Federal Labor rejects mental health levy

·2-min read

Anthony Albanese has rejected calls for a national mental health levy, even as experts warn existing funding levels are leaving chronically ill Australians to fall through the gaps.

The opposition leader also praised Prime Minister Scott Morrison for allocating more funding to mental health.

Mr Albanese said a nationwide mental health levy was not on Labor's cards ahead of the next federal election.

"We've had additional funding for mental health in the budget in May. I thought that was one of the things that the government got right," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Friday.

A Victorian royal commission in March found the state's mental health infrastructure was utterly broken, operating largely in crisis mode, and at times harming the people it was designed to help.

Commissioner Penny Armytage warned Victoria's problems were also the nation's problems.

She put forward 65 recommendations to serve as a blueprint for national reform.

Among her key recommendations was introducing a mental health levy to be paid for by big businesses, which was adopted by the Labor government in Victoria.

Susan Rossell, a professor of psychology at Swinburne University, supports the adoption of a similar tax at a national level.

"The business model is a really useful model ... that's a useful premise that needs discussing," she told AAP.

The May budget contained an extra $2.3 billion for mental health over four years.

Of this, nearly $250 million was for early intervention, including the creation of an online platform for counselling and referrals.

Another $300 million was for suicide prevention, including an "after care" program for people who leave hospital after trying to take their own lives.

Child, youth and adult treatment centres got $1.4 billion, and vulnerable communities receiving $107 million.

Professor Rossell said while the federal budget funding was useful in the short-term, it still left people with chronic illness exposed.

She said repeated COVID-19 lockdowns across the country made the situation even more dire.

"The ramifications of COVID haven't really been fully considered," Prof Rossell said.

"Until more recently we haven't even known what those ramifications are."

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