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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2412 ..

Mr Moore: You have never played politics?

MR CONNOLLY: No, we have not, Mr Moore. As I pointed out to Mrs Carnell today - indeed, we made the point earlier this week - we would much prefer to work with the Government in this area. In a number of these incidents in Victoria it has been very clear that they involved a person who had been literally thrown out of an institution with nowhere to go. Our history in the ACT has been a strong one of facilities such as the community houses. The Friendship House programs that Warren and his family were so involved in are a good model of community-based services, the sort of model that other States lack. As the national mental health strategy breakdown shows, we spend considerably more on community health services in the ACT.

That is not to say that we spend enough. We say now to Mrs Carnell that we do not spend enough. Mrs Carnell, I am sure, has said, or will say, "Yes, we would like to spend more". We said last year when we were in government that we do not spend enough and that we would like to spend more. When we got the reform of mental health laws in the ACT through last year, which was a massive project, we acknowledged in government that the major task in the years ahead would be not just to focus on the base level of resources, which needed to be focused on, but continually to improve the services.

Mr Speaker, the reason I re-entered the debate was to set straight Mr Moore's very simplistic approach to mental health expenditure. I would hope that the Health Minister, when she re-enters this debate, at least will give an assurance that she can get these updated figures. You do need to be careful in this area. It is unfair, and it is cheap politics, just to look at that base Grants Commission figure. It should be acknowledged that, under Labor - it could also be said that it has been, to some extent, under successive governments - the ACT, in the area of community facilities and mental health, has done far better than other parts of Australia. That is something that we should be proud of, but we should not rest on our laurels. We should not stop; we should continue to move forward. Mr Moore commented about professional services. One of the significant ways of enhancing professionalism in the whole service will come with the appointment, I hope imminently - it was high on our schedule - of the chair of psychiatry at the new psych facility at Woden which was built under a Labor government.

Mr Speaker, I re-entered this debate, in a sense, to defend all governments - ours because we were in government for the last three years - but also not to make the allegation that suddenly Mrs Carnell has reversed that, because of course she has not. While we all say there should be more spent on community-based mental health care, it is not true to say that, because our global figure is lower than the Australian average, we are doing terribly. The reason our global figure is lower than the Australian average is that we do not have, thank goodness, a large, expensive, nineteenth century institution. When you take out the costs of those institutional mental health facilities and look at community mental health care, which is the model that the national strategy says should be adopted, the ACT leads the way. That is not to say that we should rest on our laurels.

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