I want Australia to find its heart and moral compass again. I want Government policies which reflect decency and compassion to all levels of society and to those in need. I want the "lean and mean" style of governance of our people and our land to STOP.
So I will focus on many issues that relate to these overarching goals if I am elected, and specifically on the ones I have outlined below.
1. Mental Health According to the constitution of the World Health Organisation, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” (1)
However statistics indicate that one in seven Australians will experience symptoms of depression in their lifetime and one quarter of the population will experience significant anxiety symptoms. In 2014-15, around one in nine (11.7%) Australians aged 18 years and over experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress. This was equivalent to 2.1 million people at the time. (2) The level of young children experiencing high levels of emotional distress is equally alarming. For people in WA, statistics are very similar (3) and young people, people in rural and remote areas and our older generation are particularly vulnerable.
Not only is this an alarming level of suffering in the community, but these figures also represent a significant loss to work productivity. Depression, anxiety and stress are now the leading reasons for people having to take leave from work for at least five days at any one time . (4)
Mental health concerns of individuals also affect the lives and well-being of the families and friends who support them. This emotional load is often a hidden factor which can lead to further levels of distress in the community.
Although funding in some areas have increased, both political parties cut the number of Medicare rebate session by nearly 50% over the last 5 years. We cant trust Governments to hold promises for proper funding for mental health.
I am a professionally trained Clinical Psychologist and have nearly 30 years experience working directly with people of all ages. I don't need a government report to tell me what leads to mental health stress, I have the voices and personal stories of thousands of people who have informed me. I am passionate about helping people overcome emotional stress so they can lead productive and contented lives. I can bring a strong and knowledgeable voice to Government to bring practical solutions in this area.
If elected, I will dedicate my energies to:
Improving peoples access to high quality, affordable mental health services in a range of settings.
Increasing the number of rebateable sessions under Medicare, by supporting the current recommendations of the Medicare Review Taskforce for access to psychology services.
Increasing the level of rebate obtained for psychological services and put an end to the long standing freeze on rebates.
Focus on ways to increase help-seeking in people who need assistance buy reducing the many barriers to getting help.
Helping people get access to a wider range of evidence based psychological therapies and to proper care.
Prevention of alcohol and drug problems by getting services in earlier stages of young people's lives.
Focus on better ways to decrease suicide and youth suicide.
Working on destigmatising mental health, to increase help seeking.
Insisting that there is a dedicated Federal Minister for Mental Health, with its own budget and specific focus on mental health.
Bring to Government my knowledge and experience as a practitioner and researcher and make practical changes.
2. Climate Change We are now in a serious crisis with climate change. We are already seeing the effects of this every day. There are more devastating bush fires, floods, storms and droughts than ever before, and the significant losses to the Great Barrier Reef are a tragedy. There is no debate about climate change, the science is clear, we must do much more NOW. When I went to the student demonstration in Perth in March I saw thousands of young people, and people of all ages, deeply concerned about climate change and the lack of action being taken. I fully support their actions and we need to listen more to the voices of young people.
Both Governments have significantly let us down in climate change policy.
If elected I will bring a strong voice for:
More urgent action on climate change and reducing the use and processing of plastics.
Campaign to stop the Adani coal mine and other new coal fired power plants from being built.
Campaign for increasing subsidies for renewable energies, including battery storage for home users.
Making sure we meet or exceed our agreements under the Paris international climate agreement targets.
Supporting the call to Energy Ministers to commit to higher energy performance standards for all Australian homes, for both new and existing homes. Too many Australians, especially the elderly, are exposed to significant health risks by living in homes that are chronically cold or dangerously hot, or face unaffordable energy bills if they try to keep them at a safe and healthy temperature.
3. Higher education funding The privatisation of Universities in Australia, where funding has been continuously cut and the burden of costs put onto students through massive HECs fees, has produced many very problematic consequences. Before students even get a job, they will know they have a massive debt to pay. Forget saving for a house or even renting as living costs also continue to rise. How does anyone feel when they carry a large debt - NOT GOOD. The lack of funding also forces Universities to lower entry standards to get more people in, meaning that many students are really struggling with the academic work required, leading to lower self esteem and higher rates of uncompleted degrees. But the HECs debt still stays. Then academics may feel the pressure to pass students who perhaps they should not pass, and this can have serious repercussions for standards of professional practice down the line. Current Government policy drives these bad consequences. Where public funding goes is a matter of decision-making and priorities. I believe a much higher priority should be given to properly funding higher education. If I get elected I will:
Call for a review into levels of higher education funding.
Campaign to shift funding priorities back to supporting both the University and TAFE sectors.
Campaign to end HECs debts
4. Job Security & supporting a Living Wage From speaking face-to-face with thousands of people in my professional career, it is clear to me that significant stress comes from financial stress. We know that wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, job security and stability is very low, especially for the under 30's, and the gap between the very wealthy and everyone else is massive and growing. The average person has little control over these factors. As a Clinical Psychologist and researcher, I know that when people feel helpless and hopeless about important aspects of their life and their future, symptoms of depression and anxiety occur.
There is also good research evidence showing the significant negative effects of low wealth distribution on the general population. For example, Professor Richard Wilkinson, who was professor of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, UK examined the effects of economic policy in twenty-three wealthy democratic countries, including Australia. He found that in countries where there was low wealth distribution, and the gaps between rich and poor were high, they had much higher rates of crime, mental health problems, suicide rates and lower general well-being in the overall population. Sadly, Australia was in the top five of these countries with poor ratings. (5).
Government policy which does not take seriously the need for a living wage, does not keep our most vulnerable people out of poverty, and lets big business build increasingly large profits with no share of this going into wage growth is a disgrace. Lack of action adds to poor social and economic outcomes.
If I am elected, I will work hard to:
Get a living wage and support legislation to increase in the minimum wage.
Reduce the casualization of labour and increase job security.
Bring innovative ways to get the huge profits from large businesses and corporations translated into job and wage growth.
Get a fairer deal for people needing financial support and reduce the onerous rules and obligations on the most vulnerable sectors of our society.
Look into ways to boost superannuation for women and those having to leave the workforce to care for family members.
1. World Health Organisation website. Mental health: strengthening our response, March 2018 2. ABS Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15 3. Health and well-being of adults in Western Australia. Government of Western Australia Department of Health report, 2015 4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013/2014, Work-related Injuries, Australia (63240DO004) 5. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better