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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9604

Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (18:07): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I have to say I was probably looking at other issues, but it gives me an opportunity given that we can take note of the National Mental Health Commission report of 2013-14 to alert the Senate to a concern that I have had as shadow minister for mental health for a while, which is that the government is conducting, through the National Mental Health Commission, a review of mental health services in our country, and I have been calling for greater transparency in this process.

To put this in context, the National Mental Health Commission was established under the Labor government and it is a very well-regarded organisation. Whilst it maintains its independence it is now a part of the Department of Health. They have been charged and tasked by the government—I question whether this is the most appropriate entity—to undertake an inquiry into mental health services in the government. I do not question the government's right, once they have come into government, to undertake an inquiry of an area of policy that they need to have a good look at. That is a good and proper thing, and it is quite fine. What I am concerned about is the way that this inquiry has occurred.

First of all, the submissions to the inquiry other than those individual submissions have not been published, and the answer to that is because 'we did not ask people if we could publish them'. If you said that to a Senate inquiry, senators would go berserk. Of course people should publish a submission to an inquiry. People need to know what other people are saying about the issue at hand. But, secondly, there have been two interim reports to the inquiry—an audit of Commonwealth-funded mental health services in the country, which was a report to government in February of this year; and then in June of this year there was a second interim report provided to government, which was an audit of state-funded and territory-funded services, so the government could make some decisions about them. Neither of those reports has been published, and that is of great concern to the mental health sector. It is a great concern that things are being said about the sector that people cannot truth-test. What are these reports saying?

I want to make it really clear that I have great faith in the commission, but what we need for such an important inquiry is transparency. People need to know what other people are saying. People need to be able to engage in a bigger conversation. That is why I have moved in this place that those reports be made public.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator McLucas, your time has expired.

Senator McLUCAS: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.