‘We have learned from our mistakes’: Labor leader Repat’s regrets as parties spend money


Peter Malinauskas has sought to distance himself from Labor’s closure of the Repatriation General Hospital – which closed when he held the health portfolio – while conceding it was the ‘wrong’ thing to do” and insisting that his party has learned from past “mistakes”.

It came as the Leader of the Opposition today pledged to honor Steven Marshall’s pledge to cut public school tuition fees by $100 per student over the next two years – after that the Prime Minister said the rebate had already been passed by Cabinet and budgeted.

The government’s election campaign focused significantly, if not clumsily, on attacking both the Labor leader’s lack of experience and his record in government – with particular emphasis on the fact that the Repat closed under his brief tenure as Minister of Health in the final days of the Weatherill administration. .

The “reactivation” of the site as a health center is a major selling point of the Liberal campaign, particularly in the battlefield siege of Elder.

But responding to the frequent claim that he had ‘closed the Repat’, Malinauskas said today: ‘Well, that’s a misrepresentation, isn’t it?

“I wasn’t even in parliament when the decision was made by Jack Snelling and Jay Weatherill to close the Repat,” he told reporters.

“The decision was made even before I was in parliament…the Liberal Party is engaged in cute politics here and that’s their prerogative.”

He insisted that ‘the reason they are so completely obsessed with criticizing us is because they have no politics of their own’, arguing that the Liberals were doing their best to seek to discredit the past rather than talking about the future”.

But he was equally happy to discredit his party’s past, reiterating his 2019 statement that “I think closing Repat was a mistake”.

“It was the wrong thing to do,” he said today.

In stark contrast to his comments as health minister on the day the facility closed in late 2017, when he said, “It’s something you don’t necessarily want to do, but you know that it is the right thing to do to realize a new chapter and new opportunities.

Asked today why people should believe him now when he admits he was wrong then, the Labor leader said: ‘Because political parties learn from their mistakes… and I think South Australians appreciate honesty.”

“I think the old Labor government did a lot of good, but it also did badly – and you can’t be proud of what you did right if you can’t be honest and what you’re wrong about. done,” he said.

“And I would honestly and squarely put the Repat in the ‘mistake’ category.”

While much of the Marshall campaign has sought to criticize Labor and its leader, the Prime Minister today embarked on a more conventional election ‘money splash’ – cutting $100 per pupil from public school material and service costs, but only for the next two years.

It cost $24 million over that time, but Marshall says “it’s going to come out of our existing education budget, so [there’s] no impact on the costs of the electoral campaign”.

Steven Marshall talks about schooling with the Slater family this morning. Photo: Tom Richardson/InDaily

Asked if that meant reallocating funds in the mid-year budget review or increasing the published budget for education, he replied: “We have a very large budget and a growing budget. for education.”

“Before entering the goalkeeper, we costed this policy [and] we’re going to do it from existing services – we’re not going to spend money recklessly,” he said.

However, that caveat helped Malinauskas stick to the pledge, saying, “If the government puts this in the budget and the money comes in, we’re not going to support the idea that this should be taken out. to parents.”

However, he pointed to the timing of the announcement – after many parents have already paid their 2022 school fees.

The government says the reduction will be applied from the start of the school year, meaning refunds must now be given to all parents who have already paid the fee, with the Department subsidizing schools for loss of external income through additional scholarships.

“This is more proof that Steven Marshall’s campaign appears to be about as organized as the Liberal Party itself,” Malinauskas said.

“Either they are making things up as they go, or this decision was made some time ago and there is some deception in hiding the information from the parents, even though they paid this fee…

“Why make them pay if they have to pay it back? It is either policy on the run or there is a degree of deception that the government should be ashamed of.

Labor’s campaign showcase today focused on investing $8.7 million in skills training courses for specific trade shortage areas ‘such as masonry, sawing and concrete work’, while providing a $1 million grant to industry lobby, Master Builders SA, for its outreach program creating pathways for female apprentices and natives.

Having failed to close the skills gap in his 16 years in office, Labor spokesman Blair Boyer said he was confident in today’s approach because ‘it’ is the advice we’ve received from the industry and from organizations like the Master Builders Association and the Motor Trades Association.”

“They’ve been very clear with us about where these skills shortages exist,” he said.

“We need to be clear, these are not the old policies, which sometimes involved money falling from the sky and new approved training organizations popping up to take advantage of them – these grants are there for established RTOs,” he said. he declares.

Marshall tossed his education gifts into the Liberal-held King’s marginal with the Slater family, happily telling reporters that children Mia and Tahlia had “lots of certificates of high achievement in school.”

But despite the Prime Minister’s welcome and the accompanying media, the Chanie family matriarch seemed taken aback when asked if the tuition fee rebate would sway her vote, saying: ” I would prefer not to comment.”

“I didn’t expect any of this, to be honest, this morning,” she said.

When asked if she had ever been associated with the Liberal Party, she replied: “I would just like not to comment, thank you.”

“I didn’t expect all of this, so I feel a bit uneasy.”

It may have also been an uncomfortable few hours for Marshall, with the early morning media call coming just hours after Scott Morrison confirmed he had caught COVID.

The Prime Minister spent Friday’s campaign in Adelaide, including pressing flesh with Marshall, but the Prime Minister insisted his federal counterpart ‘tells me he was definitely not contagious while he was here”.

When asked if that meant he didn’t have to test or self-isolate, Marshall replied, “None.”

He did, however, suffer from an unfortunately timed mid-press conference cough, which he assured those present were “not COVID”.

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