Mental Health Services

It is extraordinary to hear from the member for Sturt anything about mental health given the very low priority given to that area of government policy by the former government, represented by the fact that the former Minister for Health and Ageing was not prepared to take up ministerial responsibility for mental health but, rather, delegated it to the member for Sturt in his junior capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing.

It is extraordinary to hear from the member for Sturt anything about mental health given the very low priority given to that area of government policy by the former government, represented by the fact that the former Minister for Health and Ageing was not prepared to take up ministerial responsibility for mental health but, rather, delegated it to the member for Sturt in his junior capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing. The one thing that is consistent with the position taken by the member for Sturt in his capacity as parliamentary secretary with some responsibility for mental health is that he spent most of his time when undertaking that role attacking state governments. We hear from him today yet another attack, this time on the South Australian state government, because he is not interested in putting forward any policies at the federal level; he is interested simply in doing what he did as parliamentary secretary for health, which is to attack state governments. I will quote something that the member for Sturt, in his capacity as parliamentary secretary for health, said on the Insiders program in October 2005:

We have a national mental health strategy, which is a cooperative arrangement between the Commonwealth and all the states, so the Commonwealth certainly does have a role. In terms of more money, money is not the only issue. The most important issue is for people to take responsibility for what they’re responsible for and the states are responsible for mental health. Now if more money is needed I’m sure that’s something that can be considered down the track.

Of course it was not considered down the track. Unlike the former government, the Rudd Labor government understands the importance of mental health. The Rudd Labor government understands that one in five Australians will experience some form of mental illness during their life. All we got from the Howard government—and that is why it is an extraordinary irony to hear the member for Sturt putting forward a motion about mental health—was broken promises. We had broken promises in the 2004 election, particularly the election promise of an additional $30 million for the Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care program. That promise was broken like so many other promises of the Howard government. Perhaps it was one of those non-core promises. The approach of the former government was to attack state governments. When the member for Sturt was parliamentary secretary that is what he did, and we have more of the same. I will not mention of course what happened when the member for Sturt finally became a minister—he has not had the good grace to stay. When he finally became a minister, the Minister for Ageing, he did not want to be there. He told a group of aged-care providers that his real interest was in foreign affairs.

 When the member for Sturt finally made it to the ministry, he did not even want to be there. I have mentioned what he said about his real interest being in foreign affairs. He told the aged-care providers that he did not want to open aged-care facilities or attend meetings about aged-care facilities because he was ‘young’. Of course, in his very first period as Minister for Ageing, he was missing in action entirely in being unprepared to comment on disastrous events in a Victorian nursing home.

But to return to the subject matter of this motion: I expected to hear from the member for Sturt something about mental health, not comments about damaging the local character of the area. The three sentences of this motion are concerned with state-of-the-art mental health care and helping the mentally ill rehabilitate from their illness, and they contain an attack on the redevelopment of the Glenside campus by the South Australian state government. The member for Sturt and, regrettably, members of the state Liberal opposition in South Australia have been engaged in spreading misinformation and false rumours at a number of levels about the redevelopment of the Glenside campus.

It needs to be pointed out that the Liberal Party, while in government in South Australia from 1993 to 2002, had a very long time to do something about the Glenside campus but did nothing. They had a very long time to do something about mental health but did nothing. We did not hear from the member for Sturt while the Liberal Party were in power in the state of South Australia from 1993 to 2002 and, indeed, it might be said that the Liberal Party had 11½ years while in federal government to do something about mental health. Instead, what we have heard today is an entirely misplaced and false attack on a well thought out, thorough and careful policy of the Rann Labor government in South Australia.

There is one further irony in the comments that have been made by the member for Sturt, and that is that the member for Sturt seems to have forgotten that the former Liberal government in South Australia had already agreed to sell some of the Glenside land to the owners of the nearby shopping centre. There is more than a little hypocrisy in the attack that is now being made.

It is not true that there has been no consultation about the reforms involved here and the redevelopment of the Glenside campus. It is also not true that the redevelopment of the Glenside campus will result in a reduction in the number of adult mental health beds. A close examination of the policies that have been announced by the South Australian state government shows that there will not be a reduction in adult mental health beds. In fact, the reform of the mental health system, using the new stepped care model that has been adopted in South Australia, will deliver an estimated 86 additional adult beds across all levels of care, bringing the state total to 516 adult mental health beds.

It appears that, when the state government takes action to reform what, on any view, is an outmoded Victorian era lunatic asylum—not to put too fine a point on it—the response of the member for Sturt and the response of the Liberal opposition in South Australia has been to argue for its retention. All of this attack entirely ignores the work that has been done by the Rann Labor government in the area of mental health since 2002. We have visible in South Australia a mental health reform agenda which involves the devolution of mental health beds from central institutions to general hospitals and community settings where the care is most needed. It is a function of this policy that the institutional asylums of the past are no longer required, and that is why the Glenside campus is undergoing redevelopment.

We heard nothing from the member for Sturt of a very important report by the Social Inclusion Board called the Stepping up report, which was released in 2007. It seems entirely possible, given his failure to refer to it, that the member for Sturt has simply not read the report and, following on from his failure to refer to this very important report, which has been acted on in two successive budgets by the South Australian state government, that the member for Sturt is unaware of both the recommendations of the report and the implementation of those recommendations by the South Australian government.

The last part of this motion claims:

... mental health services in South Australia are under threat from the State Government with the proposed sale and redevelopment of the Glenside Campus.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that most of the Glenside site is underused, some of the land is surplus to requirements, more care is going to be provided in future in the community or in hospitals close to where people live. The motion is wholly misconceived.