Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:37): I would like to rise and talk about some of the goings-on in Chaffey of recent times, and the first thing I would like to talk about is a recent visit by the Minister for Innovation and Skills.
I am talking about the visit from the Minister for Innovation and Skills to Chaffey. It was great to have him visiting the region not only giving his expertise around skills and the innovation world but also spreading the message that we need employers to continue to employ apprentices. We need employers and we need organisations to take on trainees. It was great to have him up there for a public forum. It was well attended. What I would say is that the forum at the Berri Hotel talked about some of the current activities of the labour workforce and about its bright future on behalf of skills here in South Australia.
While in the electorate, Minister Pisoni also met with several larger businesses that continue to employ apprentices and trainees, and then they go on to be long-term permanent staff in those organisations. We dropped into Almondco, a great organisation. Not only have they just invested an extra $30 million into their plant but they continue to employ more people. They continue now to give more consideration to taking on apprentices and trainees to skill their workforce so that they have a world-class facility with world-class trained staff.
Agriexchange, or CostaExchange as it is now known, also have a significant workforce, and they are looking for a more highly skilled workforce, particularly with the use of agtech, particularly with the use of some of the new technologies within not only growing and producing fruit but also packing and marketing. We also talked to a young trainee who had been there for 12 months and who considered staying on, but she is looking to spread her wings and move further afield.
We also attended the Loxton Research Centre, the centrepiece of which is the ThincLab demonstration farm, where entrepreneurs, companies, agribusinesses, associations and members of the community can develop their innovations and business models. It was a great visit by the minister, and the community was very appreciative of the time the minister gave them and understanding of the opportunities the Marshall Liberal government is giving those businesses to take on more trainees and more apprentices.
I also attended the Pasifika Sports Carnival last Monday week at the Renmark sporting precinct. It was great to see Pacific Islanders, who had just been through two weeks of quarantine, out there with their activities: volleyball, soccer, touch rugby, sack races, tug-of-war and basketball. Some of those boys are big boys, the Tongans in particular, and the boys from Vanuatu, Kiribati and Samoa all played their role in a great day—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Chaffey, you are going to get some more extra time. I am going to ask members on my left, and there are a number involved here, to cease their conversations while others are contributing. Thank you.
Mr WHETSTONE: Thank you, sir. Not only were we privileged to watch the Pacific Islanders playing sports but we also listened to their music and watched their customs and dances and it was really a treat. It was an experience I had never seen before; some 800 were singing, chanting and dancing. It really was a multicultural experience I have never seen before, and it is something that will be a lasting memory.
I want to thank the Pacific Islanders for being part of the work program, particularly in horticulture, and I want to thank the government agencies that have made this quarantine exercise possible. I want to make sure that every Riverlander understands the unique opportunity that is before us at the moment, that having this workforce on hand, safe and COVID-free, is an opportunity to further our credentials in Chaffey as being one of the multicultural centres of the state. It was a true honour.
On a sad note, I would like to pay tribute to a great Riverlander, John Menzel. John is a Riverland legend, who was recently recognised with an Order of Australia in the General Division for services to horticulture. Hailing from Winkie, John has been recognised for his service, in particular his involvement with dahlias. John was a grower for more than 45 years and eventually grew around 4,000 plants. He was involved in dahlia societies in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland, and worked towards unifying those organisations to form the Dahlia Society of Australia, of which he was a founder and then president for over 10 years.
John was a keynote speaker globally. He spoke with huge knowledge and great authority at national conferences at least three times. His awards and recognitions included the Dahlia Medal from the Dahlia Society of Australia, the Noel Bracewell Medal, the S and M Bowtock Medal, the National Dahlia Society of the United Kingdom and the American Dahlia Society silver medal. Vale, John Menzel, a great Riverlander lost.