Transcript of interview on ABC Radio Melbourne with Jon Faine
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on ABC Radio Melbourne with Jon Faine regarding the Productivity Commission mental health inquiry.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
8 October 2018
Topics: Productivity Commission mental health inquiry.
The federal government have announced that they’ve asked the Productivity Commission to look into the supply and the provision of mental health services right around Australia. Greg Hunt, local Victorian MP for the seat of Flinders down on the southeast of Victoria, is the federal Health Minister and joins us from the national capital. Mr Hunt, good morning to you.
Good morning, Jon.
Why do we need this now, this review?
Well, this is something which the Mental Health Commission itself has proposed. Allan Fels – who has been chair – and Lucy Brogden who’s now the chair of the commission have both supported it. And the reason why is to say: we’re doing some things wrong, we could be doing some things better; and we want to plan out to 2030, looking across four areas and those are prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. In particular, we’re doing very, very good work with our youth. Pat McGorry, Melbourne-based, probably the world leader in youth mental health services.
We’re not doing as well as we should be, in my view, in terms of post-hospital recovery for people who have attempted suicide, which is a major area of new investment, but I think when we look around the world, we can improve on what we’re doing and this is something we want to work on with all of the states. And it’s the mental health community that says: we’d like to do this and to help plan out to 2030.
Couple of things come to mind. Why get economists to review the provision of mental health services? Are they the best people to do it?
No, this is a different way to look at what we’ve been doing and it’s not about the expenditure, it’s about the effectiveness. And there a couple of angles here that are very, very important.
One is what is the most effective way to deal with individual cases and general treatment, but also the opportunity to draw on the workplace as a source of helping people to identify where they have challenges and seek help and then to assist in support and recovery.
The workplace is a huge opportunity for support and we can get – whether it’s public service, not-for-profit, small business, large business involved – and what I’ve found is that the business community is very, very focused and enthusiastic about playing a much greater role in supporting people who are working for them. And whether it’s the ABC or the public service more generally, whether it’s not-for-profit, employers are very keen both for an economic reason but above all else for a human reason to play a greater role and I think that’s an area that we’ve not utilised as strongly as we could have.
Does it mean that you stop making any changes to the provision of services until you get the results of this report? Because that would be a moratorium effectively on reform?
No, and it’s about planning out to 2030 whilst continuing to (a) add additional services but (b) participate in new programs. So, very recently, we have just with beyondblue embarked upon what’s called Way Back and that’s a dramatically expanded program for working with people who have been discharged from hospital after attempted suicide or having been admitted for suicidality. That’s the group, single group, that is most vulnerable to suicide in any six-month period – those that have been discharged from hospital.
Within Australia, historically, I think the evidence is pretty clear that we have not focused on that group and we’re working with Julia Gillard and Georgie Harman, with Pat McGorry and Ian Hickey and so many others. They identified this gap coming out of the state system, we’ve stepped in and we’re trying something new and important, and I hope it’s significant in this space right now, just as an example. Plus, the Million Minds Mental Health mission – never been tried before – a 10-year $125 million mission to help an additional million people.
There’s shelves full of reports into this area already – state government, federal government, health authorities, academics. I’m just wondering, what one more report tells you that you don’t already know? It’s a bit like the royal commission into banking – we already knew, the media had well covered this same patch. It’s like so many of these areas where another report really doesn’t change anything at all.
Look, it’s a legitimate question and I respect that but I think the…
Well, thank you for acknowledging that.
Well, there you go. You and I have a very positive constructive relationship on these things. But no, seriously, the important thing is it was the sector itself. Successive Mental Health Commission chairs, Allan Fels and Lucy Brogden, have proposed and advocated for this because they feel that this can help, it can help to drive the workplace as a key point of identification, support, and recovery - so massive opportunity to really make each workplace a very, very supportive environment.
And then secondly, to look around the world and compare what we’re doing well with what can be improved. And so as I was saying, our youth mental health and the work of Orygen and headspace is world-leading. People from around the world talk to me about it, they look to Australia on that front. But in terms of the post-suicide attempt recovery, we can be better. And I look at a country such as Germany and their programs, I think there’s a lot we can bring in. And to have independent people who can look at what’s worked, be frank and fearless in their advice, but then to propose – that just gives us a platform to go further and sometimes to work with the states on areas that they might not have wanted to otherwise address.
Thank you for your time this morning. Greg Hunt is the federal Minister for Health in the Scott Morrison coalition federal government.
Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.