Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

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Interview with Darren Kerwin - 7AD Devonport

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

E&OE…
                      
Topics: $4.8 million for mental health services in North West Tasmania; Bill Shorten’s cancelled business lunch in Devonport; adverse impacts of recreational marijuana use 


DARREN KERWIN:
A couple of blokes have logged on my studio door today. We’ve got the Braddon by-election coming up in a few weeks, 28 July. If you need to update your enrolment details, by the way,  aec.gov.au. Here’s Brett Whiteley from the Liberals. Good morning Brett.

BRETT WHITELEY:         
Good morning Darren. 

DARREN KERWIN:
And Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Hello.

GREG HUNT: 
And good morning, Darren. 

DARREN KERWIN:
How’s things mate?

GREG HUNT:
Pretty well actually. I went for a lovely run along the Devonport foreshore this morning. God it’s a beautiful place and the town’s got a heck of a lot going for it. 

DARREN KERWIN:
You struck us at a nice part of the year too weather-wise. I mean sure it's going to get windy and rainy this afternoon but this morning nice and warm 12 degrees.

GREG HUNT:

A lot warmer than Canberra, a lot warmer than Mount Martha and importantly we're  able to do some nice things here today for mental health. 

DARREN KERWIN:

So tell us about it. Four point eight million dollars in the North West. 

GREG HUNT:
Correct. So this is one of the things Brett’s been advocating for off the back of a report by the Primary Health Network. So it’s $4.8 million.We know that mental health is a deep issue everywhere in Australia but there are particular needs here in the North West. So we'll be supporting the local area with more mental health nurses which is particularly important, $2.4 million for mental health nurses for the region. 

Another $600,000 focused specifically on Burnie and the region around it and then $1.6 for Psychology CAFFE. And the Psychology CAFFE, which serves the Devonport region, is all about providing a place where people would come, they can get services but do it in a different way. It's a model that can be rolled out around Australia, as with the mental health nurses and then some funding, $200,000 for extension of services to King Island. 

Everywhere you go people need mental health support. It's a real national challenge. Four million people a year have some sort of mental health challenge. And some of the things that Brett has been absolutely passionate about when he was in parliament and now as a candidate, again, he said the Primary Health Network is very clear, we have needs in our area. I expect you, Greg, to fulfil them. He’s sort of hard to say no to.

DARREN KERWIN:
So $4.8 million over how long?

GREG HUNT:

Four years.

DARREN KERWIN:
Over four years, yeah.

GREG HUNT:
So significant addition of services to the area. One of the things we discussed, Brett introduced me to Psychology CAFFE when we were down with the PM a few weeks ago. And they said two or three years is not enough, we need long term funding so as we can attract really good people with job security to the area and I thought that was a very powerful argument and one we followed through on.

BRETT WHITELEY:
And that's a challenge we've got in a number of specialties, Darren, as you no doubt would be aware is making sure we can provide certainty of contracts for professionals to make sure that they can pull up stumps wherever they are in the country. A lot of people want to come and live in Tasmania as the hotspot, as Peter (inaudible) said, of the planet nearly at the moment and people want to come here but they need to know that they've got a certainty of employment. 

So Tracey at Psychological CAFFE was very clear in the fact that that's where the real gap for the industry was to make sure that we've got some long term funding. And I spoke to Greg about that and said look, we need to make sure we've got some money on the ground for a longer period of time so we can lock in good people to actually provide these services. 

DARREN KERWIN:
So have you spoken to health professionals and the North West doctors and nursing administrators about this?

BRETT WHITELEY:
Absolutely. And can I also say, I mean I've been back on the horse for nearly two months now and not a day would go by where the issue of mental health, as Greg quite rightly said, comes up on the doors. You knock on a door and you ask what the issues are, you know, what are the things that are taking your mind. And they say well I've got a son or I've got a husband or I've got a mother with a mental health challenge and they- we know, everybody knows there are gaps, there are needs and my responsibility is to lobby hard, to put those needs before people like Greg. 

As a Cabinet Minister and the Minister for Health, he's always got a listening ear and this is a great announcement. I'm pretty excited about this $4.8 million covering off on the real practical outcome and as I keep saying, I'm not about complaining about what's going on. I'm about providing outcomes and providing solutions and it's great that the Minister’s here today to make this announcement. 

DARREN KERWIN:
Well I think it's just great that more people are talking about mental health issues.

BRETT WHITELEY:

They are.

DARREN KERWIN:
Even I'd say five years ago it was hardly raised in the media and you wouldn't hear. It was one of those underground illnesses that people had. But now people are talking about it all the time and that's the way to get it fixed is start the conversation.

GREG HUNT:
Yeah that's exactly right and I would say as I go around the country it’s probably the single largest issue that's raised with me. Whether I'm here in Devonport or where we were a couple of weeks ago in Burnie, I could be in Bundaberg or anywhere around the country. And so it's a part of our modern reality and we need to firstly give people the space to say, hey this is normal, I can seek help and secondly give them the services to where they can actually go to get that help and we're trying to do both today. 

DARREN KERWIN:
Alright. So those, what are they called, psychology cafes?

GREG HUNT:
Psychology CAFFE, yep.  So, based here, Brett you know them very well.

BRETT WHITELEY:
They’re based in the Devonport region. And they're trialling- well, not trialling really, they're actually delivering a newer, fresher, different approach to providing services, they're actually there at a far more relaxed space being able to offer that support. And they made representations to both myself and Senator Colbeck as well. And we have passed that on. 

And we're going to be providing some money specifically for them to continue that work and to grow that work to attract the professionals I spoke about earlier and to make sure that they're going to be reaching out as well, it won't be just located here. They'll reach out with services. That, alongside the funding for mental health nurses is really, really crucial. And I'm so excited too that we were able to find some funds to make sure that the 1500 - 1600 people on King Island - which is a part of this electorate, Darren - haven't been forgotten either. 

We often forget about those that are more isolated, the West Coast is another example. But this money will reach out to the West Coast. But we need to specifically attend to some matters on King Island and this is going to address that. 

DARREN KERWIN:
So, those CAFFES, will they have links to... 

BRETT WHITELEY:
It’s one CAFFE, it’s one CAFFE, yeah, which operates in this district….

DARREN KERWIN:
Sorry, one CAFFE. 

BRETT WHITELEY:
…and they'll have opportunity now with $1.6 million, Greg, I think…

GREG HUNT:
That’s right.

BRETT WHITELEY:
…over four years, which will mean they'll be able to employ three or four more professionals which will open up the door to obviously more appointments, more opportunities for people to get access to that support quicker. So it's a win-win as far as I can see. 

DARREN KERWIN:
So will they have links to organisations like beyondblue, for example, Greg?

GREG HUNT:

Correct. So it’s one of the beauties of this is that we obviously fund beyondblue and Lifeline and we fund all of these very, very important services but if you fund a local service, they can be part of the national network. And Psychology CAFFE, we looked very carefully at what they were doing, they stacked up extremely well but they were looking to expand their work. And the mental health nurses, my mum was a nurse, my wife is a nurse and I see the work that the mental health nurses do and we just are absolutely of the view this is something we want to expand. People feel comfortable, they can talk with the mental health nurses and that can be a pathway to other treatment as well. 

DARREN KERWIN:

Alright. So the Braddon by-election, couple of weeks’ time, now local Greens candidate. What do you think about this legalising of marijuana?

GREG HUNT:
So my view is very, very clear that recreational marijuana use is associated very, very clearly with adverse mental health outcomes, whether it's the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK, our chief medical officer in Australia, I was with him only yesterday -  Professor Brendan Murphy - and we were discussing precisely this issue of the cumulative impacts. 

Whether it's lower level mental health impacts or psychoses which can flow from prolonged use. The evidence has grown, not diminished, over the last decade that exposure to marijuana can lead to very, very negative and detrimental mental health outcomes. 

BRETT WHITELEY:
And I think the disappointing thing for me in this debate, Darren, is that the Greens candidate and the Greens Party over many years now, I think have deliberately been muddying the waters between a debate on medicinal cannabis and the provision of that in controlled environments with the whole recreational use. 

They’re completely two different things; I've provided my support over many years to the controlled environment for medicinal cannabis. I mean the research is clear. It provides good outcomes. So I certainly are- I'm an embracer of that in a controlled environment but to deliberately, I think, try and mix that up and when people are asked questions in surveys and they then sort of celebrate the huge number of people. 

I think people are being conned when they're trying to make sure that it's just seen as one use, when in fact we're talking about medicinal cannabis for medicinal purposes versus a gateway to other drugs by the opening up of recreational marijuana use. And I think that's a real concern. It certainly doesn't have my support but I'm more than happy, as the minister I know has been, in relation to the medicinal cannabis. 

DARREN KERWIN:
Well, I think it's good news about the mental health funding. So what are you up to today boys, where’s next?

GREG HUNT:
Well, we're off to the Psychology CAFFE this morning, yep.  So we'll be seeing Tracey and the team there. I suspect that we’ll talk to a few businesses along the way. I understand Mr Shorten was having a- going to have a business lunch at the Gateway - I stayed at the Gateway Inn last night, nice pub - but couldn't attract anything more than a handful of takers, so he's off downstairs to Sinatra’s for lunch, I don’t know if they're going to play some old records, sing some old songs, have a few union heavy mates.

But I think it’s extraordinary that you have a leader of the opposition who advertises in the national parliament that they're going to have a business lunch and nobody turns up. I mean he turned his back on business and they have turned his back on him. And this isn't the big end of town, this is the whole of the North West had a chance to have lunch with Bill and they said,  sorry you said we don't believe in you - small business - and well, we don't believe in you Mr Shorten. 

DARREN KERWIN:
Alright boys, thanks for coming in. 

BRETT WHITELEY:
Good on you, Darren. Thanks. 

(ENDS)

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