to Craigieburn headspace are now waiting over three weeks for their first appointment, which is absolutely critical in early intervention.

Why this government refuses to fund headspace and other mental health services properly is beyond me. Willesee is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the country, so stretching Craigieburn's headspace services and infrastructure to the limits, trying to service Willesee and Hume City Council, as well as the ever-growing Mitchell Shire, is leaving young people without the care they require, while they are surrounded by growing stresses and increasing costs of living. We know that 75 per cent of mental health disorders start before the age of 25, so giving our young people access to essential services such as headspace is absolutely vital in ensuring a thriving future for the nation.

Early last week, I met with the director of clinical programs for Orygen, with Labor's shadow assistant minister for mental health, Senator Deborah O'Neill, at the Craigieburn headspace. We talked about the burden being placed on headspace through the lack of government funding, which is impacting their ability to properly provide services to the McEwen community. We also had a roundtable with primary healthcare providers from community health groups to get a sense of what the key issues are when it comes to community health care. It was great that the shadow minister for health, Catherine King, came out to the community and talked frankly and openly about the needs that we face.

Since the election of the Abbott and then Turnbull government, not once has a minister come to the seat of McEwen. In fact, they are so inept and lazy, we wait nearly 12 months for responses from ministers. We've had two ministers for health, and neither of them have responded to any letters on life-saving drugs. We can't get an answer on mental health. We can't get an answer out of the government because, like the calendar, as it ticks over monthly, they change veterans' affairs ministers. Veterans who are suffering from mental health conditions can't get support because the government is too busy fighting itself and not actually looking after the people who put on the uniforms and fought for this country. It's an absolute disgrace. You will not hear any of those opposite stand up and refute what I'm saying, because it's true. The work that local organisations do in our communities for mental health as well as suicide prevention and ongoing care is so important that I remain committed to being a megaphone for the voices doing it hard in our community.

Unfortunately, health care is not the only thing this government is underfunding in Victoria. The government is stuck with the Point Piper prince in the Sydney bubble, and I'm here to burst that bubble. Hopefully they will finally realise there are millions of Australians missing out on a fair share of infrastructure. Let's put reality into simple terms that even a couple of those opposite may understand. We'll speak slowly because we know they can't think fast.

Let's compare the pair. On one hand you've got a family of five living in Tallarook, with both parents working hard and diligently paying their taxes. In return the government is spending $105 per family on making sure their roads and public transport, mobile phone reception and NBN are up to scratch. On the other hand we have a couple living in Point Piper in Sydney, earning big bucks—enough to offshore millions in accounts so they don't pay tax—while having access to fast internet speed, upgraded roads and 4G mobile phone reception wherever they go. The government has done this city-centric math and thinks that spending $411 on each of them seems reasonable. But that couple benefits from more infrastructure funding than the family of five does combined. Where is the fairness in that?

Why is it hardworking families in Victoria are being dudded by the government pork-barrelling its own electorates? We really do get it. We really do understand that it's scared that, if it stops pumping cash into its own electorates, its constituents will finally realise that this government does nothing. It's just not good enough. We deserve our fair share. Victoria is being dudded to the tune of $6 billion over the next five years of funding, which should go into the fastest-growing communities in this nation. We are getting the lowest rate of federal infrastructure funding per capita, a trend that will continue over the next four years unless this government wakes up—

Mr ROB MITCHELL: Mate, you make your predecessor look smart. That's really hard to do, but you're doing it, you clown. It will probably take a while because you're about as sharp as a bowling ball, let's be honest. In McEwen so many projects are going unfunded because the government is turning a blind eye to Victorians. We need the funding to upgrade the roads—

Mr ROB MITCHELL: We're dealing with simpletons over here. The Hume Highway is a federal road. Understand that. You're a federal government. The federal government funded—

Mr ROB MITCHELL: Really, seriously. Throw him a fish or spin a ball on his nose and send him home. My electorate has two of the five fastest-growing suburbs in the country, and yet we get the lowest funding in the country. Why? Because the federal government is more committed to fighting itself than standing up and fighting for people in Victoria.