Mental Health

21 Nov 2005 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about mental health.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On Radio 5AA this morning the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Kim Beazley, was interviewed. A caller, Stephen, made the following comments:

. . . the terrible crisis that’s now unfolding with mental illness and drug addiction, The Australian newspaper, they’ve been running some quite good articles on it, and they’re quite blunt about talking about the problem existing because of the very young people between the ages of 13 and 21 being hooked on marijuana. This is an epidemic that’s unfolding. I just want to make the point that it’s becoming clear now with the amount of young males out there in society, but also the poor treatment these poor blighters are getting from the mental health system. Stateline on Friday night ran a story of a young man out in Mount Barker who was literally torturing himself for days and days and then eventually got refused admission to the Royal Adelaide Hospital because of this terrible conundrum that’s been created by the mental health system that if people are actually on drugs they don’t want anything to do with them. This is a disgrace. Now, Kim—I just want him to put it on the table his opinion of the soft drug laws that the state Labor governments have been running for years, I just want him to actually to put it on the table about what his opinion is of the soft drug laws in the country, particularly to do with marijuana and in fact all illicit drugs?

Kim Beazley replied as follows:

Mental health issues, let’s take that as a separate and substantial concern. Basically I think we all know now we went down the wrong track when we started talking about community-based solutions here, we have major mental health problems in this country. . . we have got to start to look more broadly at the way in which mental health issues and in some circumstances people need to be more intensively supported and given a back-up than they’re currently getting from the systems that we have in place.

The fashion of the 1980s was to say—look, this isn’t the problem that ought to be resolved by institutionalisation or intense care, people who have mental health problems ought to be just out there in the community. The consequence of that has not been good.

The Hon. A.J. Redford: Even he opposed the closure of Glenside.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Indeed, he does, echoing the comments of David Richmond, the author of the 1983 Richmond report, and Monash University psychiatry professor Paul Mullen. My questions to the minister are:

1. Has she sought a report on the fellow who was reported on Stateline who is residing in Mount Barker, and can she provide a report to us?

2. Is Kim Beazley wrong when he says that deinstitutionalisation has not worked?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): As I appeared on Stateline, I am probably aware of that case. However, I do not know all the individual details and, even if I did, I do not think it is appropriate for me to share them with the chamber. I was shown the script before I spoke, and I understood that the situation had now stabilised in relation to that young gentleman.

The issue of marijuana, of course, involves a conscience vote in our party. The honourable member needs to understand that I believe all countries practise some form of harm minimisation—and, indeed, it is a national strategy with which the opposition’s Prime Minister also agrees, as far as I am aware. I did not hear what Kim Beazley had to say this morning on the radio. I will obtain a copy of that transcript and have a look at it. However, I am not quite certain what it is that I am supposed to be commenting on in respect of what he said.

The Hon. A.J. Redford: He reckons you shouldn’t close Glenside.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I have put on the record on many occasions in this place (and I should not be answering interjections from the Hon. Angus Redford) that a decision in relation to the closure of Glenside has not been made. It has not gone to cabinet.