Legislative Council: Thursday, May 05, 2022


Address in Reply

Address in Reply

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:53): I bring up the report of the committee appointed to prepare a draft Address in Reply:

To her Excellency the Hon. Frances Jennifer Adamson, Companion of the Order of Australia, Governor in and over the State of South Australia in the Commonwealth of Australia:

May it please Your Excellency—

1. We, the members of the Legislative Council, thank Your Excellency for the speech with which you have been pleased to open parliament.

2. We assure Your Excellency that we will give our best attention to all matters placed before us.

3. We earnestly join in Your Excellency's desire for our deliberations to serve the advancement of the welfare of South Australia and of its people.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (15:55): I move:

That the Address in Reply as read be adopted.

In doing so, I rise to speak in reply to Her Excellency's speech in opening this session of the Fifty-Fifth Parliament of the South Australian parliament. I congratulate her on her position and thank her for opening this historic session of the parliament in Kaurna, I believe for the first time in the history of this parliament.

I would also like to acknowledge that the land we meet on today is the land of the Kaurna people and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. I am proud to be part of a Malinauskas Labor government that will deliver a state-based Voice, Treaty, Truth for Aboriginal people led by our Attorney-General, the first initiated Aboriginal man to hold the role, the Hon. Kyam Maher.

I would also like to thank the outgoing members of this place, the Hon. Rob Lucas, the Hon. John Dawkins and the Hon. John Darley, for their service to their communities and their party members. I would also like to congratulate re-elected members to this place, in particular the Hon. Dr Nicola Centofanti. I congratulate her on her new role as Leader of the Opposition, and I believe she is the first woman to hold this position for the Liberal Party. I would also like to congratulate the Hon. Michelle Lensink and the Hon. Dennis Hood, and the Hon. Robert Simms.

On this side of the chamber, I would like to congratulate our chamber leader, the Hon. Kyam Maher, and the Hon. Tung Ngo and the Hon. Ian Hunter. Obviously, we have mentioned this previously, but there is also the great return: for the first time in 32 years, five Labor members were elected to this place and as a result we have seen the return of the Hon. Russell Wortley. This result was possible thanks to the work of the formidable Labor campaign team leader, the Hon. Reggie Martin, who joins us in this chamber now and is also a dear friend.

The Hon. Reggie Martin, who I cannot believe I have to say nice things about, is one of the most loyal people I know. His ability to develop and stick to a plan against all pressures—and there were many during the campaign—resulted in one of Labor's biggest election victories, and in an Australian first we saw the end of an incumbent government not returned during COVID. This was no fluke.

The Hon. Reggie Martin was the longest serving Labor Secretary in Australia, and for good reason. He led the state Labor branch through many successful campaigns and negotiated lasting reforms to funding and disclosure to ensure a more open and transparent election process was undertaken during the 2018 and 2022 election periods. The Hon. Reggie Martin changed the Labor Party for the better and I know he will do the same in this place. Reggie, I wish you all the success in changing our state for the better.

I would also like to welcome the Hon. Laura Curran and the Hon. Sarah Game. It is one of the greatest privileges to serve the people of South Australia, and while I am sure we will not always agree, I look forward to working with you in this place to ensure we leave the state better than we found it.

This is a historic session of parliament for a number of reasons and one that I feel incredibly humbled to be part of, for it is the session that has come to be through its number of firsts and was built on the belief of Labor values. At the recent state election, South Australians made their voice loud and very clear. They wanted change. They wanted positive, bold policy ideas. They wanted to continue our great state's pioneering legacy. They wanted a plan not just for the here and the now, but a plan for the future. South Australians also voted for a strong and united team.

Indeed, while the Labor Party is a broad church where we all have different views, different beliefs and different ways of going about creating change, as members we are all held together by one binding belief: that South Australians are better off under a Labor government, that is, Labor will provide an equaliser in our communities. From the state's leafy streets to those living on our streets, it is Labor that will fight for what is best for South Australians.

Ron Wilson was one of the many South Australians looking for that equaliser, looking for the dignity of good government and what they can bring to an individual, a family and a home. But he did not find that under the former government. When I met Ron I think his exact words were—and I will quote, because they were pretty unparliamentary, 'I've had enough of this crap government, so I decided to get off my arse and do something about it.' Ron did do something about it. It would be fair to say Ron had not always been a Labor supporter. However, his recent life experiences made him realise the need for a government willing to listen and put people, put South Australians, first.

Ron's wife experienced several complications during a recent hip replacement, resulting in 17 operations. While Ron could not fault the nursing staff at the RAH, he had few kind words to share about the system that should be protecting the very people who are there to protect us. Seeing exhausted nurses day after day being forced to do repeated double shifts was heartbreaking for Ron.

Not only did Ron worry for the safety of his wife but he worried for the safety of the nurses. What was worse was when these exhausted nurses never returned for their next shift; they just simply gave up. Ron told me he felt let down by the former government. He felt the former government had failed not only his family and the RAH nurses; most importantly, he felt that they had failed his grandkids.

Ron loves South Australia, but he was concerned about the future. He felt the former Marshall government was not the government thinking about the needs of his grandkids and was not a government thinking about the future. This was particularly important to Ron. He repeated this to me multiple times while sharing his story with me. He repeated the need for governments to put kids first. Ron was persistent about this. He was persistent because, as much as he would like to, he will not be here to fight for his grandkids.

Unfortunately, time is not on Ron's side. But he wanted to put what time he had left into fighting for what was best for his grandkids. I met Ron at an event I was hosting for new Labor members. I mention this because Ron's recent life experiences, his recent experience in seeing the impact of a bad government, resulted in him picking up a pen and joining a political party for the very first time. This is a significant point, because Ron was aged 70. He decided for the very first time to join a political party at age 70 to stand with change and not against it. And he joined the Labor Party.

Throughout the campaign the now Premier, Peter Malinauskas, made it loud and clear that his government would be committed to delivering the best outcomes for our kids and our next generation; that is, his government would be thinking not just about the next four years or the next election cycle but the next generation. Ron's story is certainly a story worth remembering, a story that shows people can and will change how they vote at any age to protect their family. They will give what time they have left to fight for their kids and their grandkids.

Ron's story joins a chorus of other hardworking South Australians who shared their stories with us over the campaign. Time and again we heard from working families, students, single parents, grandkids and grandparents who shared with us their stories about why they were fighting for change. For the last four years we, the South Australian Labor Party, made it our mission to go out in our communities and listen to the voices and the stories of those who matter most: the people who are our boss, that is, ordinary South Australians, the quiet and in some cases not-so-quiet voices in our communities.

We held forums, street corner meetings, coffee catch-ups, politics in the pub, knocked on doors and, when COVID prevented us from gathering together, we hit the phones. We made thousands of calls to some of the most vulnerable South Australians in our community, many of whom were just simply thankful for a chat, for a voice and compassionate ear on the other end of the line. They were thankful for the opportunity to share their experience, and we were honoured to listen. It is those conversations on the phones, at the doors and at the street corners where we were able to inform and create our policy agenda, because you cannot create meaningful change for the community without working with the community.

It is local residents who know their neighbourhoods the best. It is industry professionals who know what support is required to help them recover from the COVID turmoil. It is our doctors, our nurses and hospital staff who know what steps are needed to take to address our state's hospital and ramping crisis. So we, members of the Labor Party, listened. These conversations helped us form our policies and our commitments. They were formed from the ground up. We listened to local residents, we listened to industry professionals and we listened, most importantly, to our doctors and nurses.

They did not want a $662 million basketball stadium as an election centrepiece commitment in the middle of a health pandemic. They did not want an African oasis on the Riverbank and they did not want to take their tackle box to the banks of the Torrens for a fishing trip—all commitments made under the former out-of-touch government. They wanted every dollar and every cent of the $662 million basketball stadium invested in health, and they wanted that from their future government. They wanted their future government to talk about how they would fix the ramping crisis, not how they would let giraffes roam on the banks of the River Torrens.

To Ron, and to every South Australian who put their trust in Peter Malinauskas' government, many for the first time, we will continue to listen and we will continue to put the needs of South Australians first, not just for today's generation but for the next. Ron, we will fight for your kids' and your grandkids' future by establishing a royal commission into early childhood education and care, lifting the quality of teaching across our schools and establishing five technical colleges for students who want to go into trades straight from school. We will invest $50 million to support young people with learning challenges or struggling with mental health. We will invest $50 million to find 100 additional speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists and counsellors to access in our public system.

Ron, we will provide support to the overworked nurses in our hospitals so that other families do not experience what you and your wife witnessed, by investing in 350 extra ambos, 300 more nurses, 100 additional doctors, 300 extra hospital beds, including 98 more mental health beds, 50 more beds at the Women's and Children's Hospital, 10 major hospital upgrades, five new ambulance stations, an extra $100 million for country health, and so much more, to rebuild our broken health system after the former government.

Ron, we will build a clean future for your grandchildren by building on Labor's green economic policies like the Tesla battery and by unlocking billions of dollars in renewable energy projects through a hydrogen export industry. We are investing in the tools that provide dignity to all South Australians by investing in education, health and a secure workforce.

As I said earlier, this is a historic session of parliament and this last election was historic not only for the Labor Party or the parliament but for many members of our community. For many there have been a lot of firsts, and I want to say thank you to them: Ron, who decided at age 70 to join a political party for the very first time; and to the many who voted Labor for the very first time, like Peter from North Adelaide who told us that he had voted Liberal his whole life but was changing his vote because he felt he could no longer support a party that no longer represents him.

Sam from Prospect, like Peter, had been a Liberal voter her whole life. After meeting the local candidate and hearing about our plans for the future, she decided that the Labor Party would be the best party to look after her son William's future. For Ron, Peter and Sam, know that we listened to your stories, know that our policies are your voices.

There were also firsts for some electorate districts. For the people of Waite they now have, for the very first time in history, a Labor member of parliament in Catherine Hutchesson, who I know will serve her community well. There are firsts for our parliament also. Of Labor's 27 seats in the other place, 14 are held by women. More than 50 per cent of the Labor members in the other place are women. I am so proud of each and every new Labor member, but I am particularly proud of the most compassionate person that I know, the new member for Adelaide, Lucy Hood. I know she will do not only her family and her friends proud but the community proud as well.

Hanging in our hallway on level 2 for many years was a caucus photo taken in 1965 where a young woman was surrounded by a sea of men and she was wearing a white suit. Her name was Molly Byrne. She was the first Labor woman elected to this parliament. Our next caucus photo will look very different, and it will be a photo I will be incredibly proud to stand in, shoulder to shoulder with a team of talented and community minded fellow members of parliament led by a once-in-a-generation leader, the member for Croydon, Premier Peter Malinauskas.

Change, as we know, is not an easy process. It takes strength, courage and determination, but often it is the right thing to do. As we heard in the Governor's speech, now is the time not to be timid; it is the time to be bold. I know the Premier recognises this, and just as Molly Byrne stood by herself as the only female member, just as Ron joined his first political party, and just as Sam decided to vote Labor for the very first time in her life, each made a bold decision to enact change.

I am honoured to be a part of the Malinauskas Labor government team, and I am honoured to be able to help in delivering the commitments of change in our communities, in our local neighbourhoods, and our industries, schools and hospitals to make them better. And I am honoured to be helping to create a better future, not only for today's generation but the next.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (16:12): I rise to second the motion and wish to place on record my thanks to Her Excellency the Hon. Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia, for her speech to open the First Session of the Fifty-Fifth Parliament.

It was an honour and privilege to share with members the opportunity to welcome Her Excellency into this chamber for this historic occasion. I found myself reflecting on Her Excellency's words that this parliament has existed for 165 years to carry out the will of the people of South Australia. I am humbled by the opportunity to walk the corridors of this great building, to sit in this chamber and, most importantly, to serve the people of South Australia.

I would like to congratulate the Governor on her appointment to this prestigious and important role. She brings a wealth of experience built through an illustrious career, and I am confident she will be an outstanding ambassador for South Australia and provide excellent service to the people of our state.

I also extend my congratulations to the Malinauskas Labor government on their election. They have been entrusted by the people of South Australia to deliver on their ambitious election promises. I am sincere when I say that I wish them all the best. The people of South Australia deserve the best. To the 14 new members of parliament: congratulations and welcome. To those members who were returned by their constituencies to serve them once again: congratulations and welcome back.

To the people of South Australia, thank you for the part you play in our democracy. Australians, and indeed South Australians, are truly blessed to live in a safe, peaceful democracy where a competition of ideas and ideals is fought through debate and campaign rather than with bullets and bloodshed. There are places around the world that do not share the same fortunes, and our prayers and thoughts are with these communities.

To the Liberal Party members, volunteers and supporters, I am so grateful to each and every one of you for the contribution you make to our party and the important role you play in our party's democracy. Our members and volunteers are the lifeblood and soul of our party. Without you, we do not exist and we stand for nothing as it is your voices, it is our voices collectively, that carry us forward.

It was an incredibly disappointing election result for us, and I share your frustration and disappointment, but I urge you to keep the faith, to remain committed to our shared values, and ask that you help the opposition to keep the government accountable for every single one of their election promises.

On a personal note, I would like to extend the warmest of thanks and gratitude to my family, especially my husband, David, and my three children, Anna, Lucia and Angus. Your love and support provide me with the strength to carry out my role in this chamber and I could not do it in your absence.

It would be remiss of me to not thank the South Australian Electoral Commission team for their work in managing the election process. It is an arduous task at the best of times, but in the midst of a pandemic the challenges were extremely significant. Well done to everyone involved and thank you.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on everyone and everything. No-one and nothing has been untouched, from individuals to communities and nations; from small businesses to big businesses and global supply chains; health, mental health, economies, jobs, families, workplaces. The impact has been far-reaching and the impact will be lasting.

This impact has been catastrophic across the globe. I want to acknowledge the frontline workers who have borne the brunt. I echo the comments of Her Excellency in acknowledging that our state owes a debt of gratitude to our doctors, nurses, paramedics, other health practitioners and workers, police and other emergency service workers and volunteers, our education workforce, our retail and food industry workforce, and other frontline workers.

I also acknowledge the outstanding contribution of the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, and the Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, for their advice and guidance during the pandemic.

I agree with Her Excellency's comments that the 'pandemic has changed all of our lives, but it has also presented opportunities for our state to not simply recover but to prosper as never before'. But what should also be acknowledged is that the foundation of these opportunities was laid by former Premier Steven Marshall, former Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade and their cabinet colleagues.

It was their heavy lifting during that time that helped to keep South Australians safe, avoiding 4,400 deaths during the first wave of COVID alone and avoiding daily case rates of up to 40,000 during the Omicron outbreak. It was their heavy lifting that has ensured South Australia enjoys its lowest unemployment rate in 40 years and the highest economic growth rate in the nation.

It is their heavy lifting that has reduced costs for businesses and reduced the cost of living for families by eliminating payroll tax on small business, slashing the emergency services levy and cutting water bills, whilst providing support to families and businesses during the pandemic totalling more than $4 billion.

It is their heavy lifting that delivered a 2021-22 budget which returns the operating balance to surplus in 2022-23 and delivered upgrades to South Australia's credit ratings by ratings agencies. It is their heavy lifting that transformed the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site into a hub of technology, innovation and culture, secured Lot Fourteen as the home of Australia's National Space Agency and helped create thousands of jobs and showcase South Australia to the world.

It is their heavy lifting that secured investment in upgrades of all suburban hospitals and expansion of emergency departments across the metropolitan area and employed more doctors, nurses, ambulance officers and health staff than ever before, with staffing levels more than 2,500 people higher than mid-2018 levels.

It is their heavy lifting that ensured regional South Australia and its communities received record investment, with $3 billion across more than 1,000 regional projects. The Marshall Liberal government ensured South Australia led the nation in apprenticeship and traineeship commencements, with an increase of 72 per cent, more than double the national rate. We delivered record investment in infrastructure projects, mental health, shifted year 7 into high school and delivered a record $1.5 billion in school builds and upgrades.

Her Excellency said that:

The people of this state deserve a safe, secure and prosperous future...

I agree. I am proud of all that the Marshall Liberal government achieved to deliver a safe, secure and prosperous future. I hope the Malinauskas Labor government is able to deliver for the people of South Australia just as the Marshall Liberal government did over its four-year term.

Her Excellency said that:

Our state expects its government and parliament to act with courage and vision.

And I agree. I am proud to have been a member of the Marshall Liberal government that acted with courage and vision, particularly as it confronted a global pandemic. I hope the Malinauskas Labor government is able to act with the same courage and vision and capitalise on the strong hand they have inherited.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.