Coalition psychology session pledge 'lazy': Butler
A coalition mental health policy is likely to boost waiting lists for psychologists and is lazy policy, the government says.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton used his budget reply speech on Thursday to announce a coalition government would double the number of subsidised sessions to 20.
Health Minister Mark Butler said the government's decision to revise the number of subsidised sessions for psychological therapy from 20 to 10 was made after a review last year deemed the policy poorly targeted.
"This is a lazy policy, this is a policy that will make wait lists longer for psychological therapy," Mr Butler told ABC radio on Friday.
"It (the review) showed that those additional 10 sessions were not going to the people who needed it most.
"They were not going to people with more complex needs."
Mr Butler said he accepted there was a strong community need for mental health support following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We just don't have enough workers, which is why training more psychologists was a real focus of this budget," he said.
"That won't happen overnight."
Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley was scathing of Mr Butler for his choice of words around restoring subsidised psychological sessions.
"He (Mr Butler) actually used the word 'lazy' twice, I'm absolutely horrified," she told ABC radio.
"That's something he should go away and reflect on and seriously consider about whether he really does care about mental health as the health minister of this country."
Nationals leader David Littleproud called on the health minister to visit a regional area and see the "pain" felt by communities who had been left devastated by drought and bushfires.
"I say to him please, before you start making silly comments, go out and listen, learn and understand," he said.
"You might change your mind about what your priorities are."
Mr Littleproud said the stigma surrounding mental health needed to be broken.
"You can do that by saying to the Australian people: 'It's okay to ask for help, come in and we're going to help you pay for it'," he said.
As the centrepiece of its cost of living package, the government on Tuesday night unveiled a $3.5 billion boost to incentivise GPs to bulk bill more of their patients by tripling the fee they will receive.
The coalition will support the move.
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