Monday, 21 June 2010
Questions without Notice
Government members interjecting—
… it is now abundantly clear that there is no vision or commitment from the Rudd Government to mental health … The Rudd Government is publicly claiming credit for the increased investment in mental health when almost all of this is a consequence of the work of the Howard Government.
If the Prime Minister cannot be trusted not to take credit for other people’s work in mental health, how can he be trusted to be straightforward with the Australian people in any other area?
Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has been going for 25 seconds. Nobody on my left seems to even want to listen to anything. The question was asked. The Prime Minister has the call. He will be heard in silence.
In the most recent budget, the government made a $175 million investment in the important reforms needed in mental health. These will, in part, deliver more youth-friendly mental health services, more mental health nurses and more support for people with mental illness, including funding for 30 new headspace youth-friendly services, as the national advisory council has in fact recommended. Already, funding for mental health specific programs will double over the next four years, to $1.1 billion between 2010-11 and 2013-14 from $516.5 million allocated between 2004-05 and 2007-08. This is on top of the funding for mental health through the Medicare Benefits Schedule, including psychology services subsidised through Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Many in the mental health sector would prefer that patients with mental health problems be treated in community settings where that is appropriate. The government’s $1.6 billion investment in subacute care beds will help provide more step-up and step—
The government’s $1.6 billion investment in subacute care beds will help provide more step-up and step-down subacute services for people with mental health needs, easing their transition from acute care to the community. Furthermore, this means that patients can be given more appropriate and timely care out of a hospital, helping them to get the treatment that they need more quickly.
As part of the establishment of the National Health and Hospitals Network, the Australian government will also undertake structural reforms so we can improve mental health services in the future. The government will take full funding and policy responsibility for primary health care, including mental health services for common disorders such as anxiety and depression, including those currently provided by the states and territories. The government will also establish Medicare locals in communities across the country who will be a platform for providing better coordination of primary healthcare services and help address gaps in services, including for Australians suffering from mental illnesses. Furthermore, the government also agreed with the states and territories that it will consider changes to roles and responsibilities for specialist community mental health services which the Council of Australian Governments is considering in 2011. These are important first steps, and the government is acting to put the foundations in place so that it can improve mental health services into the future.
On the question of the overall investments that we have undertaken within mental health in the most recent budget, let me further inform the House that $78.8 million will be spent over four years to deliver up to, as I said before, 30 new headspace sites around Australia, providing extra funding for these sites and expanding telephone and web based support services for young people.
Therefore, in response to the member for Dickson’s question—animated as I know he is by a range of considerations in the debate in the parliament today, including the performance of his BHP shares—
Order, the Leader of the Opposition! Again, on important questions about certain matters, I would think that the House might be inspired by the higher ideals that people expect of us. This would appear to be one of those matters, no matter what the political situation and debate about the subject matter is. The Prime Minister has the call and he will be heard in silence.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I welcome this question concerning mental health services and I certainly appreciate the predisposition now for the Leader of the Opposition to listen to this reply calmly.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The Prime Minister was asked a very serious and important question about mental health and the resignation of John Mendoza. He then started talking about—
Order! The Manager of Opposition Business, who often gives me the absolute impression that he is above the standing orders, will resume his seat. I will remind the House that the question was asked and the Prime Minister went to the despatch box. It was difficult to hear the Prime Minister because of those on my left and the uproar. Now I am trying to get the House under control, and the interference from certain people is not helpful. The Prime Minister has the call. He will address the question.
The government is investing $175 million to improve our mental health system. These figures were contained in the most recent budget. Members opposite might be interested to know that the particular additional investment for Headspace will result in additional treatments for some 20,000 young people across the country. This is actually quite a large investment. Furthermore, I say to those opposite who are interjecting that the service provided by Headspace did not exist prior to the election of this government.
Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The failure to listen and the lack of respect are becoming hallmarks of this chamber, which we are all judged by, and that includes me. Often I am told that I should get the place under control. I am now indicating to people that my tolerance level is at absolute zero. The Prime Minister has the call. He will bring the answer to this question to a conclusion so that we can move on.
Mr Speaker, I was asked about mental health services and I am outlining in detail the additional investment made in the most recent budget—an investment of $175 million. Secondly, I was indicating the additional investment we provided to the Headspace services, which provide additional support for 20,000 young Australians each year. I would have thought, given the nature of the question, that that may have been of interest to the House.
Furthermore, we are providing $58.5 million over four years to be directed to deliver care packages to better support up to 25,000 people with severe mental illnesses through the access to allied psychological services arrangements. Thirdly, we are investing $25.5 million over four years to expand the Early Psychosis Prevention Intervention Centre—otherwise called EPPIC—model, building on its successful implementation in the state of Victoria. Fourthly, there is $13 million over two years to employ an additional 136 mental health nurses to provide an estimated 11,700 additional services. As I said, that reflects the government’s additional investments in this area so far.
I also draw the House’s attention to the additional investments we are making overall in the training of medical students in the future and to their training places within the hospitals. The government’s plan is to increase the overall number of GP training places by 5½ thousand over the decade ahead and to increase the overall number of training places in a given year—doubling it, I think, to about 1,300 a year, starting a year or two into the future. Additional medical staff around the country will assist in the wider provision of general health services, including necessary referrals for specialist mental health services as well.
We regard this as an important area of priority in the overall health reform agenda. We have, with the states and territories, engaged in a substantive negotiation on the reform of the health and hospital system. We have produced a reform for the National Health and Hospitals Network. In that system, for the first time, the Australian government will become the dominant funder of the public hospital system of Australia and the dominant funder of the recurrent costs of that system as well. That system also provides a range of services for those suffering from a range of mental health conditions.
On top of that we have fully recognised—and I have said this in previous debates—that when it comes to further priorities for reform we have to place more emphasis on outstanding areas of demand in mental health on the one hand, and aged care on the other. Those constitute the collective priorities of the government. We have made a good start with the National Health and Hospitals Network. We have made some start in relation to the priorities for mental health. We intend to address these priorities together with those in aged care in the rolling implementation of our reform program. Better health and better hospitals for the entire Australian community are fundamental priorities for this government. We intend to get on with the business and I simply make this point to the House: our additional investments in this sector account for some $7½ billion over the three years to come in contrast to the $1 billion which was ripped out of the system by the Leader of the Opposition when he was minister for health prior to the last election.