Mental health boost 'inadequate' Print
Written by The Age   

The Age
April 5, 2006 - 1:09PM

The federal government's $1.8 billion mental health package is disappointing and inadequate, Labor's health spokeswoman Julia Gillard says.

The government's initiative fell well short of what a recent Senate report recommended was needed as a minimum investment, she said.

"I think every Australian with a mental health illness and every Australian who loves that person will be very disappointed with (what was announced) today,'' she told ABC Radio.

"This is half of what the recent Senate committee into mental illness on a bipartisan basis said was a minimum investment.''

She said it was important the government committed more funds to mental health as it was an area which had been neglected for too long.

Ms Gillard said the government should have sought further cooperation with the states before announcing the initiative.

"The first steps in this area need to be big because it's been neglected for so long, and the first steps need to be collaborative with the states,'' she said.

Democrats wait for detail

Democrats Leader Lyn Allison said she would wait until further details were released before making a judgement on the package.

"We were told a 50 per cent to 100 per cent increase in funding by 2012 was what was needed in the system, and it seems to me that it's likely that this will fall short of that,'' she told ABC Radio.

"But again, until we see the details, it's difficult to make a judgement.''

Prime Minister John Howard announced the funding package this morning.

With mental health firmly on the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) agenda, Mr Howard said he was looking to the states to also contribute.

"The commonwealth will contribute a total figure over a five-year period of $1.8 billion towards addressing very significant areas of shortage and need in relation to mental health," he said.

State cooperation sought

"I stress that the Commonwealth will do these things irrespective of the response of the states, but naturally we would look to the states in the spirit of cooperation that has been evident thus far to match in their areas of responsibility with an equivalent amount."

Mr Howard said most people would agree that there were many gaps when it comes to mental health care in Australia.

The package will boost the number of mental health workers, provide more respite places for families looking after a mentally ill loved one and provide more money for community awareness campaigns.