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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3140..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the government is proposing at this stage that the new unit for the psychiatric services unit itself will have a capacity for 40 beds but with a footprint to accommodate another 10 to bring it to 50 beds. This decision has been taken in consultation with and on the advice of mental health consumers and advocates. The department of health has been in detailed consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Schizophrenia Fellowship, the mental health consumers association and a range of other organisations who have a strong interest in the operation of this new facility and its design. They have indicated that we need to balance our provision of acute care facilities with the provision of non-acute or subacute care and support, particularly those in the community setting. They are urging the government—and we agree—that there is a real purpose to be served and a good purpose to be served by ensuring that we do not skew the balance of care completely in favour of the acute care end and that, instead, we ensure that there is also appropriate focus put on that part of the community care sector where we need to provide care for mental health consumers in their homes, in their workplaces, in the community.

That is the balance the government is seeking to achieve, and those are the reasons that we have taken this approach. I think the staff involved in this planning process are to be commended. It is very good news for the Canberra community that we are moving ahead with improved planning and improved provision of mental health services and mental health facilities here in the ACT, picking up, of course, the enormous legacy that was left to us by those opposite who left this territory in a position where per capita expenditure on mental health services was the lowest in the country. We are now in a position where it is much more competitive and much more reasonable to meet the needs of people in our community.

MR SMYTH: Minister, what is the expected cost of the new unit, what is the expected date of completion for this building project, and how confident are you of completing this project on time?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, final costing of this facility will be assessed once detailed design has been completed, which is the stage we are now currently at. Once final detailed design is completed, we will be able to know the exact costs.

In relation to the timing, it is anticipated that, subject to capital works funding being made available through the budget process, construction could commence in the second half of next year, with the unit being commissioned in approximately two years following that point.

Emergency services—bushfire season

MR PRATT: My question is to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Minister, we recently had the first total fire ban of the 2007-08 bushfire season. On that day a significant proportion of the Rural Fire Service had to return from its headquarters at Fairbairn to the ESA communications centre in Curtin. Fire towers in the ACT were unstaffed for a large part of that day. Minister, why was the Stanhope government so badly prepared for the start of this bushfire season too?

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