South Australian Public Health Consortium State Election Forum: A summary

Text: Ensuring a healthier South Australia for years to come. South Australian Public Health Consortium. 2022 State Election Virtual Forum.' The logo of Australian Health Promotion Association, Public Health Association of Australia, and South Australian Council of Social Service.

Melanie Parker, Mary Brushe and Professor Jacquie Bowden – PHAA

Almost 100 people joined the South Australian Public Health Consortium‘s Virtual Forum on 23 February to hear political parties’ public health priorities ahead of the upcoming state election.

The Consortium comprises the SA branch of Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Health Promotion Association’s SA branch, and the South Australian Council of Social Service.

Moderated by PHAA’s CEO, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, the event featured:

  • The Honourable Stephen Wade, MLC (Liberal), Minister for Health and Wellbeing
  • Mr Chris Picton MP (Labor), Shadow Minister for Health
  • Hon Connie Bonaros MLC (SA Best)
  • Hon Tammy Franks MLC (Greens)


The South Australian Public Health Consortium, as part of their election platform, is seeking five commitments from key political parties on public health. Here is a summary of the election forum in relation to these commitments.

  1. Increased investment in public health, prevention and promotion with 5% of health expenditure to go towards disease prevention and health promotion

The Honourable Stephen Wade, MLC (Liberal)

Minister Wade noted that investment in health prevention benefits all South Australians and said that the Liberal Government has rebalanced the health system, with a focus on reinvesting in preventive health. The Minister said the creation of Wellbeing SA in January 2020 was a key initiative of the Liberal government and their 2020 – 2025 strategic plan. He also highlighted their continued public health focus in the early years, mental health, chronic disease, integrated care and injury prevention.

“The Marshall Liberal team committed to making the Chief Public Health Officer a full-time, stand alone role, and we delivered. Thank God we did.”

He noted that months after Prof Nicola Spurrier’s appointment, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Prof Spurrier has been crucial in managing the pandemic. He also emphasised their commitment to vaccines prior to the pandemic: “We’ve introduced free flu vaccines for under 5-year-olds,” and “We introduced a world-first Meningococcal B program for both children and young people”.

Minister Wade noted that changes to health take time, and can be incremental, but thought that the Marshall government had “delivered a decisive change in direction”.

Mr Chris Picton MP (Labor)

Mr Picton announced that a Labor government would commit to establishing an independent preventative health agency and he’ll “make preventative health a priority”, with a return to a focus on “Health in all Policies”. He also advised that Labor would work to ensure there was a new Cancer Plan which has become significantly out of date. He also said that they’d restore funding, that was previously cut, to Mates in Construction (a mental health program).

Hon Connie Bonaros MLC (SA Best)

Ms Bonaros said SA Best thought that the target of 5% investment for public health should be even higher. She also stated several times throughout the night that SA Best supported all of the Consortium’s asks.

Hon Tammy Franks MLC (Greens)

Ms Franks said the Greens would invest $15 million over four years to establish a dedicated preventative health taskforce. They would also work with stakeholders to develop and implement an evidence based and comprehensive South Australian preventative health 2040 strategy. There would also be a $5 million grant scheme for organisations delivering ‘on the ground’ preventative health initiatives.


  1. Build the capacity of the public health workforce into the future and beyond COVID-19

The Honourable Stephen Wade, MLC (Liberal)

Minister Wade said that “COVID-19 certainly has highlighted the need to sustain and grow the public health workforce“. He said the Marshall Government wants to explore need and capacity for expansion of public health workforce training programs. He spoke about the Australian Health Promotion Association Western Australia training programs, and the RACP training program for public health workforce. He noted that there were not many fellows in SA within the RACP program to provide training for upcoming professionals, and that this was a limiting factor.

The Liberals want the “strongest team possible in public health”.

Mr Chris Picton MP (Labor)

Mr Picton noted that public health workforce is a significant issue, and Labor will focus on planning what the needs of the workforce are before implementation occurs. They will also work with the relevant universities to increase the number and training of doctors, nurses and paramedics.

Hon Connie Bonaros MLC (SA Best)

Ms Bonaros said that SA Best knows that “investment in prevention and programs has to include an increase in public health workforce”. She said that what’s currently happening isn’t working and we needed to focus on retention and funding of health services. Ms Bonaros noted that while SA Best will not hold government, that they are committed to influencing from the crossbench.

Hon Tammy Franks MLC (Greens)

Ms Franks added that the Greens would “reinstate the Aboriginal health workforce initiative” and other programs. Ensuring excellent working conditions was a priority with initiatives like portable long service leave & retention payments, opportunity for professional development & direction important for maintaining and providing appropriate support for the workforce.


  1. Reduce harms from alcohol through the introduction of a floor price for cheap alcohol

The Honourable Stephen Wade, MLC (Liberal) & Chris Picton MP (Labor)

No firm commitments were made from either Minister Wade or Mr Picton on the introduction of this policy.

Mr Picton acknowledged that alcohol has a significant impact on the SA community and advised that he would ask the independent agency for evidence-based advice on this issue.

Minister Wade said it was a policy option, and the next Alcohol and Drug Strategy is under development, but Liberals did not have plans to introduce this.

Hon Connie Bonaros MLC (SA Best)

Ms Bonaros said SA Best wants to reduce alcohol-related harm, and that they “strongly support a [minimum unit price] for alcohol sold or offered for sale in South Australia.

Hon Tammy Franks MLC (Greens)

Ms Franks was not offered the opportunity to respond during the forum, but has previously communicated her commitment to this issue to the Consortium.


  1. Establish an independent state-wide monitoring system of health inequities

The Honourable Stephen Wade, MLC (Liberal)

Minister Wade says he thinks that Wellbeing SA, which is integrated & partnered with the government, is better than an independent agency for public and preventive health. He says, “Wellbeing SA leads the collection of statewide population health data” and that data is “collected on a variety of health indicators”. He notes that health inequality data can be analysed through subgroups like household income, Aboriginality, gender, etc.

He says that the SA population health survey (already in existence) includes some data on health inequities and encourages the South Australian Public Health Consortium to work with Wellbeing SA to further expand the dataset. Wellbeing SA is going to this year release a Wellbeing Index with key wellbeing indicators, and determinants of wellbeing.

Mr Chris Picton MP (Labor)

Mr Picton noted the important role of the Health Performance Council, as an independent body to report on health inequities in South Australia. He also reiterated Labor’s commitment to set up a preventative health agency “that is actually independent”. This will improve the accountability, oversight and availability of health to the SA community. He also advised that transparency of data is important and that “Better data informs better decision making” which will lead to better health outcomes for the community.

Hon Connie Bonaros MLC (SA Best)

Hon Bonaros emphasised the important of allocating appropriate funding and resources to organisations working in public health, such as the Health Performance Council. She also stated that data collection is currently “ad-hoc” and that reinvestment in the Health Performance Council and access to this data is crucial.

Hon Tammy Franks MLC (Greens)

Hon Franks notes that “We’re interested in ensuring inequality data and a range of other indicators are collected”. She reports that it’s been concerning that COVID-19 modelling hasn’t been public. “More data not less” is key to the Greens’ policies.


  1. Create healthier environments for children

While a question related to this election priority was not directly asked to panel members, each speaker touched on elements throughout the forum which broadly related to the Consortium’s priority.

The Honourable Stephen Wade, MLC (Liberal)

Minister Wade listed current programs happening that are designed to promote health in children, and said that the “early years” are a key Liberal government strategic priority. He referred listeners to strategies already written by the Government, within the Wellbeing SA website and 2020-2025 strategic plan.

Mr Chris Picton MP (Labor)

Mr Picton stated “we’re going to put 100 extra mental health and learning support staff in schools to undertake really important frontline prevention and early intervention work with young people in mental health in our schools”. He also said that Labor has committed to introducing 3-year old preschool, which is an important strategy for preventative health.

Hon Connie Bonaros MLC (SA Best)

In her opening remarks, Hon Bonaros stated “we strongly support a ban on advertising of unhealthy food and drinks on state-owned assets” and stated support for the Right Bite strategy. Regarding the Consortium’s election priorities, she stated that supporting them is a “no brainer”.

Tammy Franks MLC (Greens)

Tammy said the Greens would re-start the “Start Right Eat right” program and focus on children’s healthy eating. They’d fund “free education in state schools right up to year 12 and also free healthy meals in those schools”.


We’d like to stress that the public reader should make up their own mind on who to vote for at the March state election. The forum was designed to assist in airing the public health priorities of each party.

More information about the South Australian Public Health Consortium’s election priorities can be found here:

If you’d like to see the full recording, watch below:

Leave a Reply