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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 7826

Mental Health

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:00): My question is to Senator Ludwig, representing the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. I remind the minister that today is World Mental Health Day. It is now 10 months since the government released its draft Ten-year roadmap for national mental health reform over the Christmas holiday period. How does the government respond to comments by eminent mental health experts such as Professor Alan Rosen, who said, 'You don't put out a roadmap if you don't have a destination'? Or Professor John Mendoza, who says, 'The roadmap is yet another pollyanna document from our federal health bureaucracy that commits no one to anything'? Who is wrong, Minister: your government or the mental health experts?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:01): I thank Senator Fierravanti-Wells. It is an area where for some time we have had bipartisan support across the chamber to improve mental health. I think on a day like today, which is about mental health, we ought to reflect upon how we address it. The government is delivering on its commitments to make mental health a priority, with investment totalling $2.2 billion over five years from 2011-12. Reforms are focused on the lives of thousands of Australians experiencing mental illness through better detection, better targeting and better coordination. The point I go to is that if you go back to the record there has been significant bipartisan support as to how we address mental health and improve mental health. I do detect from those opposite now that we are skating away from a bipartisan approach, which is disappointing to see.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: I do not think it is an appropriate time to interject in a negative way on a very important day on which we are looking at how we improve mental health across the board. So far as the government's achievements, they include developing 15 new headspace locations. This government is committed not only to the work that we did in The Way Forward but also the budget, Delivering better hospitals, mental health and health services. If you look at the commitments that this government has made, one of the most significant commitments is to improve mental health by this government across the board. That is what this government has sought to do. If you look at the work that has been done— (Time expired)

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In March this year Professor Ian Hickie wrote:

As a result of the mess left at the end of the Rudd era, key structural issues in mental health services remain unresolved. There is no commonly agreed service model, particularly for out of hospital and ongoing community care.

So, again, I ask: Minister, how does the government respond to this scathing criticism by such a respected stakeholder from the mental health sector?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:03): I thank Senator Fierravanti-Wells for her continuing interest in what this government describes as a roadmap for national mental health reforms from 2012 to 2022. That is how this government is responding to those comments from some quarters. The Commonwealth is continuing to work with states and territories to develop the roadmap. First ministers' departments from all jurisdictions have recently taken on a greater role in finalising the roadmap to ensure the whole-of-government focus. So in answer to the criticism, we are doing a whole-of-government approach across states and territories to improve mental health. The public consultation process in January and February this year saw over 1,700 survey responses and more detailed submissions. Jurisdiction senior office officials have recently undertaken targeted consultation to inform the latest draft of the roadmap. The period of consultation was agreed by officials— (Time expired)

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In the year of so-called decision and delivery, how can the government, which promised that mental health would be a second term priority, explain the mounting chorus of criticism emanating from the mental health sector that so-called mental health reform is, in the words of Dr Sebastian Rosenberg of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, 'A roadmap to nowhere'?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:05): Can I remind the Senate that it is important to take the view that we are committing a significant amount of funding to mental health, more than any other government has done, and we are doing it in a way that is about improving mental health. If you look at the work, the roadmap is not a funding plan like the COAG national action plan; the Commonwealth position is that the roadmap should provide governments, the community sector, consumers and the community with a measurable long-term national reform plan for mental health. In doing that it will guide where we focus our attention and funding over the ensuing 10 years. This is work that is ongoing and will continue to address the longstanding needs within the mental health area. (Time expired)