Peter Malinauskas

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Couch Series: Peter Malinauskas looks to strike the right balance

UPDATE: In the lead-up to the SA State Election on March 19, SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley put a range of questions to State Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas at our first ‘Couch Series’ event. 

Our online forum with State Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas gave him the opportunity to suggest potential policy directions in the lead-up to the election without announcing major policy commitments before time. Unsurprisingly, he flagged that health was shaping up as the principal election issue with fixing the ambulance ramping issue a “fundamental priority”. He was most committed to and passionate about early childhood intervention and cited figures that 71% of 3-year-olds in the OECD received early education as opposed to only 15% here. Investing in this area was characterised as a long-term vision with great flow-on effects for the state’s future despite the fact that its direct beneficiaries “won’t be voting for 15 years”. 

On the issue of public housing, which SACOSS would like to see receive a very substantial boost to the tune of $1.4bn, he said simply acknowledged an underinvestment in public housing by both previous governments. While not ready to make a concrete announcement, when pressed by SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley for a commitment that, aside from any future announcements of additional public housing under Labor’s housing policy, he would provide an assurance that there would at least be no further decline in public housing stock, the answer was yes. He added that “We would not want to pursue that sort of policy in government … I think that has been a mistake in the past.” 

“We are under-invested in public housing.” While he was careful not to announce anything new in this area, he left people with the impression that some action was being planned. On other matters on which SACOSS advocates he was also encouraging, particularly the provision of safe drinking water in remote communities and a full review of the concessions system, for which he gave a very clear commitment. 

For those working in the community services sector, there was a commitment to examining a system of portable long service leave, given that so many in the sector are obliged to change jobs regularly and are currently missing out.   

As for energy efficiency standards for rental properties – something for which SACOSS strongly advocates – he was less convinced. While acknowledging that people with good incomes should not be the only beneficiaries of energy-efficient houses, Mr Malinauskas was wary of any additional cost burdens that might restrain supply and spoke of “striking the right balance. 

When it came to the broader issue of climate change, the opposition leader declared that SA Labor had big plans and was determined be a world leader and first mover in investing in a major hydrogen plan that would be a publicly- owned business enterprise called Hydrogen Power South Australia delivering cheaper and cleaner energy.  

As a would-be Premier with an avowed commitment to social justice, the Opposition Leader found plenty to say that will have been of interest to the SACOSS members and others with an interest in this space. Peter Malinauskas appears a strong candidate from the SACOSS perspective, although it would have been better to have evaluated his views in the context of a leader’s debate. Some of our asks are clearly on the agenda – a review of concessions and a move toward portable long service leave – but as yet we don’t know any details of policies in the crucial areas of digital inclusion and housing. It will be interesting to see what’s in store as electioneering progresses.    

24 February 2022