Mental Health

30 Aug 2006 archivespeech
This speech is in relation to the COAG agreement. The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink expresses concerns for South Australians suffering from mental illness.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise to address the issue of the state government’s response, or lack thereof, to the commonwealth’s COAG offer for mental health funding. The South Australian government’s response has been an absolute farce. What we have seen, so far, is a demonstration that this Rann Labor government has no intention of fulfilling its obligations in the COAG agreement. The commonwealth made its unprecedented offer of $1.8 billion and has asked the states and territories to match that.

The state government’s response (about which I asked the minister several questions in question time today) lists a number of services which consist of reannouncements of previous services and do not even go close to addressing new funding for services. All of the services, from my reading of it, were already announced prior to the election and, therefore, pre-date the Prime Minister’s initial offer which was made on 5 April 2006, a couple of weeks after the state election result.

 The commonwealth has outlined a very explicit plan for the areas and the priorities in which it will contribute funding, and it has asked the states to come to the plate, so to speak, in a separate range of areas. From a document I have received, the commonwealth states that it would have expected $144 million of commitments to new funding from the South Australian government. The funding that has already been announced should not even be included in those totals.

 If we look at this document of 14 July, which is entitled ‘National action plan on mental health’, under the area of ‘promotion, prevention and early intervention’ there are some programs, such as beyondblue, which reannounces part of the $25 million for NGOs; Every Chance for Every Child—I would be surprised if that is actually mental health funding; and the Early Childhood Development Centres is the same issue—not really mental health funding. Early Intervention with Young People, Healthy Young Minds is also taken from the election announcements. The $10 million allocation in the 2005-06 budget is reannounced in the next section, ‘integrating and improving care systems,’ in a most dishonest way. These are commitments that have already been made in the past. The commonwealth is looking for new commitments from this government and, given the noises that we have coming from budget leaks and so forth, I think that most departments are expecting to take a cut. So, the big question is: what is the government going to do with mental health funding?

 The COAG documents outline priorities for the states as being additional resources for emergency and crisis services for hospital based services, for community based services, for corrections and also in supported accommodation. In regard to those two latter areas—corrections and supported accommodation— we have not heard boo from the government on what it intends to do, nor has any new program listed in that document come into that category at all. So, the concerns that we have are that the services that are desperately needed for South Australians who are suffering from mental health problems will not be addressed by this government and, indeed, services may even be contracted once we have the result of the budget.