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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 681


Senator TAMBLING (6.50 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.


Senator TAMBLING —This report is an important document. It is also important for what it does not say. The document comprises 39 pages with a couple of pages of appendices. I compare it with a discussion paper on the same issue dated February 1994 which was entitled A Report of the National Inquiry into Human Rights of People with Mental Illness. That was an interim report which comprised 29 pages. Somehow between February and now the government has found, cobbled and put together another 10 pages on the important issue of mental illness. Last year the Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Burdekin, handed down what was probably one of the most fundamentally important reports for this parliament to consider. It was a report comprising thousands of pages as a result of years of work that had reflected the views of many people concerned in the whole area of mental illness.

  When we compare the contents table of this report now tabled with that of the one in February, it is an almost identical cobbling and a repeat of it. All that has really been added are a few of the government budget tables that were presented in yesterday's budget and a few other nice phrases. Yet this is listed and considered to be incorporating the federal government's response to the report of the National Inquiry into the Human Rights of People with Mental Illness. What a shocking, disgusting response on behalf of this government. Normally, when the government makes a response to an important report, it lists each of the recommendations and itemises against each and every one of the recommendations a government response—approved, not approved, varied, whatever. What have we got here? It is purely a cobbling together of a series of initiatives in a certain way.

  Today, in answer to a question from Senator Harradine, Senator Crowley fumbled her way through a complete misdefinition between mental illness and dementia. It was very obvious that she did not understand either the question, the issue, the brief in front of her, or the table which set out the summary of new funding initiatives. It is very important to look at that summary of new funding initiatives to see what appears this year and in each of the subsequent financial years. It is going to be very interesting to test this government—like so many of its other important policy documents and statements—as to whether those funding initiatives actually ever eventuate or whether they get changed as a matter of broken promises in this whole area.

  I am going to be fundamentally very interested in talking to Brian Burdekin about how he sees this poor and inadequate response to what, on his part, was a very major paper. When the Burdekin report was tabled last year, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Hewson, commissioned a coalition mental illness task force comprising Senator Jocelyn Newman, Senator Kay Patterson and me to undertake a Liberal and National parties' appraisal of that particular report. It was a very interesting exercise to go right through. We conducted very extensive discussions and consultations across the whole range of the disability groups and interest groups in the community.

  We were certainly concerned to find the areas of great pressure on young Australians, particularly those with family breakdowns. We were also concerned to look at the associated issues of housing; the areas that impacted on women; the area of people living in rural and isolated parts of Australia; and certainly the impact of how it drew together those issues that affect general practitioners, specialists and allied health professionals. We were concerned to look at the issues of Aboriginal people; people from non-English speaking backgrounds; the lack of reliable, research-based information; and certainly the shortage of relevant statistics. It is no wonder that the government has tabled an inadequate response of 39 pages when it has not addressed the fundamentals of each of those particular issues.

  It has cobbled together some budget initiatives in a particular way. As we have seen, this is a budget that is already dead in the media, and this particular issue has gathered no other value. (Time expired)