Minister Rishworth press conference in Adelaide


Topics: New nation-leading autism program, school funding, New South Wales Government advertising campaign, desalination plant, vaccines, Western Hospital

JAYNE STINSON, MEMBER FOR BADOE: It's very exciting to have you here. It's exciting for me personally, to be involved in this announcement today, considering I’m accepting my own little one to arrive very soon. Like every parent it's a really nervous time, and you really just want the very best for your kids. And what we're announcing here today is exactly about that. This is about making sure that South Australian kids get the very best opportunities. So I'm excited to be able to introduce you to people who are going to speak with you today about this great project, the people behind what's happening. Of course, our Premier Peter Malinauskus, my good friend Amanda Rishworth also the Minister of Social Services, Louise Miller-Frost the Member for Boothby and Emily Bourke, who's our Assistant Minister for Autism. Also we’ve got Meg and little baby Eva, who is gracing us with her presence and Jenna Ward, a speech pathologist and Ros Usher who does an incredible job here at Forbes Children's Centre as the Director. I'd particularly like to thank the team for their support for me and I hand you over to the Minister, Amanda Rishworth, who not only is an awesome Minister, but I'm also very thankful that she's given me her stroller to help with my little one. So thank you very much. I’ll hand over to the Minister.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Well, thank you very much. It is a real pleasure to be here joined by my parliamentary colleagues, both state and federal and along with Jenna and Meg, The Albanese Labor Government is absolutely committed to giving every child in this country the best start to life. And that commitment has been evidenced by the fact that we are, at this point, developing an Early Years Strategy about how we best support parents and children in this country. In the May Budget, we did make funding allowances for two early intervention programs specifically directed to neurodiverse children and autism. These programs are about getting in early and providing the best support possible to parents to ensure that their children continue to develop on a strong developmental trajectory, so they don't see the types of developmental delay that occurs if support is not provided early enough. So we announced as a Federal Government that we would fund two trials across the country to look at new ways, innovative ways that we could intervene early and actually make a difference to ensure children do get the best start to life. And I'm very, very pleased today to announce that our first trial will be done in conjunction with the South Australian Government. The South Australian Government were, quite frankly champing at the bit, to implement a new innovative approach to supporting parents early on, particularly those parents that have children showing symptoms of neurodiversity. And so they put forward a proposal in which they are planning to roll out what is known as the Inklings model across South Australia, impacting 1300 children. What their proposal has done will provide support to parents - screening and support - to parents of children showing neuro diverse symptoms. And providing the parents and the caregivers the support around them to ensure that they can effectively communicate and interact with their children. I need to be clear that this program is not about changing children. It's not about trying to get children to mould into the mould that we think they should be in. It's providing effective, early support for parenting so that they can ensure that their children are getting communicated and interaction in the environment that best supports and promotes their development. The Commonwealth will be providing $8.4 million to this trial. And this will be backed up by a significant investment of over $6 million from the State Government. This is an example of true partnership between state and federal government where we both share the same aspirations and that is to give every child the best start and ensure that parents are properly supported. And I now hand over to the Premier to make some further comment.

PETER MALINAUSKUS, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Well, thanks so much, Amanda. Can I say from the outset, how grateful I am to have more than just a partner in Amanda Rishworth in respect of his program, but a significant South Australian who has of course, got an extraordinary responsibility in Canberra, and I'm very, very relieved that the Minister has seen fit that South Australia, her home state, is the place where we are launching this program today. Because this is a genuinely innovative and bold proposition that we have been working on now for some months. I particularly want to recognise the work of Emily Bourke, going back a little while now you'll recall that I was able to appoint Emily to be the first Assistant Minister responsible for autism in the history of the world. Never before has an innovation of this type been delivered and ever since then Emily has been assiduously working on a range of policy propositions. That has at its heart, a very simple objective from the state government's perspective. And that is this – South Australia has the aspiration to be a world leading jurisdiction when it comes to providing support in the neurodiverse community. This is a community that has so much to offer our country. There are countless numbers of people in Australia who are neurodivergent who have got something to offer and we are not currently fully realising their potential and that costs everybody. That's not just at a family's expense, it is at the expense of our entire society. So we want to make sure that South Australia is a leading progressive jurisdiction with a policy that allows people to fully realise their potential particularly if they're neurodiverse. Autism of course, is a key component of that. And that is why the ability to partner on a pilot program that is nation leading, that makes sure we are assisting parents, enabling them to realise the full potential of their children is such an important opportunity. Now of course it's all very well us saying what our objective is. But of course, you've got to be willing to put your money where your mouth is. And that's why we've jumped at the opportunity. In Emily’s case, jumping down the throat of the Minister to make sure that we were there partnering with the Commonwealth. So the Commonwealth is allocating $8.4 million to this program and the state government is allocating $6.4 million this program because we now have a $14 million initiative that is going to benefit over 1000 young children in South Australia by giving their parents the tools to maximise the potential of a young person showing early signs of being neurodiverse or being autistic. This is an important innovation, by giving parents the tools for the first time a child being autistic on how best to communicate with him, maximises the likelihood of being with them on the best path of child development. Understand this, the South Australian Royal Commission for Early Childhood Development conducted by Julia Gillard, established that in South Australia 23 per cent of all children when they start reception have at least one form of developmental delay – 23 per cent. That's effectively almost one in four children starting school in South Australia with at least one form of delay. We have to have the courage to be able to invest in the early interventions that will see that turn around. That's why we're investing in preschool. That's why we partnered with the Commonwealth on the Inklings program. We want to make sure that parents have the tools that they are already crying out for. Parents are crying out for more information and crying out to know what is best practice about how they engage with their child to minimise the risk of unnecessary and avoidable developmental delay. And that it's particularly true for parents of autistic children. So this is a big innovation. It is based on an extraordinary amount of research coming out of the Western Australian university. I want to thank all of those that are involved, particularly in the leadership shown from Minister Rishworth, but also Emily Bourke. There are a lot of good families in our state really grappling with having a child that is autistic and they want support from the government and I haven't been getting really enough in the past. So we want to be a leader in this regard. But don't underestimate just how demanding this work is. It is a challenge. And because it's never been done before, because we're seeking to have state government policy in areas that have been largely forgotten about. There's a big responsibility resting on Emily’s shoulders and, with an extraordinary amount of commitment and empathy, she has been engaging with this community to really start to deliver the policy initiatives that are going to make a difference. And today is a really significant example of that. And that's to both Amanda and Emily's credit. Thank you both.

MARGARET REID, MOTHER: This is my daughter Eva, she was born three months premature. She was born at 27 weeks. The announcement this morning I think just provides parents with the reassurance that there is going to be support and a support network to help any child born with developmental risks that could be subject to potential delays. She's now currently three kilograms but she was born at 630 grams. So quite a miracle. So a big thank you to Women's and Children's Hospital. Incredible work that early midwifes and the doctors and nurses do – it’s remarkable. We’ve had a couple of nurses as well, come out already and begin to start upskilling parents like myself, we're new parents, helping parents with the right skills to be able to prepare for the best possible outcomes, so that my daughter Eva will have the best possible future. Thank you. Questions?

JOURNALIST: What sort of things do you learn at these types of programs? How do they make sure that you are equipped with the right skills to make sure Eva is okay?

MARGARET REID: The nurses speak to you about communication skills in particular, so they start looking for early communication skills in terms of eye contact and whether or not they're responding to physical touch in the appropriate way as well. And that she has those early skills to determine whether or not she's responding is socially appropriate ways. The Women's and Children’s put you in touch with a physio as well which is fantastic. She had a physio appointment a couple of days ago, just to check that her body was aligned in the appropriate way and that her eyes as well are moving in the correct symmetrical direction, as well as her neck control was starting to develop in a symmetrical way and they give you the appropriate tools to start holding her in the most secure way to make sure that you repeat the exercises that can continue those types of developmental skills so that she can assimilate if you will into society in the best possible way for her.

JOURNALIST: How scary do you think it is for first time parents to notice maybe some signs that aren't quite right and they're not sure how to deal with it?

MARGARET REID: Incredibly scary, absolutely. So we had quite a journey a three months in hospital, but for parents that notice early signs that could potentially have neurodevelopmental concerns. I think it's that sense of not knowing who to contact first. And if you upskill early educators, medical practitioners, CAFS nurses with the right strategies to actually be able to enable the parents, it’s all about enabling parents, to feel comfortable and confident to be able to actually seek the right people to provide them with strategies to support as well.

JOURNALIST: Premier, just on another topic. Just regarding the Federal Government's announcement this morning on schools funding. Did the State Government consider contributing more money to schools?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: We are always investing more money in schools. You would have seen, of course, evidence in full view on Monday at Findon Technical College. The State Government has an active program to invest and get more resources in our public school system to make sure it's reaching the standards that most parents can reasonably expect. And we're always looking to partner with the Commonwealth on a range of options. And actually we know the agreement that's been reached in Western Australia and we're always in discussions with the Commonwealth and they remain ongoing. We noticed that we now have a Federal Government that is actually committed to public education in Australia at all levels, including higher education space where they have exclusive responsibility for a partnership following the agreements around AUKUS and the university amalgamation. So we've partnered with the Commonwealth in a number of ways. And we will look to enhance it into the future, including primary and high school funding here in South Australia.

JOURNALIST: I understand that this came from recommendations six of the Royal Commission, which wasn't one of the recommendations that you initially accepted when you handed down the final report in August. So why didn't you accept it back then?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: Because we're in active discussions. So you'll remember that of all the recommendations in the Royal Commission from Julia Gillard. The government responded to a whole suite earlier. There's another suite that we are due to run a response on the coming weeks. In fact, there was a great level of the detail of the cabinet discussions that was one of the items and we're dealing with it at great length in cabinet on Monday this week. But the Royal Commission did recommend this because they see the value in the Inklings program. The Royal Commission, although had a very substantial focus on three year old preschool, wasn't exclusively looking at out of school care and other forms of early interventions to reduce developmental delay was a major subject of investigation. This Inklings program came out of that. Now, of course, we entered this partnership with the Commonwealth.

JOURNALIST: So how many recommendations have you now accepted?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: I'd have to check those numbers. You’ve heard everything that we've said publicly and there's a suite of recommendations that we're going to respond to publicly. I think we’ve committed to have that done like in January or February. I'll have to check the exact time but there's a number that we were dealing with on Monday and we're due to announce a response.

JOURNALIST: And are you concerned at all the New South Wales government is rolling out an ad campaign in Adelaide in South Australia today to try and poach frontline workers?

PETER MANLINAUSKUS: I can understand why they are. I can understand why. New South Wales lost 30,000 people in the last year that's a big reduction. To lose 30,000 people speaks to a need to advertise to others about why they might want to stay there. Of course, their objective is to get workers out of Sydney and into regional New South Wales. That's the principal objective of the campaign. But I can understand why they would be doing that. We are doing a far better job at being able to attract people to our state. And I think all the things that are being advertised for the New South Wales Government to get their own people to move from one part of this of Wales to another. That's for them and that's their responsibility. We have put our own recruitment efforts and incentives in place particularly around key areas of the workforce, the state government is pursuing whatever you policing or healthcare in particular, and those are yielding results. And we'll continue to monitor that closely.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that workers might be heading over the border? It seems to be a concern for the nursing union who say that it appears that we might be on the back foot?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: We’ve already got a range of incentives in place for healthcare workers in in South Australia. New South Wales lost 30,000 people from this state last year, which is a pretty substantial number and it's unusual for them so I can understand why they're making these decisions. Like I said, we've got a range of incentives in place around nursing, other health care professions, but also with an active recruitment campaign in policing at the moment. So we will identify those areas of need in the state governments workforce, particularly given that we're scaling up such a huge investment are recruiting more people into health. Those are yielding results and we continue to monitor.

JOURNALIST: There are obviously campaigns. I think it was a health campaign that rolled out overseas last year, is there a consideration to roll out new media or new ad campaigns to try and lure interstate and overseas across a variety of disciplines?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: So last year, we commenced a recruitment campaign into other jurisdictions including overseas. That's because as a government, we are recruiting a lot more people to work in our health system, more clinicians, more doctors, more nurses, more people in allied health. So we want to be out there competing with the rest of the world for these types of skills. We monitor the performance and how that is going we've been able to fill a lot of positions, some easier than others. But it's work that is ongoing and like I said we continue to monitor it to make sure our settings are right if they need to be adjusted then we'll turn our minds to business.

JOURNALIST: Is there a consideration to roll out ads in Sydney they seemed to be pretty successful, those attack ads in Melbourne regarding businesses is better in SA.

PETER MALINAUSKUS: There was a particular opportunity that presented itself within Victoria, given the different approaches around tax policy. As a government, obviously we are cutting taxes at every opportunity we get we've got a policy of no new tax increases that we have opted in for and that speaks to a stability of policy decision making that business is attracted to. In fact, just yesterday, I was turning the sod on a big construction project for a brand new facility to build a lot more structural steel in South Australia, particularly steel for reinforced concrete, massive expansion and they explained that was underpinned by a decision to abolish stamp duty for commercial property in South Australia. So these are yielding dividends and we look for more opportunities to do that and promote it where we see a market for it.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] .

PETER MALINAUSKUS: Look I haven’t received a full briefing on that, but naturally in South Australia we have a set of rules to make sure we protect people. It won’t surprise you that we make our decisions around vaccines on the basis of best available science. That has served as well as a state not just during the pandemic but for many decades before that. Vaccines are an important tool of keeping people healthy.

JOURNALIST: Will this open the door for private companies to take legal action against the government for mandatory vaccines?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: I haven’t received any advice to suggest that is the case but like I said, I haven’t received a full brief on this and the attorney general would be anticipated to do that.

JOURNALIST: Chris Minns was asked this morning about whether or not he had communicated to you about these ads that will be rolling out in South Australia he said that you can read about it in the paper or watch it on TV? What's your message to him?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: Well, I can read from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that 30,000 people left New South Wales and they must have done for a reason.

JOURNALIST: Is there now plan to roll out business ads in Sydney? I think you touched on it just then but is that work in train or would that be a matter for the budget as well?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: I'd say this to Chris, who's a friend of mine and I've got a degree of regard for, but I'd say this to Chris, there are 30,000 people who have left New South Wales over the course of the last year. And South Australia, according to the Commonwealth Bank is the number one performing state of the country in terms of economic performance. So that sells itself and we will continue to demonstrate to the rest of the country, particularly given the pipeline of work we know is coming our way.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Western Hospital, do we need to be chipping in more than a million bucks? Given the scale of debt they are in?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: Western Hospital is a privately owned and operated hospital. They've got to account to their own shareholders as a state government our interest is to make sure this facility stays open. And that is occurring. We want to work closely with the previous management of Western Hospital to do everything we can support them and prop them up and we put a million dollars on the table to do that. It worked for a period. For now there is new people in charge the hospital and they are committed to keeping it open and that is a good thing. But one thing that we're most concerned about in a policy sense is that the Western Hospital remains open and able to service their community and we want to work with whoever is running the hospital, whether that it be the former owners, new owners or in the interim, the administrators to make sure that happens.

JOURNALIST: The Barngarla Traditional Owners have written to the Deputy Premier raising concerns about the desalination plant in the Eyre Peninsula.

PETER MALINAUSKUS: It’s important that we are clear about which one.

JOURNALIST: Billy Lights Point.

PETER MALINAUSKUS: So this is this isn't something I think many people across the community have much awareness of, but parts of the Eyre Penninsula and Port Lincoln are running out of water. We cannot allow Port Lincoln to run out of water. There's been a lot of kicking the cans down the road on a desalinisation plant in the Eyre Peninsula for a long time, and this government isn't going to do it anymore. Particularly if there's a risk of such a significant community on the Eyre Peninsula of not having access to drinking water, which is why the government has authorised SA water to pursue the Billy lights point option in terms of a desal plant and that work remains ongoing. In terms of engagement with traditional owners, that is always something that should occur and the appropriate processes need to be followed. And I'm sure that SA water and the appropriate government authorities are actively engaging with the Barngala People, as should be the case.

JOURNALIST: Are you or the Deputy Premier committed to sitting down with them to run through this issue?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: I've had a number of meetings with the Barngarla People around a range of economic opportunities and critical pieces of infrastructure within their community since being Premier including late last year. In fact, we're able to negotiate some really important progress with them. Because we are committed to do that in a constructive way and I'm sure the Deputy, I know Deputy Premier has been doing the same and that will be pursued in this instance as well.

JOURNALIST: They've been raising cultural issues as a reason for their objection given that you supported them with the Kimba nuclear waste fight for similar reasons why not I guess sit down and listen to these concerns?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: We always sit down and listen. I don't think there's another way but I'm not aware of any accusation from the Barngala towards not being willing as a Premier or other Ministers within the political arm of government not being willing to engage with the Barngala people and will continue to.

JOURNALIST: Just on Mark Haydon. Where is the government at in terms of receiving legal advice?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: As you are aware, the Attorney General is actively looking for and exploring all those options in accordance with the Crown and that work remains ongoing. Nothing's been put to me about it in the last 24 hours, but this is this is complex legal work and we want to make sure we get it right. And that's what the Attorney General is working through very carefully.

JOURNALIST: Are we talking weeks or months for when you might get this advice?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: I don't think it'd be months. We're looking for a timeline sooner than that. Like I said to you the other day, this is work that's been ongoing now for some time. It didn't just start in the last couple of days. So we would certainly want that advice.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Western Hospital, $25-$26 million owed to creditors is not loose change. Do you accept that the government might not get its million dollars back?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: That's potentially the case. But we what we would say is that when Treasury has been engaging with the appropriate people within the Western Hospital ownership structure that we seek to minimise the risk to the state as much as we can. We're not going to apologise from doing everything we can to keep this facility up and running. It's up for previous management to explain between $5 million, their a private operator that's their responsibility, but as a government, we are just focused on the main game which is doing everything we can to keep this hospital up and running for as long as possible.

JOURNALIST: Is that surprising that… when learning that we knew that it was in such deep financial trouble but owing such a huge amount of money to creditors, was that figure surprising to you?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: I've learned to make sure that nothing surprises me early in this role. And you remain vigilant to all combinations, permutations and possibilities but we knew that they were in trouble, which is why we were engaging with them and providing what support we could to sustain their operations. The task now is to make sure that we work with the administrators and a potential new owner just to keep that community hospital operating for people in the western suburbs.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly again, just on the cross border issues around with the ad. There's definitely no need you think to roll out a kind of counter ad?

PETER MALINAUSKUS: We've got a few things that are selling ourselves at the moment. Like I said to have CommSec or the Commonwealth Bank declare South Australia's the number one performing economy in the nation – a position we haven't held before, that helps sell us and sell ourselves and this state's got a lot of things going our way, increasingly it has been talked about in other parts of the country. We welcome that. That means New South Wales wants to spend dollars on their own television ads to keep their own people there. So be it, that's their prerogative, and we're going to focus on the core work. To make sure that we maintain and improve the standard of living in South Australia, offering excellent service during delivery where we can and a strong economy that underpins that we remain open minded to adjust our settings in terms of advertising. We've been aggressive in that way in the past, but as it currently stands, I think Western sorry, I think New South Wales spending money on their people staying there is unique approach. I wish them every success.

JOURNALIST: Minister Rishworth, could I just ask you a question just about this trial that's happening. You said that the Federal Government had funded two trials. Where's the other trial going to be?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're still working through the second trial. The second trial will take a different approach to the Inklings approach because we want to develop the best evidence base of what works. But I must say this is a credit to the South Australian Government just how quickly they engaged with wanting to partner with us on the Inklings trial. How quickly they stood up and actually put a very thoughtful proposal, leveraging what is already a strong primary early childhood. network to ensure that babies at a young age between nine and 18 months do have the screening and then the parents get in or caregivers get the support that they need.

JOURNALIST: Minister the one thing we haven't talked about is what happens later on in life?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There is many points of intervention for people that are autistic and neurodiverse and as you've heard the Premier talk about South Australia's strong focus on supporting people with autism right across the age group at age range. The Commonwealth is also putting together currently a National Autism Strategy, and that will look at support right across the board. Sometimes it is intervention and support, other times it's about changing the community and society to better harness the skills that many neurodiverse people bring. And so there has been a lot of discussion at the Commonwealth level, particularly through research led by the Research Centre for Autism, which the Commonwealth has funded along with states and territories about how better to adapt, for example, from work environment to ensure that the skills of autistic people that are of working age are actually harnessed. Of course, there is, for people with severe developmental delay as a result of problems in childhood, there is of course, the NDIS which provides a support for people if they require that extra support. So looking across the board, it's really important that we are investing for those people that have been falling behind at different spots. That level of support will differ. What is really innovative about this program, it is not providing support just when someone has a diagnosis. This is about looking for early signs and intervening early and actually the research coming from Western Australia is showing that for children that get this early scaffolding and intervention and support early means that they may not have a diagnosis of autism. So this is a really important part of the puzzle. It's not the full array of the puzzle. But of course there are many supports along a person's trajectory but importantly there is the work that both South Australia and the Commonwealth is doing about creating an environment that allows neuro diverse people to thrive.