Transcript: Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News - 6 May 2024


Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

6 May 2024

Topics: Labor’s cuts to Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions, need for more mental health support


LAURA JAYES: There are growing calls to reverse the cuts to Medicare-subsidised mental health sessions as well. Last year, the Albanese Government halved the number of these sessions available to patients from 20 to 10. And in recent weeks, there's been concerns, a lot of focus on mental health and what the Government is doing to properly fund the sector. Joining me now is Shadow Health Minister, Anne Ruston. Anne, thanks so much for your time. So, what are you calling for in this Budget exactly?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, last year in the Budget-in-Reply, the Leader of the Opposition stated that the Coalition would reinstate those extra Medicare-subsidised mental health sessions, believing that you can't just cut in half the amount of support that Australians have been prescribed by their psychologist or their psychiatrist, simply for budgetary purposes. So we are very keen to see that turned around, and make sure that Australians who need the support are actually getting the support that their prescribing physician says they need.

JAYES: That would just be the start, wouldn't it? I remember a couple of budgets back there was billions of dollars set aside under the previous government for mental health, but it's shown that it is still not enough. I mean, if you just scratch below the surface, this is a massive issue. We almost need an NDIS style system for mental health alone, don't we?

RUSTON: Well, I think one of the things that we have to start doing with mental health is we need to be dealing with it the same way we deal with any other chronic health condition. This idea that mental health somehow can be restricted by the amount of sessions you're allowed to have, just to cut the budget for it, I mean, completely misunderstands the way mental health works. And I think one of the things that we certainly did when we were in government was we prioritised mental health. But the big prioritisation now needs to be focussed on making sure that we've got the supports in place for those people who need them, but at the same time we have to be looking at preventative health measures for mental health, just the same way as we look at preventative health measures for physical health. And until we start doing that, we really are missing the point here that mental health needs to be treated just the same way as any other health condition. Because otherwise, we're completely missing the point.

JAYES: Would you be opposed to this idea, and that is having a standalone cabinet minister that represents mental health? What's becoming clear to me is I think the health portfolio is just too big for one cabinet minister, and the issue of mental health is always coming secondary.

RUSTON: Well, it shouldn't be coming secondary. It should absolutely be the same as any other chronic health condition or any other epidemic health condition, which is what we're seeing with mental health at the moment. So, certainly health is a massive, massive portfolio area. Obviously, I know that from the last two years of experience as the Shadow Minister for Health, and to just have one cabinet minister looking after health does put an extraordinary amount of responsibility on that one person. But, you know, I think what we need to do is we just need to have a complete overhaul about the way we look at health and start really focusing on those things like preventative health, whether that be making sure that people are living healthier lifestyles, making sure that we are supporting them with the information to make good decisions. But we can't just keep on being there at the tertiary end, mopping up after things get really serious. And right now, I think this government is failing in its responsibility for primary care, whether that be primary care for mental health or primary care for physical health. I mean, they promised that they were going to strengthen Medicare – It couldn't be weaker and it is harder and more expensive to see a doctor. So, I think there is a very strong argument that we need to make sure that we have a proper focus on health, and that is making sure that we are stopping people interacting with our health system when they don't need to.

JAYES: Yeah, that's a good point. Anne Ruston, good to talk to you. We'll catch up with you soon.

RUSTON: Thanks, Laura.



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