Mental Health

27 Apr 2006 questionsarchive

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

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Last year the Legislative Council established the Select Committee on Assessment and Treatment Services for People with Mental Health Disorders, which continued to meet following the prorogation of parliament without the attendance of either the former minister for mental health or the current Minister for Mental Health. Indeed, in her speech opposing the establishment of this select committee, then minister Zollo confidently stated, ‘We do not need another report into mental health services in this state. What we need is to keep moving forward with our mental health reform agenda.’ However, as well as reversing Labor’s policy to close Glenside during the election, Premier Rann has now given the task of overhauling South Australia’s mental health services to the Social Inclusion Board. My questions are:

1. Who is responsible for South Australia’s mental health agenda? Is it the Minister for Mental Health, the Social Inclusion Board, the Social Inclusion Commissioner, or, indeed, the Minister for Health?

2. Was minister Zollo wrong when she said that the government knew what it was doing in mental health and just needed to be allowed to get on with it?

3. Does the minister have primary responsibility for what will happen to the Glenside campus, or is that the responsibility of the Social Inclusion Board?

4. When will the South Australian community be given a clear direction on what the government intends to do with the Glenside site?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): There are a number of questions, so perhaps I will start with the issue of the Social Inclusion Board. As people are well aware, as Minister for Mental Health I am responsible for the transformation of mental health services in South Australia. I am delighted to be able to work with someone as highly respected in the community as Monsignor Cappo and the Social Inclusion Board. I am already working closely with that board, and it will provide advice and facilitate cooperation across government.

The Premier has charged Monsignor Cappo as Chair of the Social Inclusion Board with coordinating areas across government where portfolios overlap. Homelessness is one example of that and mental health is another. Minister Weatherill, the lead minister for housing, and I will also continue the good work already begun in the first term of government working with the Social Inclusion Board in developing a more joined-up government approach to policy and delivery of services to the most vulnerable in our community. The government recognises the great challenges that we face to bring our mental health system into line with the rest of the community, particularly after 10 years of neglect by the previous Liberal government.

When the Liberals were last in government, they might like to remember, they created a super department of human services, where they preferred to hide mental health away within a massive bureaucracy, and our government has seen mental health to be important enough to allocate a specific minister responsible for mental health services. I am very pleased to be that minister and, in fact, it is the only designated mental health position in all of Australia, so it is something that we should be very proud of. This government, however, knows just how much needs to be done and, with advice from the Social Inclusion Board, we are getting on with the job, just as the former minister, the Hon. Carmel Zollo has stated.

In relation to the mental health select committee, as honourable members opposite know, once parliament was prorogued we received legal advice that raised questions about the protection of witnesses in terms of privilege. We were concerned that it would make witnesses potentially vulnerable legally and, because of that advice, we withdrew from those committees. We believe that the opposition was quite irresponsible to continue, given that a number of people sometimes brought fairly sensitive material as evidence to those committees.