01 May, 2024

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. N.J. Centofanti:

That the Statutory Authorities Review Committee inquire into and report on the South Australian Museum, with particular reference to:

  1. Its proposed restructure of research and collections;
  2. Its infrastructure and proposed strategic plan;
  3. Its funding from government and non-government sources; and
  4. Any related matters.

(Continued from 10 April 2024.)


The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (20:25): I rise today to support the motion put forward by the Hon. Nicola Centofanti for the Statutory Authorities Review Committee to inquire into and report on the proposed restructuring of the South Australian Museum.

On Saturday 13 April, the Liberal Party joined hundreds of protesters, Museum staff, the academic community, the PSA and people from all walks of life and across all political persuasions at the front steps of Parliament House to raise their concerns, to demand that their voices be heard and to call on Peter Malinauskas to reverse Labor's brutal 2022 budget cuts to the South Australian Museum.

The South Australian community would like the Labor government to cancel its proposed restructure for the SA Museum. I was one of those protesters who joined the Hon. David Speirs, the Leader of the Opposition; the Hon. John Gardner; former minister the Hon. Diana Laidlaw; as well as former MP Jennifer Cashmore, who came out in her wheelchair, bracing the cold wind, to be with hundreds of protesters taking a strong stand for our South Australian Museum.

There were many other well-known leaders, including Aboriginal elders Major Moogy Sumner and Mark Koolmatrie, who spoke passionately about their concerns at the save the SA Museum rally. They reminded the crowd that the South Australian Museum's Indigenous Australian collection of 28,000 artefacts stands as one of the world's most significant accumulations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and historical material—right here in South Australia.

The Hon. Tammy Franks and the Hon. Frank Pangallo from this chamber were also there. I wish to thank the Hon. Tammy Franks, through her speech at the protest, for publicly indicating her support for this motion today. I also appreciate her shout-out of my name, acknowledging that both of us are members of the Statutory Authorities Review Committee, which has the power to inquire into and report on the South Australian Museum as the Museum is a statutory body.

What is under threat with the Museum's proposed reimagining are its beloved galleries, whose future has been put under a cloud, including the Egyptian room, the polar collection and the mammals display, as many other honourable members have mentioned today. The SA Museum is not only a much-loved South Australian institution it is also home to world-class collections and research. There is no way we could simply sit back and watch all the precious artefacts of historical significance be destroyed.

Our SA community is incredibly angry and concerned about Labor's cuts at the SA Museum, the removal of 27 scientific research roles and the government's refusal to guarantee the future of treasured galleries such as the mammals and the other Egyptian room collections.

The SA Museum plays a crucial role in education, in tourism and in the advancement of knowledge, so Labor must reverse its cuts, save jobs and safeguard one of our state's key cultural institutions.

Our Museum is loved by generations of South Australians, including my family, and is globally respected for its commitment to scientific research and reconciliation. It is an icon of South Australia, and some 350 scholars and high-profile leaders signed an open letter published in The Advertiser calling on Premier Peter Malinauskas to listen—listen, please—to the community and reverse the proposed job cuts to research and collections, which have achieved incredible feats in the past 165 years.

More than that, we want to protect these world-class research capabilities and our collections so that future generations can continue to benefit from our beloved Museum.

Following weeks of pressure from the Hon. David Speirs and the Liberal Party, along with scientists and the South Australian community, Premier Peter Malinauskas has been forced to intervene and put the controversial restructure of the South Australian Museum on hold.

The Premier has announced a panel to review the proposed changes. While the decision to put the Museum restructure on hold is a move in the right direction, it is a stunning backflip from Peter Malinauskas, who has been given no choice but to intervene after huge pressure from the Opposition and outrage from the community.

The proposed restructure threatens the very essence of the South Australian Museum's identity as a home to world-class collections and research. We will continue to stand side-by-side with the community and fight for the future of the SA Museum, as we do not want to see this restructure simply paused but abolished altogether.

We want to see the Labor government restore funding to the Museum and cancel the restructure altogether.

We understand that the announcement of a three-person panel appointed to the Premier's review will be chaired by the chief executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Reflecting on the significant concerns that the community has shown in the campaign to prevent the restructure of the SA Museum, the Liberal Opposition does not believe that a Premier's review consisting of a simple three-person panel, chaired by his department's CEO, is adequate, independent or vigorous enough to address everything that this motion calls for.

Given the South Australian community has already lost faith in the Malinauskas Government in its handling of the SA Museum proposed restructure to date, followed by Peter Malinauskas' humiliating Museum backflip, how can the public now trust this Labor Government to do the right thing by them?

As a member of the Statutory Authorities Review Committee, I strongly believe that SARC is best placed to conduct a more thorough inquiry into the SA Museum with the high level of scrutiny, independence and accountability that the South Australian community deserves. I commend the motion.