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Prime Minister discusses mental health services.



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PRIME MINISTER

5 April 2006

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP INTERVIEW WITH JOHN LAWS RADIO 2UE, SYDNEY

Subjects: Mental health

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………………..

LAWS:

We have our Prime Minister on the line. Prime Minister good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning John.

LAWS:

Well what a wonderful thing you’ve done this morning. That really is a fantastic announcement.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s needed and I believe, I hope and I believe that the states will respond. We have been talking to them at an officials level and we discussed this matter at the last Premier’s Conference and the area where they need to respond is in supported accommodation because that’s been the traditional area of responsibility for the states. But what this announcement today will do, and let me make it clear that this is an unconditional announcement, these things will go ahead irrespective of the state response. I don’t want anybody to think that we’re only going to spend this money if the states also spend money. We hope they will, we expect that they will and I think the community does as well, but we will go ahead regardless. We’re going to, from the 1st of November; provide that psychiatrists and GPs will be able to refer patients with a mental illness to psychologists.

LAWS:

Have they not been able to do this?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well not without attracting a Medicare rebate.

LAWS:

I see.

PRIME MINISTER:

I mean you’ve been able to do it in the past but it hasn’t attracted Medicare rebates. And this, we’re in effect, bringing this into the Medicare net, which is a huge breakthrough. We’re going to provide, from January next year, 420 new mental health nursing places and 200 clinical psychology places each year.

LAWS:

Will these be added to hospitals that are already there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. These will be over and above what now exists. We’re going to provide 650 new respite care places with priority given to elderly parents who live with and care for children particularly adult children with a severe mental illness. These are some of the most pathetic situations one could ever come across where parents in their 70s have children with a profound mental illness in their 30s and 40s and they can get no respite and we’re going to provide a lot more assistance there and this is over and above some extra assistance that we kicked in in the Budget a couple of years ago. We’re going to have new funding for drug and alcohol treatment services so people who have got both a mental illness and drug or alcohol problem, and that is often the case, can be helped. We’re going to put more funding into telephone counselling and support services like Lifeline and Kids Helpline.

LAWS:

And 900 personal helpers?

PRIME MINISTER:

And 900 new personal helpers and mentors to help people with a severe mental illness better manage their day to day living and to access services such as accommodation and income support. We’re going to give funding to the non-government sector welfare organisations like St Vincent de Paul and the Wesley Mission to help people with severe mental illness to live more normal lives. Simple things like helping them to cook and shop and enjoy social outings. Eight and a half thousand more places in the Youth Pathways Programme which helps young people with a mental illness stay in school and then get a job and also new funding to help parents and school communities identify and respond to children at risk of mental illness.

LAWS:

By the sound of all that you’re going to need every bit of the $1.8 billion.

PRIME MINISTER:

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Oh absolutely. It will build up to $500 million extra in the fifth year and that of course will be continuous and you know, the nature of things, I imagine along the way additional amounts will get added. But this is unconditional. This will happen. This programme will go ahead irrespective of the state response. But I don’t say that aggressively or antagonistically. I believe the states want to do things in this area and the areas for which they have traditionally had responsibility are supported accommodation, naturally the public hospital system and also the prisons. There’s a very high percentage of people in our prisons who have got a mental problem and the cycle tragically is somebody has a mental illness. They’ve got no stable job or accommodation, they don’t take their medication, they get on the streets, spend a lot of time in what we loosely call night refuges. They end up committing crimes and plenty of families have said to numerous inquiries they’ve almost felt relieved when they’ve ended up in jail because at least they have a roof over their heads.

LAWS:

Exactly. It’s tragic isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is, and a country like ours with all our good fortune, we can afford and we must afford to do more and I know that what I’ve announced today will be seen by some as not going far enough. I think its goes a long way and its genuine, it’s unconditional and I hope and I believe and I expect it will be matched by the states…

LAWS:

Well with the help of the states you would be able to do certainly a lot more and hopefully that help will come. Is this being funded from the anticipated $6 billion surplus, because if it is, it couldn’t be a better way to spend it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s being funded, you know, it’s over and above. We’re not cutting anything to make way for this, so the answer is this. So the answer is yes.

LAWS:

Well it couldn’t be spent in a better way Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is needed and it’s a big problem and with a cooperative effort over time we can do something about it.

LAWS:

Okay, good to talk to you as usual and thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks John.

[ends]