Tuesday, 3 May 2022
Mr Speaker and the Honourable Members of the House of Assembly, Mr President and the Honourable Members of the Legislative Council.
It is a great pleasure to be here with you on this day to open the 55th South Australian Parliament.
As a result of the election held on the 19th of March 2022, we welcome 14 new members to the Parliament. I congratulate and welcome each of you, and trust that you will learn from your colleagues in these chambers as you carry out your new and important duties. Congratulations also to those members who were returned by your constituencies to serve them once again.
For 165 years this Parliament has existed to carry out the will of the people of South Australia. You have heeded the call to serve and have given up much to do so – as have your families and loved ones. I hope that you will all look back on the challenges, joys, sacrifices and triumphs of your time here with great pride and satisfaction, knowing that you have been part of this State’s proud democratic tradition.
You each have your own loyalties, your own priorities, and your own areas of personal interest. But the necessarily adversarial nature of parliament should not overshadow the far greater qualities that unite you all, most significantly your desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of South Australians as evidenced by your embrace of Parliamentary service.
May you carry out these solemn responsibilities with wisdom, with respect, with courage, and above all with integrity.
You have been called together to consider proposals from my Government for the first session of the 55th Parliament of South Australia.
Our State expects its Government and Parliament to act with courage and vision. South Australia has always been a pioneering state, unafraid of making bold decisions – and the times call for us to draw upon that same far-sighted spirit.
It is the same spirit we saw during the pandemic, manifesting in the dedication and sacrifice shown by our frontline workers and volunteers, who kept the State running and our people safe in times which were, to turn to that much overused term, unprecedented.
Our State owes a debt of gratitude to our hospital and all healthcare workers, our emergency services, our police, transport workers and those in the retail and hospitality industries. We all thank them for their unfailing service under some of the most challenging circumstances this State has ever faced: the South Australia that emerges from the shadow of the pandemic is stronger and more resilient for their efforts.
Since the establishment of the first State Parliament, South Australia has benefited from the vision of Premiers with courage to do what is right and necessary.
From the earliest days, South Australia eschewed the use of convict labour and enshrined religious freedom. We were the first place where women successfully campaigned for the right to vote and stand for Parliament, cast into law under Premier Charles Kingston in 1894.
Premier Thomas Playford enacted the Prohibition of Discrimination Act in 1966, and ours was the first State, under Premier Don Dunstan in 1975, to decriminalise homosexuality.
It was also Premier Playford who used the power of Government to provide for South Australians by funding the electrification of the entire State through the creation of the Electricity Trust of South Australia. And Playford’s vision in powering South Australia has continued in more recent times, through wind and solar projects and more recently the construction of the Big Battery at Hornsdale.
In short, South Australia has always been a State with an eye on the big picture. It is that intrinsic quality to our State’s character that will guide us again now. For we are at another pivotal moment in history, in that we are faced with the most urgent national recovery project this nation has ever experienced outside of wartime.
The twin crises of the pandemic and climate change have forced change upon us all, but they have also made clear the vital role of State Governments in navigating that change. The question is whether or not we accept and embrace these new realities and opportunities. The people of South Australia determined that it is time for action.
That action must be strategic. We need to think in terms of the next generation and the sort of State it will live in. Thankfully, it is not beyond this Parliament to simultaneously handle the day to day while preparing for the future.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for investment in the most important resource that South Australia possesses: our people.
The assumptions of unbroken global supply chains and untrammelled freedom of movement have been challenged by the realities of the pandemic. But even as we recover, this knowledge represents an opportunity for us to become more self-sufficient and resilient to future shocks.
The people of this State deserve a safe, secure and prosperous future, and that means that we must ensure that the fundamentals are strong in health, in education, in protecting the environment, in producing meaningful, productive jobs in this State, and in growing the wider economy.
These are vital areas of policy that impact directly upon people’s lives, and by getting these settings right we can fulfil our promise of providing stability and opportunity to all South Australians, and simultaneously better prepare for whatever surprises the future might hold in store.
This is not a time to be timid. This is an opportunity, instead, for renewal.
With that in mind, my Government will have a bold and visionary legislative agenda for the 55th Parliament. It will include legislation to reform the Emergency Management Act, enshrine nurse patient ratios in law, establish Hydrogen Power SA, new laws to better protect children from predators and significant reforms to tackle domestic and family violence.
COVID-19 has affected every family in this State, some in the most tragic of ways. And while our doctors, nurses, paramedics, support staff and pathology services continue to save and protect South Australian lives, the pandemic has also revealed the urgent need to address the stresses and shortcomings in our health system.
In the immediate term, this means an increase in our hospital and ambulance staffing and resources. That includes the urgent expansion of our ambulance service and the employment of another 350 paramedics and ambulance officers, 151 of whom will be based in regional South Australia. Metropolitan Adelaide’s services will be increased with eight new 24/7 ambulance crews across the suburbs and city, and increased staffing of our triple-O emergency dispatch service.
One hundred more doctors and three hundred more nurses will make a significant difference to health outcomes for South Australians, as will the opening of three hundred new beds across our State’s hospitals.
We need to be prepared for the next development of the global pandemic, whatever it might be. And that means ensuring that our State has a health system that is strong, robust, resilient and above all available to every person who needs to access it.
That means improving our provision of mental health care. That means improving our provision of drug rehabilitation services.
It also means that we need to look at the big picture and ask if current health arrangements are still fit for purpose.
My Government believes that fixing our State’s health care means being prepared to make genuine structural change. We must be courageous enough to pursue Federation-level reform to bolster our State’s health system, ensuring an unbroken thread of care, from primary health through to our hospital emergency wards and acute care facilities.
My Government faces a similar call to action in transforming the State’s skill base while the window is still open for us to enjoy a first-mover advantage with the opportunities offered by the burgeoning global market for green hydrogen.
Hydrogen created from renewable, zero-emission sources is already revolutionising the international energy economy and South Australia is set to become a major player in this transformative global market, as well as using this powerful energy source to power our sovereign on-shore manufacturing capacity.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for South Australia to create a virtuous circle of jobs, industry, exports, regional development and emissions-free energy. Nations do not have to choose between jobs and the environment: good environmental policy is good economic policy.
Strengthening our industrial capacity is also a boon to our national security and defence, another area in which South Australia has a longstanding advantage.
Our unique expertise in the complex submarine construction industry, and its proximity to the cutting edge defence industries that call South Australia home, are enormous assets not only in maintaining our State’s proud maritime legacy but also in making a vital contribution to our national security through enhancing our sovereign defence capability in increasingly uncertain times.
But these skilled, highly technical professions - in defence, in cyber, in the growing space economy - need a skilled and technically proficient workforce to operate the most sophisticated machines and systems in human history.
That means we need educational policies which materially connect our young people with these high-paying jobs of the future. This is a truly generational project.
Next year’s three-year-olds will get their trade or finish their degree in the 2040s, on the eve of a net-zero carbon emissions world. We need to ensure that our education system – from preschool to tertiary study or a vocational trade qualification – has prepared them for that future and the opportunities it will present.
Central to this is my Government’s plan to ensure that all South Australian children have access to pre-school education from the age of three. This investment in the earliest, most important stage of education will help ensure that our children and their families get the support needed to hit key milestones during those vital developmental years.
When it comes to the opportunities available to the coming generations, education means participation. And that extends from pre-school all the way to tertiary study.
My Government will establish five new technical colleges to train South Australians in the trades of the future, three in metropolitan Adelaide and two in regional centres.
Through consultation with the Federal Government, my Government will pursue a thoughtful process of university amalgamation to consolidate the strengths of our tertiary sector, ensure that we can properly capitalise it to the degree that it deserves, and re-establish our State as home to world-class institutions of learning by returning to the global list of top 100 universities.
Education and training are pathways to a prosperous future: a future that will be low-carbon, and a future that will be one in which everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
Of course, society is more than simply an economy, and any recovery cannot lose sight of what makes South Australia such a wonderful and vibrant place to live. That means preserving and supporting our cultural institutions, our internationally celebrated arts community, and the sports, recreation and tourism sectors that are so fundamental to our State’s health and happiness.
The State’s cultural life has already started to recover from the ravages of the pandemic, with the welcome successes of the Adelaide Festival, WOMADelaide, and the Adelaide Fringe. However, our performing arts sector has suffered in recent years, and my Government will implement a comprehensive suite of policies to revitalise the creative industries that are the soul of our great State, particularly in our vital live music sector.
A new Adelaide Aquatic Centre will replace the beloved but ageing facility in our parklands, and South Australia’s long and distinguished history as the heart of Australia’s motorsports will continue with the re-establishment of the Adelaide 500.
My Government will introduce amendments to our political donation legislation, as a step towards building the public’s trust in our elections and in the transparent operation of government.
And this will be the Parliament that finally fulfils the promise of a meaningful treaty with the first South Australians, with the establishment of an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, the restarting of the Treaty process in South Australia, and establishment of a Truth Telling process, guided by the process presented in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and driven by our State’s first Aboriginal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
And throughout all of this progress and capacity-building, my Government will ensure at every step that each public dollar it spends contributes directly to the overall wellbeing of South Australians.
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.
The task before us is to embrace those opportunities for the benefit of all South Australians and demonstrate that the hard lessons of those difficult times have been learned.
This Parliament will oversee this once in a lifetime opportunity to reposition South Australia in the national and international context and to strengthen both our local economy and our social infrastructure to better weather the challenges and reap the rewards the future offers our State.
These are the proposals that my Government will bring to this Parliament for consideration and invites all those in these chambers to share.
Honourable Members, you have chosen an exciting and transformative time to be part of this State’s proud history. My wish to you is that you work together in respect and good faith to improve the lives of all South Australians through your efforts within these walls.
Mr President, Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, it is with great pleasure that I declare the 55th South Australian Parliament open.
I leave you to the important tasks entrusted to you by the people of South Australia.
My best wishes to you all.