Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 20 October 2005) . . Page.. 3937 ..
in our community. Those are the facts and that is exactly what I said to the Assembly yesterday. It is what I said on radio this morning and it is what I will continue to say.
I think the real challenge for Mr Smyth, seeing as though he has made a commitment to increased funding by one per cent a year, is to say where he is going to find that money from. His glib answer on ACT radio this morning was, “Oh, well, it is all being spent on bureaucracy.” I would like Mr Smyth to tell me exactly where he thinks that money is being spent and where he would redirect it from—which services would he remove, stop, cease, cut or get rid of so that he can meet his commitment. I can assure Mr Smyth that that funding is going into paying for our nurses and doctors so that we can attract and retain the staff that we need in an incredibly competitive and difficult labour market. It is going into increased services relating to crisis assessment, suicide prevention and community outreach.
Per capita expenditure now on mental health is $131 per head of population compared to $75 per head of population in 2000-01. So the government does not resile from the problems of the mental health system. The government does not pretend these problems do not exist. We acknowledge that these are serious issues but we also acknowledge and proudly say we have a commitment to addressing them. We have made the investment, we will continue to consider future options and future investment as part of the budget process, and we will continue to work with carers and consumers in tackling these difficult but important issues for our community.
MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, you talk about strategies, cite expensive pieces of paper and tell us that you are considering things but when is the government going to increase services so that mentally ill people in the ACT get the treatment and care they need and are so patently not getting now?
MR CORBELL: Again, Mr Speaker, where does he think the expenditure that we are already committed to is going? Mr Smyth is in a very difficult position as Leader of the Opposition because the government has a very clear record of increasing mental health funding by 75 per cent. So what does Mr Smyth do in response to that? He dismisses that. He says, “Oh, so, there are problems.” Well he cannot do that. The fact that we are spending more money on suicide prevention is something that he seeks to ignore. He likes to ignore the fact that we have put outreach programs into the Gungahlin area for the support of people with mental illness. He decides to ignore the fact that we have provided support for our crisis assessment and treatment teams because that does not suit his argument. He needs to understand the complexity of this discussion but he does not do so because he wants to make the cheap, smart political point that there is a problem and he is the only saviour.
Mr Speaker, I am out there talking with people in the mental health community. I am out there talking with consumers and carers, talking with their advocates and talking with clinicians and I understand, as do they, that there are no quick or smart fixes to this problem. What is required is hard work, a preparedness to continue to invest in a sensible, considered way to make sure that we make the best use of the resources we make available and to acknowledge the problems that exist as a step in making sure they are addressed. That is the government’s commitment.