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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 689

Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (18:25): The National Mental Health Commission report for 2013-14 gives me a great opportunity to commend the work of the National Mental Health Commission. The National Mental Health Commission was established under the Labor Party, following international best practice. Countries around the world have realised that the best thing to do to ensure that the voices of people living with mental illness are heard is to establish an organisation, an entity, outside of government, which has the task of ensuring that the voices of people living with mental illnesses are heard and also ensuring that independent advice is provided to government about the complex treatment styles, complex planning and programs needed to provide quality services to people who live with mental illness.

Following the change of government, the new government did two things. First of all, they removed the independence of the commission. That was a real blow to the sector. The commission had done some marvellous work to develop trust with people who live with mental illness and also with the service providers who serve them. So it was a very sad day for the sector when the government removed the independence of the commission. Secondly, the government tasked the commission to conduct an inquiry into mental health services, programs and policy in the country. I have not been critical of the government for asking somebody to conduct an inquiry, but I have said—and I still say—that the commission was not the right organisation to conduct this inquiry, given that the terms of reference were very much focused on the finances of mental health services in the country. They would have been an important participant of an inquiry, but to have them conduct the inquiry was, I believe, a wrong move.

That is really what the commission has done in the last 12 months. In February 2014 they provided an interim report to government. They provided another interim report in June 2014. At the end of November last year, I am led to believe, the government received the final report of the commission's inquiry into mental services in our country. Late last year I moved a motion in the Senate asking for the two interim reports to be published. I was terribly disappointed when the government did not take the opportunity afforded it by that motion to present those two reports. On Tuesday of this week I did that again. Again, the government has said that they are not going to publish those reports, because they are deliberative in nature.

Yesterday I moved in the Senate for all three reports to be made public, but it is not just the Labor Party who is calling for these reports to be placed in the public arena. Yesterday many senators would have met with over 90 mental health stakeholders—people who are providing services to in mental health space and people who have lived experience of mental health. A lot of people came into this building to ask the government, the opposition and the crossbenchers to do a number of things, including publishing this important report.

This is the report that is going to steer the government to decision making around policies and programs for people living with mental illness. It is absolutely essential that this be done transparently, that the conversation is held in a way that each and every participant has an understanding of the direction of the government. We need an informed discussion about the future of mental health programs in the country, and the first step is the publication of this report. So I take this opportunity again tonight to call upon the government, to call on the new minister—with a new minister now there is an opportunity to take a different tack, to take a new approach to working with the mental health community—to publish this report and undertake a proper consultation with people in the mental health area. (Time expired)