Tonkin Government


I rise to speak in support of the motion presented by the member for Newland and thank him for reminding us, with this motion, of the importance of the Tonkin government, which served from 1979 to 1982. I also recognise that Dr Tonkin came into parliament in 1970 in the newly formed seat of Bragg. He was the first member for Bragg and I am proud to be the third.

Recognition of David Tonkin has been comprehensive in our own area, not only for his community service but also for his political life and his work as an eye specialist. Dr Tonkin was a family man with many children. In his honour, upon becoming the member for Bragg I established the Tonkin Room, which is the meeting room at the Bragg electorate office. It was opened by the then Liberal leader, Mr Rob Kerin.

As has been expressed, we have continued to support the Tonkin Scholarship, which is available to students who either live or go to school in the Bragg electorate. It is supported annually by his widow, Mrs Prue Tonkin, who most graciously attends and provides a personal gift (often a book from Dr Tonkin's collection) during that time. The scholarship recognises outstanding service, including community service, and it is a tradition that we are proud to continue.

As has also been mentioned, the Minister for Education, during his time with the Young Liberal Movement and when he worked at my office, established the David Tonkin annual address. He and I also appreciate the Young Liberal Movement's continued recognition of this fine tradition. I have kept a number of the speeches of that time, including my own and that of the member for Heysen's father—that was a very long speech, unsurprisingly, but it was an excellent one.

It was established with the first address by Jennifer Cashmore, who was a member of the Tonkin government. Her summary of the pioneering work of David Tonkin as a new member and of a number of his government's initiatives was outstanding. It has also really been a forerunner to the establishment of a scholarship in Bragg in recognition of Jessie Cooper and Joyce Steele, who were, of course, the first women elected. The 125-year celebration this year of women's suffrage and the right to stand for parliament is the type of tradition we want to continue to employ.

Often, I have recognised Dr Tonkin as a pioneer in the Lions association in our electorate, with the establishment of a now international program to support those with eyesight deficiencies. Even today, projects such as the preparation of very large crosswords for people who are sight challenged all emanate from an era in which Dr Tonkin was a pioneering member.

My father, Ted Chapman, was the minister for agriculture in the government that we today recognise, but he was also a good friend of Dr Tonkin, who gave my father significant advice on the subject of girls' education and the opportunity to have that. I do not think that I would have had an opportunity to come to Adelaide and undertake matriculation—year 12, as it now is—had it not been for the advice of Dr Tonkin. He also suggested that I attend what was to be the newly formed Pembroke School in the 1970s, and I have regularly credited him for having that opportunity.

Today, I have one of his sons, Peter Tonkin, as the leading counsel and adviser in the division of the Crown Solicitor's Office that deals with native title matters. I frequently rely on his advice, and through him South Australia continues to benefit from the service of the Tonkin family. I thank him for that.

Given that one of the most outstanding achievements of that government related to the forming of the APY act, I always like to give credit to the Hon. Graham Gunn, who was a long-term member of this parliament as well. He added a clause into that bill at the time to ensure that members of parliament, along with police, would have the right to enter property that was to become part of the APY lands jurisdiction, but otherwise respect needed to be maintained with the permit system to be able to enter.

I encourage members to understand that, although members of parliament do not require a permit, as a matter of courtesy I think it is appropriate that a permit is always sought before entering into the APY lands. As a general custom, that has been supported, so I would urge members to maintain that.

Finally, can I say that, yes, the Tonkin government did come in in 1979, and much has been said about that, but let me tell you something else that happened. There was a longstanding government, the leader of which, Don Dunstan, had retired earlier in that year. There was a big press conference and he was in a wheelchair in his pyjamas, vacating the space. The Corcoran government came in short term, of course, because the election washed him from office. I remind members to look at that time.

The meat scandal alone that was exposed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital was a huge issue at that time. It involved Samcor trucks loading up carcasses to the hospital for the purposes of providing meals for patients, which was done on site in those days—they were not done externally—and a number of these carcasses being stolen and onsold by operators at that time. That is the type of government that operated prior to that change of government. That meat scandal was exposed, and there were other serious failings in relation to the previous government, which deservedly swept it from office.

Members ought to remember, if we are going to have these types of motions in recognition of governments, that they should not just come to the parliament with one side of the position in relation to that. For the member for Lee's benefit, Frank Webster was the member of parliament against whom a challenge was made to his election for the seat of Norwood, and the Court Of Disputed Returns under Roma Mitchell declared that there was to be a by-election. We of course now have our Premier of South Australia who is the member for that electorate and we are proud to say has been a welcome addition.

Finally, can I say that if ever there is to be a time for land tax reform it is now, in recognition of the Tonkin administration, who were, as has been mentioned, clear in ensuring that land tax was not to be passed on to tenants but, most importantly, was not to apply to people in their principal place of residence. These are the sorts of gifts that came from a Tonkin administration. He did care about the people of South Australia, he did do what he said he would do and he did serve us well.