Address in Reply

15th May 2018

Address in Reply 

Adjourned debate on motion for adoption. 

(Continued from 10 May 2018.) 

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:55): In supporting the passage of the motion to note the Governor’s speech, I wish to place on record my grateful thanks to the way in which His Excellency undertakes his work across this state. He and Mrs Le visit many parts of this state, but are also very gracious hosts to many people in the community who have never had a chance to visit Government House. 

I have known His Excellency for many years. I first met him when he visited Gawler many years ago to assist the Gawler branch of what was then known as the Indo-Chinese Refugee Association, which has now changed its name to Australian Refugee Association. That branch did some wonderful work with people who were refugees from Vietnam who were in the Gawler area, and His Excellency did great work to assist those people, not only with learning the English language but also in becoming part of the general South Australian community. 

It was also excellent to attend the service to mark the opening of the parliamentary year, conducted last Thursday by the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship under the new chairmanship of Mr Sam Duluk, the member for Waite. It was also conducted in cooperation, as has been the case under previous leaders of the group, with the leaders of Christian churches, and the Governor attended that. I must say that the Hon. Mr Hood and others, like myself, who have been involved for many years were delighted to see the larger numbers of not only members of parliament and leaders of churches but the general public who were there last Thursday morning. Once again, it was very good of the Governor to come along to that event, as well as a wide range of events within the South Australian community. 

Sir, I wish to once again extend my congratulations to you, and I am delighted that in the early days of your presidency you are showing the level of integrity and honour that has been a highlight of your career and your community work. It is always a pleasure to go to events such as the ANZAC vigil in Smithfield, where your links with the community are demonstrated. I congratulate you on your appointment to the presidency of this chamber. 

I would also like to extend a welcome to all the new members of this chamber. If I run around the chamber from my right, we have the Hon. Connie Bonaros, the Hon. Frank Pangallo, the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos, the Hon. Emily Bourke and the Hon. Clare Scriven. I welcome them all to the chamber. I am sure they will all keep me and others who have been here a bit longer on our toes. 

Before the election, someone I was hosting in the lounge asked me how many members of the Legislative Council I had served with, so I looked at the mugshots and counted them up. It was just after the Hon. Mr Hanson had arrived and I think at that stage the number had reached 49, so now it would be well over 50 in the 20½ years that I have been here. That is a rather large turnover, really—much larger than was probably the case many years ago. I welcome all the new members and look forward to working with them, whether it be on committees or in this chamber. As this is my first opportunity, I would also like to extend a welcome to the Hon. Dennis Hood to the Liberal Party ranks. 

I want to make some remarks in relation to His Excellency’s speech, which outlined the government’s program for the next four years. One of the first items I would like to highlight is the point about the government implementing targeted policies to reduce South Australia’s demographic imbalance and to grow the state’s population. That is one policy that is really important not only to me but also to the younger generations. I now have five grandchildren and I want a promising future for them—hopefully for all of them—in South Australia. I really do think that is an important point. 

It was pointed out to me last year that, in 1993, Western Australia and South Australia had the same number of seats in the federal parliament, with 13 seats each. Now, 25 years later, Western Australia has 16 seats in the lower house of the federal parliament and South Australia has 10. I think that is a pretty stark demonstration of the fact that over 25 years our population, without going backwards, has had a very, very low growth rate. Of course, that has been exacerbated particularly over the last 16 years where we have had a Labor government that has had no interest in making this state grow. Unfortunately, many people have had to leave the state. One of my children did that and was gone for a while but, thankfully, has returned. That is something this government very genuinely believes in doing something about. 

No-one who knows me well would be surprised to know that I am delighted with the government’s focus on the regions. As someone who headed up a regional communities task force when I was first elected under premier Olsen and deputy premier Kerin, who was also convener of the regional development council and chair of the regional development issues group, I am delighted that this government has such a strong focus on a great part of South Australia. It is a part of South Australia that everybody in the metropolitan area enjoys when they get the opportunity to go there, because the communities are of great strength. 

As was highlighted by the member for Narungga in his maiden speech today, we have fabulous parts of magnificent coastline in this state, as well as fabulous river frontage, but we also have some of the best communities that you could ever want to live in, and we need to support them far better than has been done over the last 16 years in particular. 

The government is keen on the regions having safe and efficient infrastructure to grow the important contribution they already make to the economy. The establishment of a regional roads and infrastructure fund as a dedicated funding stream for regional infrastructure is something that I worked hard to achieve in the days when I was the shadow minister for regional development. It took us a while to get to the stage where we are now, but I am delighted that that has been achieved and that we are now in government and are able to implement that. Another area that has been developing for a while is the Regional Growth Fund, which will be created to inject $150 million over 10 years to support employment and, importantly, that community growth. 

The emphasis in the Governor’s speech about the plans of the Marshall Liberal government to support the most vulnerable in our statewide community is also very high on my radar. I think this is something that we need to do to enhance this community for future generations. I note the plans for legislation to provide legal safeguards for adults who are vulnerable to abuse or neglect; the protection of children from bullying; the Disability Inclusion Bill, which has already been introduced by the Minister for Human Services; the establishment of a community visitors scheme for people living with a disability; and the appointment of a commission to help improve the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people. 

In the health area, there is the development of public health services to provide quality and safe care for people when they need it, the restoration of a focus on quality care and patient safety, and the decentralisation of the public health system through the establishment of metropolitan and regional boards of management. This puts real responsibility and accountability back at the local level. In so many of the communities that I know well and work in, there is that ownership of the local hospital or health facilities, which has been undermined under the Labor government without a shadow of a doubt. I think that is a key point in the policy that was taken to the election and demonstrated as a policy of the new government. 

We heard today from the Minister for Health and Wellbeing that the improvement of patient safety is so important. We have seen so many policies that have threatened the safety of patients in a range of ways. We heard today about the Modbury Hospital. I have been working in the north-eastern suburbs of this city since before the 1996 federal election, and I saw the significant campaigns run by the Labor Party about Modbury and the private management of Modbury under the Brown-Olsen government. However, the way in which the Labor Party has treated Modbury Hospital, where it had about 14 different directions for that hospital in 15 years, was appalling. 

The bottom line of all that bad treatment of the people who rely on the Modbury Hospital is the fact that the member for Florey now sits as an Independent because she got sick of the way the Labor Party treated the Modbury Hospital and the people who relied on it. It is not just the people of the north-eastern suburbs. A significant number of people who live in the northern part of the Adelaide Hills rely on Modbury, and have done for many years. 

Since the creation of the Modbury Hospital, all of the people in the areas of Mount Pleasant, Birdwood, Gumeracha and even Williamstown—lots of those southern Barossa places—have all come to the Modbury Hospital. Now, if they go to the Modbury Hospital, there is a very strong chance that they will finish up in the Lyell McEwin. They feel at home at Modbury. There is nothing against the siting of the Lyell McEwin where it is, but they feel a lot further away from home at the Lyell McEwin Hospital in Elizabeth Vale than they do at Modbury, and that is something we need to go back to, not taking people out of their localities, for the best health care we can give them. 

Obviously, the other things that have been mentioned have been the reopening of key health facilities at the Repat, the establishment of the high dependency unit at Modbury and, I think, the public release of information about outpatient clinic waiting times. There are many other initiatives in the health area about which I am very pleased and on which I am very keen to work with the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. 

Another key area, of course, for me is the appointment a few weeks ago as the Premier’s advocate for suicide prevention and, in that, the development and chairmanship of the Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention. I am working very closely with both the Premier and the Minister for Health and Wellbeing as we put together the very important but small resources that I will have in assisting me in that role as we work towards the announcement of that Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention. 

I appreciate the support of the minister as I look to enhance the work that has already been done by the Suicide Prevention Unit within the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist. In due course, that group of very hardworking people—a very small unit but made up of people who have done a great job in the development of suicide prevention networks—will transfer across to Wellbeing SA. 

In that role, obviously, I will work very closely with the large number of networks—I think it is in the high 30s at the moment—in South Australia, including those which have been working for a number of years and others that are very much still in the development phase. It includes not only the ones developed by the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist but also those done through federal funding via the Wesley LifeForce organisation based in Sydney. 

I want to work closely with all of those groups and make sure that we have more communication in the way they all operate—generally that has been the case, but not always. There are many other associated groups in the provision of suicide prevention and, very importantly, in the postvention area, because the area of dealing with the families that have been bereaved by suicide is one of the most important areas. Very sadly, far too many families have lost more than one member to suicide. Only last year, I heard of a family that had lost three generations to suicide. That is something we have to do everything we can to stop, and I will dedicate myself to working in that area. 

I think there is great potential to develop more links through many of the football and sporting clubs around South Australia. On Saturday, I was privileged to attend the annual suicide prevention round that is run by the Gawler Central and South Gawler football clubs in the Barossa Light and Gawler Football Association. Both clubs have been hit very hard in recent years by suicide. I commend them for the work they do with the local Gawler Suicide Prevention Community Group in that promotion. 

There is also potential in the multicultural area. On Saturday, I spoke at the 10th settlement celebrations of the Bhutanese community in South Australia. Like many of those communities that have come to this country in recent years, some of the community attitudes to mental health, suicide and, indeed, domestic violence and many other social issues are not as advanced as we would like them to be. 

In the general community, awareness of mental health, suicide and many other issues has come a long way, but certainly a lot of those communities have shown a willingness to work with me in that area. That is something that I will prioritise, as well as other areas that have significantly higher rates of suicide—the veterans’ community, the Indigenous community and also, of course, the LGBTIQ community. I have a strong interest in making sure that we do a lot of work with all of those groups. 

In the near future, I will be engaging with all members of parliament in this state, including federal members, to see what more they can do. I have to say that there are many here and in the other chamber and in the federal sphere who have been very supportive of my work. There are others who have not done that, but I think over the time I have done this work, some who were indifferent at first, when they see the impact of suicide in their communities, have come on board very strongly. So, I will be engaging with every member of parliament to see what they can do with their individual networks and contacts. Some have been very close to the suicide prevention networks in their own areas and to other groups that work in mental health, and I will be pleased to learn from their experiences. 

Indeed, in local government, many of the local councils have played a really good role in the establishment of suicide prevention networks, but there are others that have not seen the benefit of that and we will need to work with those councils to see if we can change that mindset. The value of these community people across the state is enormous. We have a lot more to do with the development of networks. I give the previous government credit for the work they did. When I started this work, they would not give a cracker to suicide prevention, but that changed. We need to continue that change, but the development of these groups can be enhanced. It is my hope and wish to continue to do that significantly. 

In closing, I think the work that I am being supported to do, as the Premier’s advocate for suicide prevention, is a great indication that the Liberal government, under Steven Marshall, has acted very early in its commitment to preventative health and wellbeing in this state. I am very happy, at any stage, to discuss with members of this chamber or anyone else the ways in which we can advance suicide prevention but also any other issues to do with how better we bring forward awareness about mental illness generally and any of the other social issues like domestic violence and drugs that are so intertwined with mental illness and, unfortunately, suicide. With those words, I commend the motion to the house.