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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 4044


Ms O'TOOLE (Herbert) (13:04): I also thank the member for Fisher for bringing this motion forward. I just want to start by saying to anyone who is listening to this speech today that there is help in your community if you are struggling with mental ill health. For information on crisis services, there are links to beyondblue, Black Dog Institute, Lifeline and headspace on my Facebook page. Although any funding for mental health will always have my full support, I cannot stand in this place today and not raise the fact that I believe that the sector is not being adequately funded. You wouldn't try and feed a thousand people with one loaf of bread, but that is the equivalent of what is happening in the mental health sector under this current government.

Let's put into perspective just how prevalent mental health issues are across Australia. Almost one in two Australian adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance misuse related disorders. Every day, at least six Australians die from suicide, and a further 30 people try to take their own life. Fifty-four per cent of people living with mental ill health do not access treatment. Delaying treatment, especially in relation to serious conditions, impacts on detection and an accurate diagnosis. Depression is the third-highest burden of all diseases in Australia—13 per cent—and it is the third-highest globally. The burden of disease refers to the total impact of a disease measured by financial cost, mortality, morbidity and other indicators.

For the financial costs related to poor mental ill health, it's quite staggering to see the figures: $10.9 billion is lost in workplace productivity; more than six million working days are lost per year as a result of depression; and, per worker, untreated depression costs an employer $9,660. Not only is mental ill health a serious health concern; it is also a national productivity concern. Yet the government is not adequately funding the mental health sector. The Turnbull government's funding is one of the smallest investments in the sector in recent years. In 2006, COAG added more than $5.5 billion to mental health spending. Under the Labor government, the 2011-12 federal budget provided $2.2 billion in new funding. However, in 2014-15, the Abbott government funded mental health to the tune of 5.2 per cent of the overall health budget, when mental health represented 12 per cent of the total burden of disease. Whilst these figures should not necessarily match, the gap is large and revealing. So, yes, the $80 million from last year's budget and the $11 million here and the $9 million there are all welcomed, but the lack of real funding is a real problem for the sector—particularly the community managed sector—and it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of need. This budget shows a lack of commitment to the mental health sector.

As someone who was the CEO of a community mental health organisation before being elected to parliament—I operated from Palm Island to Mount Isa, across the west—I have a deep understanding of what is needed on the ground, and the government is not delivering. Simply thinking that the NDIS is the solution just shows how completely out of touch this government is. Funnelling program funding for personal helpers and mentors, day-to-day living and mental health carer respite—all federally funded—into the NDIS is not a solution. We estimate that there are probably over 250,000 people with mental health conditions who will not be eligible for the NDIS. Access to support should not depend on where you live or who is able and around to look after you. This budget's commitment to mental health shows the lack of an overarching mental health strategy.

Rather than working with the sector to develop a coherent approach to mental health service planning, this budget continues the piecemeal, patchwork approach, where the system is driven mostly by who pays rather than by who needs what and where. There seems to be a belief that, as a nation, we have done mental health. Well, let me tell you: we have not done mental health. A lack of services on the ground, especially in regional, rural and remote areas, leaves people alone and suffering, families devastated and often confused, and members of the community stepping up in their own time as volunteers; they are overworked and overstressed.

The struggle for veterans has also been in the shadows for far too long. These men and women, who have given selflessly for their country, deserve to have the support that they need in their time of struggle. And I haven't even mentioned the aged-care facilities, where men over 80 are struggling significantly. There is a lot more that we need to do for mental health in this country.