Legislative Council: Thursday, February 08, 2024



Pnevmatikos, Hon. I.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. K.J. Maher:

That this council acknowledges the meritorious service to the parliament of the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos since March 2018.

(Continued from 30 November 2023.)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:55): I would like to add a few brief words to this motion, because much has already been said of the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos's service to our state and to this place. I would like to acknowledge her many years of service to the union movement, her passion for workers' rights and her work in the multicultural sphere with those migrating to our state.

It is probably fair to say that Irene and I have expressed different points of view on some issues, but it is a strength of the Labor Party that there are so many more things that unite us. We can differ on some things while being united by foundational Labor principles. They include the right to suitable pay and conditions, the right to a safe workplace, equality of opportunity and social justice, just to name a few. They are things the Hon. Ms Pnevmatikos worked on very wholeheartedly, sincerely and passionately, and I think that is something that is worthy of noting.

Finally, I would like to share my sincere sorrow for the reason that has led to Irene's premature departure from this chamber and wish her peace and strength for the path that lies ahead.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (15:57): I also rise to pay tribute to Irene Pnevmatikos's contribution to this place. The previous speaker, the minister, said she had a number of differences with Irene. I think it is fair to say I had very many differences with Irene on policy matters. Nonetheless, I found her to be an intelligent person, someone who was reasonably easy to deal with in terms of negotiating an outcome.

I served on a number of committees with her: the health services committee, the Social Development Committee, Budget and Finance, the gig economy committee and the Legislative Review Committee, where she was Chair for a while and I was Chair previous to that, so we did serve on a number of committees together. There may be others that have slipped my mind.

I always found her quite personable. As I said, we spent more time disagreeing than we did agreeing, but she did so, I thought, in a reasonable, decent manner. One of the things I grew to like and even admire about her at some level was that she really had a genuine passion for what she was doing; that is, she was here for the right reasons.

It was a relatively short time that she occupied the benches of this place, I think about 5½ years, being elected back in 2018, as my notes suggest. It was a relatively short time, but in that time she made a significant impact, and she did so with a genuineness about her. She was quite passionate about the issues she pursued. Obviously, in that relatively short time, she would not have had the opportunity to pursue all the issues she would have liked, but she did use that time effectively, I think. I grew to have a high regard for her.

She obviously has a very significant battle on her hands at the moment. I have been updated by her personally and then heard some accounts from others about where she is at at the moment. It is not great. No-one would wish that on anyone, and I take the opportunity to give her my most sincere best wishes in what is this very difficult time for her and her family. I sincerely hope she comes through it and at the other side she is stronger and better for it. I just wanted to provide my absolute best wishes for her.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:59): In summing-up, I thank members for their thoughtful contributions on this motion. It is very clear from the words that have been spoken in this chamber that Irene was well loved and respected in this place and only slightly feared some of the time. In commending the motion to the chamber I just want to add a few brief words about the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos.

As has been traversed, Irene came to this place following the 2018 state election after a long and distinguished career in the law. She was the first ever migrant workers' rights officer at what is now the United Workers Union before going on to the Trade Union Training Authority to continue her mission to empower workers. Her career in the law began as a review officer at the Workers Compensation Tribunal and then as a workers compensation practitioner for over a decade.

Whether here or in her previous working life, Irene has always been a voice for the voiceless, and I would struggle to name another individual who matches her passion for workers' rights and social justice. Irene is Labor through and through. Her inherent sense of fairness and equality shine through in all that she does, and she will never shy away from advocating for a fair go.

Irene reassured the chamber in her final speech in this place that we should not worry about what she had to say, because it was not likely to be anything we had not heard before. With Irene's track record as a fearless advocate it did not fill any of us with confidence that she would not be speaking some truths.

I am reminded—I think it sums it up—of one meeting I remember in opposition where the whole worker impairment scheme had been changed by the Liberal industrial relations minister at the time and Irene was firmly against the changes the Liberal Party had made. Irene had organised a group of industrial advocates and industrial lawyers to meet with myself as shadow industrial relations minister and the then Leader of the Opposition, Peter Malinauskas. We came into this room to the meeting Irene had organised, and Irene opened up the meeting by addressing the Hon. Peter Malinauskas and myself by saying, 'Now, you two are going to do the right thing, aren't you, by workers this time?' We literally had no choice but to follow the lead that Irene had made in no uncertain terms.

Her work in the industrial relations area is unparalleled. Her contributions are countless, and the Labor Party has been lucky and privileged to have been part of her life's work. She established and served on several parliamentary committees, including in relation to the gig economy, wage theft, repeal of sex work offences and ReturnToWorkSA, and has contributed very, very significantly to Labor's suite of reforms in this area, which we have been implementing since coming into government.

We will certainly miss Irene, her advocacy, her intelligence, her friendliness, her sense of humour and her fierceness. As has been mentioned, we know she faces a challenge with the battle ahead of her with her health, and on behalf of all members, in summing-up, we send her our thoughts and best wishes. I commend the motion to the chamber and express my deepest thanks and gratitude to our friend Irene for all that she has brought to this place.

Motion carried.