This morning in the see-your-breath cold Canberra sunshine the Press Gallery pack descended upon Glebe Park, hunting Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who was attending a meet-the-mental-healthcare-providers morning tea.
Clearly GetUp! are right on the money with mental health shaping up to be a key election issue, but it’s been boiling for awhile what with mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry being 2010 Australian of the year and all.
In attendance were a horde of white-sticker-name-tag-wearing community service workers, headed up by Simon Tatz, communications director of the Mental Health Council of Australia, and Liberal Party representatives including ACT MLA Alistair Coe, ACT Senator Gary Humphries and candidate for the seat of Fraser James Milligan.
“Stigma’s the first issue that has to be addressed,” Humphries said.
“When I was the health minister I used to keep saying it’s a work in progress, because you can look at one problem, you can address it, but then there’s always another issue that needs to be looked at,” Abbott said.
“And I supposed you have to come back again and again to all of these things because there’s never any final answer. Even when you’ve got things as under control as they can be at one stage, developments in society, changes in technology and treatment, you’ve always then got to come back and re-look at this, don’t you?”
After a few minutes of Abbott and Humphries muttering to Tatz and company about the problem of mental health, Abbott mostly drawing on the stories and experiences of Victorian Liberal MP Andrew Robb, the politicians decided to do a door stop, clearly hoping to shake off some of the embarrassingly large microphone, camera and notebook-bearing media scrum.
Allowing the mental health workers space to grab some tea and biccies, Abbott and Humphries relocated a few metres away where the press promptly hijacked the issue of the day, battering the mad monk about boat people, his love for Julia Gillard and nuclear power.
There was a question about the link between homelessness and mental health, but Abbott deflected it and Humphries kept quiet.
With the Liberals recent release of a much-lauded new mental health care proposal and Labor throwing their national hospital network on the table sans mental health, this won’t be the last we hear about mental healthcare in the ACT in upcoming weeks, as the hill ramps up election preparations.
Watch this space.