SA-BEST to move for a state Royal Commission into the pandemic response

27 February 2022

SA-BEST will move for a Royal Commission into the state's handling of the pandemic as soon as Parliament resumes in May. 

SA-BEST MLCs Frank Pangallo and Connie Bonaros said a wide-ranging inquiry was needed not only to address the many issues that have arisen since March 2020, but also to have a strategy in place to help “pandemic-proof” the state in the event of another epidemic. 

“I would like to stress this isn't designed to be seen as a finger pointing exercise but a constructive look at how our response was managed and the lessons learned so we can move forward and plan for the next one, should it arise,” Frank said. 

“This was a whole new learning curve for all involved in the management and then the exercise of the emergency laws,” he said. 

“Those in charge of making extremely tough decisions did a great job under enormously difficult circumstances. 

“There was no textbook to follow because the world hasn't experienced anything of this magnitude in modern times. 

“There have been winners and yet far more many tragic losers, as we have seen in the way the pandemic was managed across the globe and in Australian states and territories. 

“The pandemic has affected every single living person in one way or another - and will continue to do so for a long time to come. 

“While it revolved predominantly around dealing with health and preventative measures, the complexities also impacted so heavily on our economy, industry, jobs, education, aged & disabled care , law & order and lifestyle choices, creating a whole new world of challenges to deal with and overcome. 

“The ripple effect of Covid has spared no one.” 

Frank said the state needed to analyse its response forensically and for that to occur it was imperative everyone impacted by the pandemic was given a voice. 

“We need to hear from all those in the community with information and recommendations so we have a much better plan in place the next time this happens-and it will,” Frank said. 

“The emergency legislation also needs to be reviewed to determine whether things need to be changed, including the definition of what constitutes an emergency and when it should be lifted,” he said. 

“The role and constitution of the transition or covid-ready committees also needs reviewing to ensure it isn’t overloaded with bureaucrats but has representation from the wider community. 

“It’s odd to know the State Co-Ordinator, the Commissioner of Police, has overseen the state for longer than the Premier. I am sure he wanted to get back to his job of fighting crime a lot sooner rather than a health crisis.” 

Connie said a federal Royal Commission would not have the time and resources to adequately address individual states and the issues that impacted South Australia may be overlooked in favour of the ramifications of the pandemic in the eastern states. 

“It is imperative any state Royal Commission must also investigate the impact of the pandemic on the already crippled public health system and mental health system,” Connie said. 

“The true impacts of the covid mental health crisis won’t be known for another three years – and our kids will be the ones most effected,” she said. 

“Any Royal Commission needs to forensically investigate this forecast fall out and make recommendations on how best to handle it. 

“The Commissioners appointed to a state inquiry would need to be drawn from a wider section of the community, and we would expect it will have widespread parliamentary support. 

Frank and Connie said if SA-BEST wins the balance of power in the Legislative Council following the election it will request the party that forms government to set up the Royal Commission as a priority. 

Otherwise it will frame the terms of reference when it introduces a motion in the Legislative Council when Parliament resumes in May.

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