SOPHIE Mirabella “played no part” in the campaign for a Border headspace centre, the former federal mental health minister says.
Mark Butler, now Climate Change Minister, yesterday disputed statements by the Indi incumbent about her involvement in bringing the youth mental health hub to the Border.
He told The Border Mail exclusively that he had “never spoken to Sophie Mirabella about headspace”, and said she was claiming credit for others’ work.
But Mrs Mirabella maintained her position that she had supported the community, and claimed no further credit than that.
The Border Mail reported on Saturday that key campaigners for headspace and another community project, the Border Cancer Centre, were angry that Mrs Mirabella had been highlighting her involvement in both campaigns in a letter to Indi voters.
The letter said Mrs Mirabella “successfully lobbied the CEO of headspace, Dr Chris Tanti, for a headspace centre right here on the Border” and that she “pressured former Labor minister, Simon Crean, to announce $65 million for the Border Cancer Centre”.
Annette Baker, whose family helped ignite the headspace campaign after daughter Mary took her own life, said she was “shocked” by Mrs Mirabella’s statement and called for a record of what she had done other than meet with Dr Tanti.
Mr Butler echoed those sentiments yesterday, saying that in itself was a “strange” claim to make, given he and his department had to approve funding and decide on locations.
Mr Butler said Mrs Mirabella had “never” raised the issue with him.
“I’ve never spoken to Sophie Mirabella about headspace,” Mr Butler said.
“I did however meet with numerous members of the local community, including the former Albury mayor Stuart Baker and representatives of The Border Mail.
“I was regularly lobbied by members of parliament from both sides of politics for a headspace in their community, but Sophie Mirabella wasn’t one of them.
“Ending the Suicide Silence was one of the most incredible and touching community campaigns I have been involved with, and Sophie Mirabella played no part in it.”
Mrs Mirabella stood her ground yesterday, saying she provided a letter of support in September last year and met with Dr Tanti in March.
She said she had been in discussion with him and the shadow minister for mental health on the Coalition’s position.
“I did mention to him (Mr Butler) about headspace but the official application went from the community down here,” she said.
“As I have said before my words were quite specific in providing support to the community.
“I did whatever I could to give further weight to the efforts of many people.”
She said she and Farrer MP Sussan Ley met with Dr Tanti as “headspace makes the assessment and recommendations” of where centres should be located.
“It would have been remiss of us not to have gone to see Dr Tanti,” she said.
Headspace said while the process determining centre locations is done in consultation with the Department of Health and Ageing, headspace, the final decision is made by the federal government.