06 March, 2024

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:59): I move:

That this Council—

  1. Congratulates the Playford Memorial Trust for its important role in supporting education in South Australia and for achieving its 40thanniversary in 2023;
  2. Recognises that the Playford Memorial Trust was established in 1983 to honour the memory ofSir Thomas Playford, the State's longest serving Premier, through its objective to establish 'a fund to promote, encourage and finance research and development of projects relating to the primary, secondary and tertiary and mining industries which will be of practical use and benefit to South Australians';
  3. Acknowledges the importance that the Playford Memorial Trust has in providing prestigious scholarships, awards and internships for high-achieving students working in areas of strategic importance to the state; and
  4. Shows appreciation to the Playford Memorial Trust Chair and board members for bringing extensive experience from a range of sectors and recognises their commitment to continue the legacy of Sir Thomas Playford and for their role in reviewing and developing the Trust's strategic priorities to ensure South Australia's future needs are met.

I rise today to speak to the motion and gladly congratulate the Playford Memorial Trust for serving our community in South Australia for 40 years. The Playford Memorial Trust is an independent, not-for-profit charitable trust operating under its own deed, which was established on 26 September 1983. It has enjoyed bipartisan support since it was established to honour the memory of Sir Thomas Playford, the State's longest serving Premier.

It is Sir Thomas Playford's important legacy that shapes the goals of the Trust. Before running for political office, Sir Thomas Playford was involved in World War I as a soldier and fought at Gallipoli, France and Belgium. While fighting on the Western Front, Sir Thomas Playford was shot and wounded, sustaining injuries to his body, as well as suffering permanent hearing loss.

Despite being out of action for a year, and with some of the shrapnel remaining in his body, Sir Thomas Playford would return to his battalion to fight again. He was an incredibly strong man, committed to serving his country. Sir Thomas Playford would eventually be honourably discharged with the rank of lieutenant and returned to South Australia in 1919.

Sir Thomas Playford was South Australia's longest serving Premier, who served for 27 years, and held the office from 5 November 1938 until 10 March 1965. This is, in fact, the longest term of any elected government leader in Australian history, at both state and federal level. In total, Sir Thomas Playford served as a Member of Parliament for 35 years, from 1933 until his retirement in 1968. During those years, in addition to serving as Premier, Playford was the member for Murray, the member for Gumeracha, Treasurer, and Leader of the Liberal and Country League.

As described by Baden Teague in his recent book, which researched the history of the Liberal Party, Playford is principally responsible for South Australia's push into secondary industries and reducing independence on exporting primary products. During his time in office, Sir Thomas Playford accomplished much for the state, with achievements in areas such as manufacturing industry, particularly during World War II, and later with the automotive industry, as well as in agriculture, mining and housing.

Sir Thomas Playford also extended the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), built The Queen Elizabeth and Lyell McEwin hospitals and, in 1960, established the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Playford's policies allowed for the supply of cheap electricity to factories, minimal business taxes and low wages to make the state more attractive to industrial investment. He kept salaries low by using the South Australian Housing Trust to build public housing and government price controls to attract workers and migrants.

Playford's successful economic policies had fuelled a rapid expansion of the middle class, which wanted more government attention to education, public health care, the arts, the environment and heritage protection. On the basis of this legacy, the Playford Memorial Trust's original objective, as expressed in the trust's deed, was to establish 'a fund to promote, encourage and finance research and development of projects relating to the primary, secondary and tertiary and mining industries, which will be of practical use and benefit to South Australians'.

Sir Thomas Playford was particularly interested in horticulture and aquaculture, and is well known as developing the 'legacy of [delivering] one of the best distribution systems of electricity and water of any state in Australia' as described by another former Premier and former Chair of the Playford Memorial Trust, the Hon. Dean Brown AO.

So it was most appropriate that the Playford Memorial Trust's initial focus was on supporting PhD students studying in horticulture and aquaculture. Over the years, it has been expanded to include advanced manufacturing and new technologies; agriculture, aquaculture and food production; water, energy and climate change; space and defence technologies; health sciences and enabling technologies; and mining and resource development.

As the Board themselves have stated through their website, they regularly review these strategic priorities to reflect South Australia's economic strengths and imperatives. In doing so, the Trust helps guide our best and brightest students into areas which align with the government's priorities and complement the South Australian government's STEM strategy.

This year, the Trust and its partners across industry, government and the education sector and our South Australian community will provide around $700,000 in scholarships, internships and awards to university undergraduates, Honours, Masters and PhD students, as well as to students at varying levels of TAFE. This incredible support for our students and future industry leaders is spread across an astonishing 21 different scholarships, and over the past 10 years funds have been distributed to more than 600 students.

Traditionally, the funding for the Trust came from the South Australian Government and was supplemented with donations from philanthropic individuals and the corporate sector. In recent years, the Playford Memorial Trust has taken a more proactive approach to engage with industry, university and community partners to significantly increase the number of scholarships and awards it offers and the value of its annual disbursements.

Thanks to the very active approach to engagement with industry and community, the Playford Memorial Trust has forged important partnerships with some of South Australia's most respected businesses, professional organisations and the research sector. This allows the Trust to work with universities and TAFE to align students and research projects with each partner organisation's specific needs, creating a targeted pathway between academia and research to the employment and industry needs of our state.

Some of the Trust partners include our State's major universities, TAFE SA, Santos, SA Power Networks, Coopers, the Department of Defence, the Andy Thomas Space Foundation and many others across a wide range of industries and areas of emerging technologies. I want to take this opportunity to place on the public record our appreciation and thank the current members of the board, led by the chair, the Hon. Dr Diana Laidlaw, AM, who many would remember served this place really well as a Member of the Legislative Council for over 20 years.

She also served as a member of the Liberal Government during the leadership of the Hon. Dean Brown, the Hon. John Olsen and the Hon. Robert Kerin. During her time in parliament the Hon. Diana Laidlaw served as Minister for Transport, the Arts and the Status of Women, as well as Urban Planning.

Dr Laidlaw's experience goes beyond our Parliament, having served on various boards and committees, where she has actively advocated for the arts and promotion of projects supporting women and STEM careers.

The Deputy Chair also served well on the Trust, the Hon. Paul Holloway. Many Members, our Parliamentary colleagues, would know that the Hon. Paul Holloway was Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council during the Rann Labor Government. He held a range of portfolios, including agriculture, food and fisheries, mineral resources development, Attorney-General, police, industrial relations, trade and industry, urban development and planning.

Other members on the board include Mr Llew Jones, Professor Don Bursill, AM, the Hon. Robert Lawson (also a former colleague of this Legislative Council), Ms Bunty Parsons, Mr Nick Carne, Professor Christine Charles, Professor David Day, Dr Kate Delaporte, Mr Mark McGeough and Dr Leanna Read.

A huge thankyou to all the board members who provide their service in a voluntary capacity. Thank you also to Kate Cunningham, who assists the Board as the scholarship executive officer.

I also take this opportunity to recognise some past board members and chairs of the trust for their many years of leadership and guidance of this very prominent organisation. Some of the former chairs include names that are well known to this place. They are:

  • the Hon. Don Laidlaw, who was the first chair of the trust and previously served as a Liberal member of the Legislative Council;
  • the Hon. Jennifer Cashmore, formerly the Liberal member for Coles (now known as Morialta) and served as Minister for Health and Minister for Tourism during the leadership of the Hon. David Tonkin;
  • the Hon. Dean Brown AO, who I mentioned before, former chair and also a former Premier of South Australia; and
  • the Hon. David Wotton AM, formerly a Liberal member for the seats of Murray and Heysen.

Once again, it is a great honour today to pay respect to and congratulate the Playford Memorial Trust for its great contribution over the last 40 years. I also want to congratulate all the students who have received a prestigious scholarship award for internships working in the areas of strategic importance to our state of South Australia.

With those words, I commend the motion to the Chamber.