Proclamation of South Australia Anniversary

30 June, 2017

The Hon. J.S. LEE ( 17:43 ): I move:
That this council —

  1. Acknowledges the historical significance of the 180th anniversary of the proclamation of South Australia; and 
  2. Highlights the major political, social and cultural milestones which have been achieved in South Australia over the last 180 years.

It is with great honour that I rise today to move this motion to acknowledge the 180th anniversary of the Proclamation of South Australia. A survey conducted in 2015 by The Advertiser reported that two out of three South Australians do not know why we celebrate Proclamation Day. It is one of the reasons why I felt compelled to move this motion and use this opportunity to look into the past, reflect on the present and share my view on where our state could be heading when South Australia approaches its bicentenary in 2036.

Proclamation Day in South Australia celebrates the establishment of government in South Australia as a British province; however, the proclamation issued by Governor John Hindmarsh on 28 December 1836 did not proclaim the province of South Australia officially. It was done in England in two stages long before the first colonists set sail.

The first stage took place in 1834, when the South Australian Association persuaded the British parliament to pass the South Australia Act 1834. The act stated that some 800,000 square kilometres would be allotted to the colony and it would be convict-free. The plan was for the colony to be the ideal embodiment of the best qualities of British society—that means no religious discrimination or unemployment. The province and its capital were named prior to settlement. The act further specified that it was to be self-sufficient; a £20,000 bond had to be created and £35,000 worth of land had to be sold in the new colony before any settlement was permitted. These conditions were fulfilled by the close of 1835.

The second stage took place on 19 February 1836, when the first of the South Australian Company's ships were about to sail. King William issued Letters Patent establishing the province and outlining various aspects of its management, including the way in which the original inhabitants' rights should be maintained. Governor Hindmarsh arrived at Holdfast Bay on 28 December 1836. The Governor's private secretary, George Stevenson, read the Governor's first proclamation. It was interesting to note that Stevenson drafted the text of this proclamation while on board the HMS Buffalo—thank goodness he did not suffer from any motion sickness.

The proclamation advised the assembled settlers that the government of the province had been created, asked them to respect the laws and to behave with 'order and quietness…to prove themselves worthy to be the founders of a great free colony', and warned them that the Governor intended to ensure the rights of the Aboriginal people were protected, as they were equally entitled to the privileges of British subjects. The history of South Australia recognises that Aboriginal people have lived in South Australia for tens of thousands of years, while British colonists arrived in the 19th century to establish a free colony with no convict settlers. The colony became a cradle of democratic reform in Australia.

This parliament, the parliament of South Australia, was formed in 1857 when the colony was granted self-government. South Australia became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, following a vote to join with the other British colonies of Australia under Federation. While it has a smaller population than the Eastern States, South Australia has often been at the forefront of political and social change in Australia. South Australia's founders wanted South Australia to have greater social and political freedoms than those which existed in the United Kingdom in the 1830s, to be a place where the freedom and the rights of individuals were respected regardless of their cultural heritage or religion. It was under those lofty aims and principles that this great state of ours was founded.

As a state of many firsts, when the first South Australian parliament met in 1857 it was the most democratic in Australia. However, back then women were still excluded from politics. In 1861, for the first time in Australia female ratepayers were allowed to vote in local government elections but they were not allowed to stand for election. In 1885 the House of Assembly adopted a motion supporting women's suffrage but, despite numerous attempts, legislation permitting women's suffrage was not passed by the parliament until 1894. This legislation gave women, including Indigenous women, the right to vote in elections and to stand for parliament. This made South Australia the first Australian colony to allow women to vote and the first place in the world that allowed them to stand for parliament.

As honourable members would know, the joint committee on matters relating to the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage has been brought up this week in parliament. Thanks to South Australia, women were guaranteed the right to vote in federal elections. The very strong-minded South Australian delegation to the constitutional convention threatened to withdraw from negotiations if this were not guaranteed.

While South Australia was the first place in the world that allowed women to stand for parliament, it was not until 1918, 24 years after being given the right to do so, that a woman stood for election to the South Australian parliament. We then waited even longer, until 1959, to see two South Australian women make history and be elected to state parliament. I am proud to say that those two female flagbearers were from the Liberal Party: Mrs Joyce Steele became the first female MP elected to the House of Assembly and the Hon. Jessie Cooper became the first female member elected to this Legislative Council.

In 1962, South Australia continued to break new ground with respect to women. Roma Mitchell became the first woman to be admitted as a Queen's Counsel. In 1965, Roma Mitchell QC became the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of South Australia. By the time of her retirement in 1983, she was still the only woman to be appointed to the state Supreme Court. In 1991, Dame Roma Mitchell was appointed Governor of South Australia, the first woman in Australia to be appointed governor. Equally significantly, South Australia also appointed the first state governor of Asian heritage in Australia, namely His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le.

It is most fitting at this point that I pay tribute and acknowledge the legacy of the former Liberal Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Sir Thomas Playford. He served continuously as Premier of South Australia for nearly 27 years. It was the longest term of any elected government leader in the history of Australia and, indeed, of anywhere under the Westminster system. His tenure as Premier was marked by the period of population and economic growth unmatched by any other Australian state. He was known for his parochial style in pushing South Australia's interest and was known for his ability to secure a disproportionate share of federal funding for the state. His pioneering leadership opened up South Australia to welcoming the disproportionately large number of post-war migrants arriving from Britain and post-war Europeans who help to rapidly increase South Australia's population and cultural diversity.

He was integral in establishing South Australia's world-class defence industry, all the while doing it prudently and keeping a tight rein on government spending. As a result of Playford's remarkable efforts, a wholesome manufacturing industry was established during his tenure. Liberal Premier Playford was a prudent economic manager, intensely opposed to spending public money on unproductive public works, and governing on the premise that public spending was only legitimate when based on some definite benefit to the state.

Premier Playford became the master of public finance by reviewing the auditor-general's reports, something that this wasteful Labor government could learn from. For those of us who diligently study the Auditor-General's Report, members would no doubt notice that it regularly highlights the Weatherill Labor government's poor practices and inability to manage to the state finances.

For example, the Auditor-General was highly critical of the Weatherill government's Gillman deal which failed to deliver not even one of the promised 6,000 jobs. All it did was cost South Australians millions of dollars in legal fees and departmental waste. Over the last 15 years of this incompetent Labor government, we have fallen short of the high bar that our founders have set for us.

In my speech earlier, I touched on the vision for South Australia. Back then, it was for the colony to be an ideal embodiment of the best qualities of British society, and that South Australia would be a free and prosperous colony with no religious discrimination or unemployment. However, if our founders were still around, they would be so disappointed to learn that the unemployment rate in South Australia increased to 7.3 per cent despite the national rate falling to 5.7 per cent. South Australia has retained the worst jobless rate in the country.

In May 2017, South Australia was the only state to record a decrease in employment with 5,000 fewer people in jobs. The Labor government through mismanagement has wasted every opportunity this state has had to return to greatness. This Labor government is completely unable to manage the economy. What is worse is that they never take responsibility for the situation they have inflicted upon the people of South Australia. They are dishonest, delusional and negligent.

Never in South Australia's history has there been a government so scandalous, so incompetent and so arrogant. For the past 15 years, this Labor government has weakened our health system, mistreated our most vulnerable as seen in the Oakden Mental Health Facility saga, has wasted our state's resources, destroyed the reliability of the electricity grid and continues to keep South Australians in the dark.

In contrast, the Liberal Party under Steven Marshall is passionate about creating a better and brighter future for all South Australians. On 15 March 2016, the state Liberal leader, Stephen Marshall, released '2036', the state Liberal's long-term vision for South Australia. Through nine key policy areas, '2036' outlines our agenda and our plan for a better future for South Australians. If elected in 2018, a Marshall Liberal government will ensure that South Australia again leads the nation and has a stable and growing economy where our children can find jobs easily. We are committed to ending the brain drain.

When South Australia reaches its bicentenary anniversary (200 years) in 2036, we envisage that members coming to this place will be able to say that South Australia is once again leading the nation, rather than lagging behind, as we are now under this Labor government. Unlike Jay Weatherill, who constantly picks fights with the federal government and secures nothing, Steven Marshall would be committed to convincing the federal government to back his plans. South Australia is waiting eagerly for a Marshall Liberal government to be elected in 2018 so that it can turn this state's fortune around.

As a state, there is so much we need to do to grow our economy, ease cost of living pressures on families and increase the wellbeing of our people. Therefore, as we reflect on the last 180 years, we must also look ahead to where we want to be in the future and make the changes necessary to achieve that vision and prove that we are worthy to be the inheritors of the great free colony that was established since proclamation.

As a member of parliament with Malaysian-Chinese heritage and with the portfolio responsibility for multicultural affairs, small business and trade and investment, I am incredibly proud to see the ever-growing, ever-changing and ever-influential nature of the cultural and social diversity shaping and enriching the future development of South Australia. We have come a long way as we acknowledge the 180th anniversary of the proclamation of South Australia. Since proclamation, South Australia must remain true to its original ideals and continue to change for the better.

Each one of us has the opportunity to make a difference for South Australia. I urge honourable members to exercise their duties to preserve and celebrate the major political, social and cultural milestones that have been achieved in South Australia over the last 180 years. With those remarks, I commend the motion to the Legislative Council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.