Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 February 1989)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 16 February 1989 Mr HATTON (Nightcliff): Mr Speaker, I would like to address a number of matters which have been raised in this debate and to put them into context. During this debate, the member for MacDonnell, the member for Stuart and the member for Barkly have all implied that the Minister for Health and Community Services has come into this House and presented a very lengthy ministerial statement on the theme of: 'Look how wonderful we are'. 'Self-congratulatory' is the term that has been used and those members have agreed that the minister was saying that everything is wonderful and nothing else needs to be done. In response, all I can say is that either they did not read his statement or were not listening to it. The minister had the audacity to tell the community what is going on. He had the audacity to come into the parliament of the Northern Territory and tell people what is occurring in the departments for which he has responsibility. Is that a tragedy? I do not think it is. I would like to make the point that the minister is not saying that everything is sweet and we do not have to do any more. At page 18 of the statement, the minister says: I would not pretend that our work in this area is complete. A great deal more needs to be done to refine services and introduce new programs. Existing programs are, of course, under constant review to ensure an appropriate focus is maintained. The government's current expenditure is $5.4m per year. Over the next 5 to 10 years, initiativeswill occur which will put the Territory in the forefront of progressive mental health services in this country. It is our intention to focus on primary prevention and introduce the first comprehensive mental health prevention, education and promotion program in Australia. Does that sound like somebody who is saying that everything has been done and there is no need to think about matters any further? Far from it. The minister is comprehensively outlining to the people of the Northern Territory the stage our services have reached and what he and the department will be doing to develop those services in the future. In the provision of any services, particularly physical and mental health services, the reality is that nothing is perfect or fully developed. All services can be improved. That should not be the test in this Chamber. The test should be whether problems are being addressed, whether there are moves to improve services and whether resources are being directed responsibly to the enormous tasks that confront the community. If we apply that test to this statement and to the work of the Department of Health and Community Services, we must say that the department and the minister pass with flying colours. I remind honourable members of the events of 1985 and 1986, and the concern in the community about the lack of care for emotionally and mentally disturbed people. Mr Speaker, do you remember the debates that occurred, the controversy, and the comments of magistrates, particularly in central Australia? The gentleman to whom the member for Stuart referred featured in a number of those debates. There were many others, and there was a real problem. For many years, . emotionally disturbed or seriously mentally disturbed people were transferred to South Australia for treatment. Later, even though our government offered to pay the costs, South Australia was no longer prepared to receive Northern Territory patients. Moreover, it said that we must take back patients already in South Australia. There were no facilities in place in the Northern Territory. The matter had not been addressed because 5577
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