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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Mental health funding boost, aid to Lebanon and cyber security strategy

With the additional restrictions in Victoria causing people stress, anxiety, and strain, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced $12 million in additional funding to mental health services to combat the issue.

Mr Morrison said mental health and suicide prevention was one of his government’s highest priorities.

“For Victorians, the last few weeks have been devastating, the loss of freedom that comes with the first lockdown, now combined with the second one, not being able to connect with friends and loved ones, loss of employment, all this takes a toll,” the Prime Minister said.

Mental Health Measures

  • Youth mental health service, headspace, will receive $5 million to recruit and train outreach workers for young people in severe distress, particularly Year 11 and 12 students, young people who have lost their jobs and tertiary students.
  • Kids Helpline will receive $2 million to improve their answer rate.
  • Lifeline will receive $2.5 million dollars to deal with increased call volume.
  • $2.5 million will go to beyond blue to expand capacity, operate the web chat 24/7, and increase its ability to refer people with severe and complex needs for five additional psychological sessions.
  • Victorians will have access to another 10 Medicare funded psychological sessions.

The Prime Minister said if more was needed to be done, more would be done.

“This is a sensitive issue, but it’s important – if you need help, reach out.

“Australians, we have to talk about these issues.”

Victorian restrictions hit the economy

The Prime Minister said Victoria’s new restrictions would cost the economy $7-9 billion in loss of GDP, business confidence and supply chain issues.

“This is a heavy blow,” the Prime Minister said. “A heavy, heavy blow.”

He announced the effective unemployment was now expected to peak closer to 13% than the previously estimated 10%.

The Prime Minister said the economic impacts of Victoria’s stage four restrictions “was concerning, troubling but not unexpected”.

“But the task doesn’t change,” he said. “We need to get on top of this issue in Victoria.

“Australians have to keep our heads up.”

Cyber Security Strategy

The Prime Minister introduced a new cyber security strategy and said while the digital economy was Australia’s economic future and brought “extraordinary opportunities”, there were also crooks and people who “may not share our interests” who saw it as an opportunity as well.

“To realise the success of the digital age, there are things we have to do,” he said.

Mr Morrison said the new cyber security strategy was built on the 2016 policy and focused on three key areas, plus an additional 100 cyber detectives and would receive $1.6 billion over 10 years:

  • Protect infrastructure and services such as energy grids and banking system.
  • Protect economy by supporting small business.
  • Protect the people, elderly, vulnerable.
  • 100 additional cyber detectives.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said “as we all spend more time online, the threat was as real as it had ever been”.

“You’re worried about who your kids are chatting to online, small business is worried that clicking on an email is ransomware, if you work in government you might be worried about state-based actors,” he said.

“The dark web is the sewer of the internet.”

Aid to Lebanon

The Prime Minister announced $2 million in initial support for Lebanon, after a massive explosion in Beirut yesterday.

Mr Morrison said he would consider further rounds of financial support, and downplayed suggestions the blast was the result of terrorism. 

“This is a terrible accident,” he said.

 “I’m sure there will be inquiries of how that occurred, but all accounts suggest this is a terrible accident.”

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