25 November 2010 The Australian Parliament has demanded that the Gillard Government take action to tackle mental illness with the House of Representatives today passing a Coalition motion requiring the Government to expand the number of headspace sites across the country and establish a national network of Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres (EPPIC).
The Senate has already passed an identical motion on 26 October, despite the Greens-Labor Alliance opposing the motion.
The Gillard Government did not take the motion to a vote in the House of Representatives, knowing that it did not have the numbers on the floor of the parliament and would lose any division on the issue. Independent MPs had signalled they would support the Coalition motion.
Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton said it was now incumbent on the Gillard Government to fund additional resources in mental healthcare.
“Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have now passed this motion requiring this Government to act on mental health,” Mr Dutton said.
The Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said the Gillard Government’s lack of action on mental health is a national shame.
“Under the Labor-Green alliance there is no hope for the one in five Australians whose lives are touched by mental illness each year,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.
“The Coalition has the support of leading mental health practitioners, including Professor John Mendoza, and Professor Patrick McGorry, the Australian of the Year, for its true alternative Mental Health policy that formed the basis of these motions.
“The Gillard Government must act now to fix what Professor McGorry has called ‘a very reactive, crisis-driven system’.
“Without action we all pay a hidden cost through, as Professor Mendoza has described, the lost opportunities, broken relationships and damaged lives that result from mental illness.
“We pay through extra costs for policing, emergency hospital services, road accidents and family dysfunction.”
Mr Dutton and Senator Fierravanti-Wells said that the Gillard Government is just like the Rudd Government in many areas of important policy – all talk and no action.
“Today the Parliament has said cut the talk and do something,” Mr Dutton said.
The Parliament has laid out the plan for the Government to expand headspace sites to 90 and to open 20 EPPIC centres with an additional 800 beds devoted to patients with mental illness.
“This could help an estimated 200,000 young Australians who will suffer some form of mental illness,” Mr Dutton said.
“It is not the entire answer, more must be done in the mental healthcare sphere, but it is another vital step in addressing under resourcing in this sector of healthcare.”
The previous Coalition Government provided the biggest ever funding for mental health in 2006 allocating $1.9 billion dollars to expand access to treatment for mental illness.
At the recent election the Coalition proposed to spend another $1.5 billion dollars to boost treatment via the headspace and EPPIC models. This was described by Professor Mendoza as ‘‘the most significant announcement by any political party in relation to a targeted, evidence-based investment in mental health”.
“Now the Parliament has clearly stated that Government should implement those measures,” Mr Dutton said.
“Instead of splashing billions of dollars on its so-called health ‘reforms’ which are doing little more than creating new, bloated health bureaucracies - the Gillard Government should divert these otherwise wasted dollars to frontline health services such as headspace and EPPIC.”
Media Contact for Mr Dutton: John Wiseman 0429 983 618
Media Contact for Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Margot Date 0407 485 907