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Motion: Retirement of Stephen Wade

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise with some sadness because I had a great fondness for the former honourable Stephen Wade, who will continue to be honourable. Every departure from this place has an impact. It is a very intimate chamber of 22 of us, and when one person goes it shifts the balance in different ways every time.

Certainly, reflecting on not having had Stephen Wade here now for some months and finally getting to the point where we conclude the speeches in his valedictory, and not having him here to hear them because he does not wish to be lauded by us, really does sum up Stephen Wade. I have not heard the words 'deja vu all over again' for some months, but I am sure I will again, sometime when I catch up with Stephen.

One of the first bills I ever worked with Stephen on as a crossbencher—a new Greens elected crossbencher in 2010-2011—was the South Australian Public Health Bill. He and I were negotiating with the then minister John Hill's office to ensure human rights were placed in that South Australian Public Health Bill in case of what we thought was the unlikely event of a pandemic. Certainly, as we debated the bill we thought perhaps some small-scale outbreaks but certainly not a global pandemic.

I am pleased to say that in that debate Stephen and I bonded quite a lot on some of the things people have already reflected on—that is, the nature of Stephen Wade's politics as a moderate, as a liberal, as somebody who believed in the rule of law, in human rights and in the separation of church and state, even though he was a man of faith, of informed debate and of respect for democracy.

It was at that point in the debate that there were some sticking points about ensuring human rights if people were to be detained or incarcerated under said 'did not think it was going to happen' pandemic, and he and I were standing firm against the then Labor government's attempt not to have such provisions to allow people to have respect for the full breadth of those human rights. I remember the minister's adviser ringing me and saying, 'What on earth are you doing? You're a Green; you're meant to be a communist' and me informing the minister's adviser that the Cold War was now over and one could have economic, social and civil and political rights, and they no longer needed to be arbitrarily divided.

Stephen held positions in this place, as has been mentioned: shadow attorney-general, shadow health and then health minister. One of the roles that does not go down in the formal CV is that he was also the self-appointed whip of the crossbench. Right from the first day I was here he would try to whip us. We were not necessarily willing, but we went along with it regardless.

Sometimes we let Stephen believe that he really was our whip, but he did so because he wished to have a conciliatory approach to the debate in this place. I have to say that the cross-party whipping meetings are probably some testament, although they came from a suggestion from crossbench members themselves, but it goes a long way, I think, to the culture that Stephen brought to this place.

He was passionate about human rights, as I have mentioned, and certainly he and I shared a commitment to the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and he lived that commitment as well to Aboriginal people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice. He was the person, when I put up a stolen generations reparations tribunal bill, who saw a way forward and created a path by referring that to a parliamentary committee.

I will admit, and only the former Clerk used to know this and Stephen Wade and myself, we did not actually have the ability to refer that to a parliamentary committee, except nobody checked the standing orders and so they believed us, but the outcome was great. Technically, we needed both houses of parliament to make that referral, but nobody looked at the fine print, and that is one of the things that Stephen did know. He knew to look at the fine print and then perhaps to ignore it when the cause was worth it.

He was incredibly supportive of myself and Kelly Vincent over many years. We worked with him on issues of disability and child protection and general progress around things like gender-affirming health care. He was somebody, I think, who fits into what politicians like to call in the lexicon doctors' wives—the moral middle class—except, of course, Stephen is a doctor's husband. He believed in human rights. He did not see that his religion should be used to divide people but rather to lift people up and to unite people.

He was also very instrumental in the decriminalisation of abortion in this state after 50 years of having the medical profession and pregnant people at risk of criminalisation, and so I pay tribute to him for his leadership. He was the right person at the right place to be health minister because in that aforementioned public health debate he also strongly advocated, as did I, for a Chief Public Health Officer standing alone as a separate position to the Chief Health Officer—20/20 hindsight shows that that was, again, the right decision. We were fortunate to have a Chief Public Health Officer in place once we encountered that pandemic.

At the time of the pandemic, many of us were thrown into turmoil in our personal and professional lives right across the state and, of course, the globe. I remember speaking to Stephen in the early days about the workload, the excessive stress of having people's lives in the balance. I do remember a debate in this place where hanging over us was the potential of mass graves and mass deaths had we not trod a path that was in the end the one that kept South Australians safe and alive. He said to me at the time, 'No, I don't feel the stress, I don't feel the pressure, I don't feel a burden because I have purpose.'

Stephen always had purpose. He will be very much missed by myself and I think this place. I hope to see more people like Stephen Wade come into this place, and that there be that deja vu all over again.

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