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Question: Nurses' Wages

27 June 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:54): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector on the topic of a pay rise for nurses.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Victorian government and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation agreed to a 28.4 per cent pay rise for nurses and midwives over the next four years. The agreement includes allowances for a change of ward and being on call. There is also a right-to-disconnect clause and a change to night shift penalties. The Victorian Premier, Jacinta Allan, told The Age, and I quote:

This is absolutely backing in our nurses and midwives. They are the backbone of our health and hospitals system.

My question, therefore, to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector is:

1. Will the Malinauskas government match the Victorian pay rise for South Australian nurses and midwives, and if not, why not?

2. What is the government doing to ensure that our nurses don't simply pack up and move over to Victoria?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:55): I thank the honourable member for his question. In relation to whether we will immediately institute the results of an interstate jurisdiction's enterprise bargaining into industrial instruments in South Australia after having gone through a bargaining process, the short answer to that is, no, we won't—and I am not sure the honourable member would have expected much different from an answer in relation to that.

What we will do, though, as I have said in this chamber a number of times before, is bargain in good faith with public sector unions, which represent employees in a whole range of areas, including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, which represents nurses in South Australia and around the country. I don't have the date in front of me, but I think it was sometime in mid to late 2022 when the last industrial agreement was negotiated and signed with the union representing nurses in South Australia. Sometime in the next couple of years that will be up for renegotiation.

What I will say and can commit to is: unlike the last government, we don't come to the table in bad faith with preconceived notions about what is or isn't on the table. We will come to the negotiating table in good faith and are happy to negotiate terms and conditions that are fair for nurses, also recognising the needs of South Australia.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:56): Supplementary: given the government won't commit to matching Victoria's offer, is the minister concerned that these nurses and midwives are going to leave South Australia and move interstate, where they can get a better offer?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:57): I thank the honourable member for his question. I do not have a jurisdictional comparison of the base that this has been taken from, and pay rates and the exact matching of various conditions—and that is one element of where someone decides to work. A very important element is the quality of life you get while you are working as well. I might be accused of being biased, but I think that living in South Australia, and Adelaide in particular, affords you a quality of life that you can't find in many other places in this country.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:57): Supplementary: in light of the government's failure to match the offer in Victoria and the significant crisis that is gripping our health system—

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, did you start with—I missed the first words. If you haven't started with a question, you can't have a preamble.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Is it not the case, given the crisis that is befalling our health system and the fact that the government is not going to actually match the offer that has been put on the table over in Victoria, that people are going to simply move interstate and cause further problems in our health system?

The Hon. B.R. Hood: I will allow it.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ben Hood will allow it. If that is the case, then we had better allow it.


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:58): I thank the Hon. Ben Hood for allowing it. I think the honourable member is taking some liberties. He well knows that is not how the industrial relations system works. It doesn't happen, when there is one agreement in one jurisdiction somewhere, that it automatically becomes something that every jurisdiction then gets too.

I was going to suggest that if there were a parliament somewhere else around the world that paid more than here would the honourable immediately move to that parliament because it has better wages? Then I remembered that the honourable member has been in almost every form of government—every single form of government, including local government, that we have in this country—so maybe he is working his way up in that respect.

I think what that does indicate is that it is certainly a factor but there are a lot of other factors that determine where someone chooses to live, where someone chooses to raise their family, and I think South Australia has a lot of advantages in that respect.