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Climate Change Emergency - Health Effects

23 May 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

The mental health impacts of climate change are only just emerging. Predictions from the world's most respect authorities are becoming more dire, including that we have just 11 years to dramatically change course and avoid global heating that would bring catastrophic changes to all life. More people, especially young people, are absorbing this scientific evidence and becoming increasingly distressed at a lack of recognition and leadership from governments. Many young people are terrified and depressed. They see a future without hope and they cannot muster the energy to live in the today.

Are you aware of the eco-anxiety and some solastalgia present in so many young people? Are you preparing for the trauma communities will suffer from escalating and more extreme bushfires, floods and storms? Have you met with the Tasmanian branch of Doctors for the Environment to seek advice from medical professionals on how best to prepare our communities and support young people?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff for the question. I will answer this question in two parts.

The first is to say that the Government has a very strong plan for mental health. We are implementing it and already seeing the benefits of that in our community. We have seen a $104 million commitment to strengthen, to improve and to grow mental health outreach services in the community, in our hospitals. We are building infrastructure. In late March, we saw the roll out of Dr Groves, our Chief Psychiatrist's, own innovation that we have funded called Mental Health Hospital in the Home, about which I am hearing very positive feedback in the lives of people who can be supported. It is a wonderful outcome. We will continue to roll out our package of measures and I am happy to discuss that in detail at the appropriate time because we are committed to working with all our stakeholders.

Ms O'Connor - You are avoiding the question.

Mr FERGUSON - I said I would answer this in two parts. We are working with all our stakeholders because not only do we want to talk up the importance of resilience, prevention, early intervention and the acute supports that we need, we want to take action and we are. This Government has overseen the largest expansion of mental health services across that spectrum of care of any government ever in this state.

The second part of my answer is one that is more reflective of what the Green movement is doing to young people in our country.

Ms O'Connor - Do you think they are stupid, do you? And that easily led?

Mr FERGUSON - If you would just be good enough to listen to the answer.

Ms O'Connor - No, I know exactly what you are going to say.

Dr Woodruff - We know where you are going. It is the United Nations, 98 per cent of scientists worldwide, it is not the Green movement.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - No, you do not want to listen. I applaud and the Government applauds those people of goodwill who want to raise a legitimate issue and see legitimate practical solutions to assist our community with climate change. That is precisely what this Government is doing in a meaningful, positive and practical way.

Dr Woodruff - Are Doctors for the Environment your stakeholders, minister? Have you met with them? Do you even know they exist? Did you listen to the question?

Mr FERGUSON - If you would just listen to others like the Premier, who outlined that this Government is contributing through our genuine action plan. The Premier even offered that if others can come with other ideas that we can consider, we will do that.

Dr Woodruff - Have you heard of eco-anxiety? Are you responding to that?

Mr FERGUSON - That is the kind of Government we are. That is the kind of minister that we have in this area, Ms Archer, who is leading this work. You ought to be congratulating the Government and the minister for those initiatives.

Dr Woodruff - Will you listen to young people if they come to you and talk about their concerns? Will you listen to them? Will you commit to listening to them?

Mr FERGUSON - Where I draw the line is where you are actively distressing children in our community. You have used the words 'terrified', 'depressed' and 'eco-anxiety'. There is a place -

Dr Woodruff - It is their words. Will you listen to them, minister, if they come to you? Will you commit to listening to them?

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff. Warning number one.

Mr FERGUSON - If you will please be reflective of the impact that some of the rhetoric can have -

Dr Woodruff - We are very concerned about it. We are concerned about the effect of your climate denialism.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, warning number two.

Mr FERGUSON - on vulnerable young people who are entitled to a belief in the future, that the adults in our country and in our state care for their future, care for their interest.

We have a responsibility for these growing young minds, indeed the youngest of children, to nurture and protect them and give them a comfort and a belief in safety and a belief in a positive future. To do otherwise is highly damaging and something that people should be called to account for doing.

You may well make claims of inaction against others in the political sphere, but I invite the Greens and the Green movement to not drag in children and to allow them to have anything other than a safe and a positive sense of wellbeing in their present and in their future. Otherwise you are distressing children and young people in a way that is very harmful and very unfair. Those comments were made here yesterday and I support those comments.