Mental Health

17 Oct 2005 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister Assisting in Mental Health a question about mental health.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am sure that all honourable members join with me in congratulating the minister on the six-month anniversary, next week, of her appointment to the portfolio. Over this period, the minister has referred a number of questions from opposition members, Democrats and Independents to the Minister for Health on the ground of ‘operational matters’. In the week beginning 4 April, and in May, July and September, a series of questions was asked.

Over that period, I note that the minister has not issued any media releases—until last week in relation to Mental Health Week, and I will read from three of them. A four-page press release in relation to the Dr Margaret Tobin awards states:

Minister Zollo says the awards also serve as a way of promoting positive mental health during Mental Health Week, which starts today. The theme for this year ‘Mental Health: Everyone’s Responsibility’ highlights the important role we all play in looking after ourselves and our friends and family who may need help,’ says the minister. It also highlights the importance of health in other human services sectors working together in partnership to reduce the burden of mental illness on the South Australian population.

Then we have another one on the same day which is entitled ‘$200 million rebuild for mental health in South Australia’, and again minister Zollo is quoted as follows:

Minister Assisting in Mental Health, Carmel Zollo, says the $25 million is helping meet demand by providing significant levels of extra intensive support for people in the community. The money is also giving carers a much needed helping hand and focusing on prevention through programs like Beyond Blue and the targeting of mothers and young babies with many needs.

The third press release, which is dated 12 October, refers to mental health support in prisons, and again the minister is quoted and refers to packages of support for former prisoners who are mentally ill, a home visiting scheme, support with daily living and skills, and that the packages are designed to prevent relapse of mental illness and provide care and support for people in the community.

In the minister’s reply to what is described as a Dorothy dixer from the Hon. Gail Gago on 1 June, she also referred to South Australian antenatal and postnatal depression screening at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre. So my questions for the minister are:

1. Does she consider that any of her comments in the Hansard of 1 June and in any of her press releases last week may have ventured into discussion about operational matters?

2. Is there any particular reason why the minister has waited nearly six months to issue her first press release in relation to mental health since her appointment?

3. What ‘special additional attention’ has the minister provided to this important issue, as part of her role as defined by the Premier in his press release on the day of her appointment of 22 March?

4. When the Premier says in the same press release that, ‘I want Carmel to work with community groups such as Beyond Blue,’ to which other ones is he referring? Can the minister provide us with an update?

5. How many advisers in the minister’s office are dedicated to this role?

6. To assist all honourable members in the framing of our questions, correspondence and the like, will the minister please table a list of the delegations of the Minister for Health and a list of her delegations of roles and responsibilities?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister Assisting in Mental Health): I thank the honourable member for her question. I am sure that she joins with everybody in this chamber in appreciating Mental Health Week last week where we all tried very much to raise the awareness and understanding in relation to mental health. In relation to my role, I thought that was quite clear. I do assist in mental health and, as the Premier said when I was appointed, I meet with the various advocacy groups, the stakeholders. I get briefed as well and, in relation to Mental Health Week, we thought it was appropriate. I do work as a team with the Minister for Health in another place.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Some of these are operational matters.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I was briefed and I also was happy to put my name to them because a lot of what was in those press releases was in relation to the $25 million that this government, and not yours for eight years, which neglected—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Look at the chair.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I am quite happy to look at the chair. That’s fine. Can’t you take it? I should look at the Hon. Rob Lucas because he was the Treasurer, but he is in a different faction than the Hon. Dean Brown. Is that right?

So that is why I was happy to put my name—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: We were talking about the $25 million to the community groups and, yes, with part of that $25 million we saw an extra injection to Beyond Blue to work with those people who suffer from depression, at various levels. So I am not quite sure what it is that you have a problem with. This government has said that we believe mental health is important and we will continue to do that.

We have a very smart building program. We have a very smart recurrent budget and we have a very smart budget to help with our community groups. Last week—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: Well, a lot more than what the Hon. Rob Lucas gave to the Hon. Dean Brown, who is in another faction. Last week was Mental Health Week, as I said, and I think it is really to the discredit of the opposition—you should be promoting awareness, you should be promoting understanding. You should not continually cart out victims. You should not continually do that because it really does not help in relation to the stigma attached to mental health, which is our biggest problem.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: We know about that.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: If you know about it, why do you continue on about all the negative things? In relation to Mental Health Week, I was pleased to visit, with the Premier and Lea Stevens, the Margaret Tobin Centre at Flinders. I was pleased to stand on the stage with those I work with as part of a team to also give out those awards. I was pleased to visit Diamond House, one of the groups that helps raise the self-esteem and the confidence of people in our community. I was pleased to attend a forum at a northern group at Playford council and also pleased to add my name to the press releases.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: By way of supplementary question, will the minister agree to take all of the questions I raised before as questions on notice and provide some sort of substantial report to the parliament?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I believe I answered all those questions, and if the honourable member has a problem with ‘minister assisting’ perhaps she should go to one of the books on parliamentary procedure or whatever.