The minister’s remark came as health carers and church groups on Wednesday called on both sides of politics to commit to an immediate and substantial increase in investment in mental health services.
Australians deserve better: Gillard
Julia Gillard told the NSW Nurses’ Association 65th Annual conference that she believes that Australians deserve better health and hospital services.
“I will stand up for nurses and for the hardworking Australians in our hospitals and our hotels, our classrooms and councils, in mines and in manufacturing,” Ms Gillard said.
“Friends, you know how important a fair work system is for the nurses, midwives and aged care workers that you represent.”
“They are hardworking Australians who rely on penalty rates and shift loadings to make it through from week to week.”
She also attacked Tony Abbott’s Industrial Relations policy saying that people who can’t bargain their pay and conditions on their own, but need the right to negotiate collectively for an enterprise agreement.
‘Shortage severe’ in mental health
“We do acknowledge that a lot more needs to be done in this area,” Ms Roxon said in response to a question by a nurse after addressing the NSW Nurses Association annual conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
“There is a lot of professional investment that is needed, and I know with mental health nurses in particular staff shortages are very severe.
“But we are not prepared to do what the Liberal Party is doing, which is saying we will put a lot more money into mental health but we will do that by pulling money out of other vital parts of the health system.”
Mental health is a ‘difficult area’
Ms Roxon said mental health was a “very difficult area”, and there were not sufficient services across the country.
“At the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) negotiations in April we were able to agree with the states and territories to some significant extra commonwealth investments, particularly an expansion of Headspace services,” she said.
Ms Roxon has previously announced the government would expand its Headspace service to 30 new sites, doubling the number of places where young people can seek advice and help about mental health issues.
The government has also promised 42 new beds at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney’s south west, with 20 allocated to the mental health unit.
Abbott can’t be trusted: Roxon
Ms Roxon said in her address to the state’s nurses that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott could not be trusted on Work Choices or health funding.
“The choice is between moving forward with our health reforms or back to a system that they starved of funds,” she said.
“Mr Abbott has set aside every day of this election campaign to hide the truth about his agenda, bringing back Work Choices, making more cuts into health.”
Major church groups including Anglicare and The Salvation Army in a joint statement on Wednesday called on Labor and the coalition to fund community mental health services.