Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Wade, The Hon. S.G.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. N.J. Centofanti:

That this council—

1. Notes the recent retirement of the Hon. Stephen Wade MLC after 16 years of service to the people and Parliament of South Australia;

2. Recognises his leadership as Minister for Health and Wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; and

3. Wishes him well in his retirement from parliament and the years ahead.

(Continued from 14 June 2023.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:48): I rise to make some remarks clearly in favour of this motion. I might say that I did approach the Hon. Mr Wade and ask him whether he would like one of these motions and his initial response, for those of us who know him very well, was, 'No, no, no, no, no,' but I think our leader in this upper house had a bit more success in persuading him that his amazing service was certainly worth recognising through a motion in the Legislative Council.

Stephen Wade served for 17 years in a range of portfolios, the most significant being as shadow Attorney-General's portfolio spokesperson for some time, and eight years in health, both in opposition and then obviously his final four years as Minister for Health. In all of that time every single contribution he made was always so clearly thought out and well crafted. I think all of us who have served with him over many years—and many members would have since retired—have always appreciated the thoughtfulness and consideration that he put into his contributions in this place.

Particularly when it came to conscience matters, Stephen is known to be a man of great faith. I would often say I wished I had said what he said, because he had a way of putting things which was so clearly articulated, so ethical, so moral. Stephen has been a very great friend to me in this place. We all need our friends in this place, and he is someone I could have very challenging discussions with about things.

Obviously, when we sat around the cabinet table there could be times, particularly because of COVID, and I remember those early days when it was pretty scary. It was pretty scary, being one of those 14 or 15 people when there is a global pandemic and you do not know what to expect. Some of the discussions were around how many ventilators the state has—300, we thought at the time. We were looking at repurposing ventilators from veterinary clinics and the like. There were images that we saw from places like Spain and Italy, even the US, where people were dying in their thousands. It was a very, very scary time, having that level of responsibility, and I think we should be grateful that the Hon. Stephen Wade was the health minister.

I have never known him not to read things. He read everything. I hear comments from people who are associated with his portfolio who actually miss him. I am not reflecting poorly on the new government—or maybe I am, in a backhanded way. They knew that Stephen Wade was across his brief at all times. He would listen to everybody. He would take advice, he would seek advice, he would seek views. He was not afraid to speak to people he thought might be challenging towards him. He would just take it all on board and make a very well-considered decision at the end of it.

The Address in Reply that he gave last year is certainly worth reflecting on. I am not going to go through it all, given the hour, because I think people can avail themselves of it, but I endorse every single one of his comments about the achievements from his term in office and the disaster of Transforming Health. It really was a disaster. People can be as glib as they like, but the former Labor government downgraded our hospital system, closed a hospital—I think at one stage they were actually intending to close my local hospital, the Modbury Hospital—and then they had the gall in the last election to say that they were going to fix ramping.

Stephen's speech from last year talks about the record investment of $7.85 billion into the health system in 2021-22, including the $3 billion for the new purpose-built Women's and Children's Hospital; the fact that there were record numbers of doctors, nurses and paramedics employed in the system; and all of his initiatives aimed at getting people out of the hospital system or trying to ensure that they did not enter the hospital system in the first place.

Of course, as we know, it is a bit like the homelessness system: people go in the front door and you need to get them out the back door so that people can continue to come through the front door. Services such as the Virtual Care Service, the Urgent Mental Health Care Centre, a range of things he did through Wellbeing SA and those primary healthcare initiatives are things that will stand as his legacy. He is someone who put more thought and effort into that portfolio than I think we will see in a generation. I am not going to go through all of his particular achievements, but I think the record will stand that he was probably the greatest health minister of his generation, and I commend his service.

The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON (17:54): I rise today to speak in support of this motion to acknowledge the contribution of Stephen Wade. Stephen served as a dedicated public servant for the people of South Australia for nearly 17 years in the Legislative Council. Prior to entering politics, Stephen served as the chair of Julia Farr Services from 2003 to 2006, displaying his dedication to improving the lives of those in need.

Stephen was elected to the Legislative Council in the South Australian parliament in 2006. From 2006 to 2010 he served as shadow minister for health and ageing, no doubt deepening his knowledge of healthcare issues and his commitment to finding effective solutions, which would later serve him well when he went on to become the Minister for Health and Wellbeing.

In 2013, he assumed the role of shadow minister for health, mental health and substance abuse, further solidifying his position as a strong advocate for comprehensive health care. Stephen also served as the shadow minister for health from 2014 to 2018 and his advocacy played a crucial role in protecting the community during the Transforming Health cuts imposed by the previous Labor government.

In 2018, after the Liberal Party won the state election, Stephen was appointed as Minister for Health and Wellbeing in the Marshall Liberal government. His leadership in this position brought about significant advancements in healthcare policy, the management of public hospitals, and the development and implementation of vital health programs. Stephen's commitment to addressing public health concerns within South Australia has touched many South Australians, making a real difference.

During the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen emerged as a prominent figure and a name that resonated with many South Australians. Serving as the health minister during this challenging period, Minister Wade displayed unwavering dedication and leadership in navigating the complexities of the crisis. His tireless efforts to protect public health and communicate crucial information to the community during such unprecedented and challenging times must be acknowledged.

To be the Minister for Health in the best of times is no easy task, but to be the health minister during a pandemic that no-one saw coming is a mammoth task. Within two years of becoming minister, the world as we knew it had changed drastically, a landscape Stephen managed with class, respect and compassion.

One notable achievement during his tenure as health minister was the reopening of the Repatriation General Hospital in 2020, which had been closed by the former Labor government in 2017, when now Premier Peter Malinauskas was health minister. This accomplishment stands as a testament to Stephen's tenacity and his dedication to ensuring that quality healthcare services are accessible to all South Australians.

I would like to conclude by saying that I have had the privilege of working alongside Stephen Wade, even if it was brief, and I can attest to his unwavering dedication, integrity and tireless efforts in serving the people of South Australia. His achievements, coupled with his genuine passion for the wellbeing of others, have left a mark on the state's healthcare landscape. I commend the Hon. Stephen Wade MLC for his service and his commitment to the betterment of South Australia.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.E. Hanson.