Page 4141 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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services and increases in service responsiveness, with strengthening of quality research and innovation also being key areas.

We heard a lot from Mr Smyth, in his speech, about the Mental Health Council of Australia’s criticisms of the government’s decisions to plan for a new mental health precinct in the ACT. I want to challenge this head on. Are Mr Smyth and the Mental Health Council of Australia saying that we should not have an up-to-date psychiatric services unit? Are Mr Smyth and the Mental Health Council of Australia saying we should not have facilities for forensic mental health clients and it is quite acceptable for them to be sent to Goulburn jail or to the Belconnen Remand Centre? Is that what they are saying? Their criticisms of the decision to plan for facilities at the Canberra Hospital are just that.

I do not accept for a moment that our clinical facilities, in terms of the physical infrastructure, are either up to scratch or comprehensive enough. They are neither. And these issues must be addressed. The government has made a commitment to address them. We made a commitment to build a new PSU during the last election campaign, a commitment we will honour. But we are also taking a broader look at the range of clinical facilities, acute care facilities, that are needed.

The other side of this argument of course from Mr Smyth and, unfortunately, from the Mental Health Council of Australia—which I must say is not echoed by the comments of consumers and carers here in the ACT—is that we are not spending enough on early intervention and community outreach and support. I would draw Mr Smyth’s attention and the Mental Health Council of Australia’s attention to the council’s report, Not for service, released about a month or so ago.

In that report, the council acknowledged that 75 per cent of all mental health funding in the ACT is already allocated to community-based services. We are not a jurisdiction that spends the majority of our budget on acute care; we are a jurisdiction that spends the majority of our budget, the overwhelming majority of our budget, on community outreach and support, on community-based services. Particularly in the context that the Australian average expenditure on community-based services is 51 per cent and we are 75 per cent, how is it justified to criticise the government for deciding to improve acute care services particularly when we have no capacity for children, for adolescents or for forensic mental health clients? It is not a valid or reasonable criticism when you look at those facts.

The increased investment that the government is contemplating and doing the planning for at our hospital facilities includes planning for the replacement of the inpatient mental health unit with a new 30-bed facility, a 15-bed high-security unit and a 20-bed youth mental health inpatient unit. The development of these facilities is important. It is not acceptable to have young people in a psychiatric services unit with adults; it is not acceptable to have forensic-type mental health clients in the Belconnen Remand Centre, in Goulburn jail or even in our own jail when it is built. They need a particular, dedicated facility for episodes of acute illness, and that is what the planning is aiming to address.

We again heard the call from Mr Smyth for a time-out facility. The problem with this proposal is that it seems to be all things to all people—catering for people who may be at risk of suicide, catering for people who need further care following discharge from

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