South Australian MP Irene Pnevmatikos who has served in the Legislative Council for five and a half years and has advocated fiercely for the interests of South Australians, delivered her valedictory speech last Thursday, in which she revealed that she is facing new health problems.
Pnevmatikos, having announced her imminent retirement from politics due to health issues earlier last week, elaborated on her condition, and informed the Chamber that her most recent scan detected five cancerous lumps on her lungs.
After having defeated the disease back in 2022 – when she had a kidney removed – cancer has returned to torment Pnevmatikos. Yet, the Labor MP admirably joked about her condition, as she said that each new cancerous spot on her lumps reflects each of her years in parliament. Pnevmatikos argued that she cannot continue her work as an MP, as her condition cannot but force her to focus on her recovery.
Irene Pnevmatikos belongs to the Left fraction of the Labor Party. Since she was first elected in 2018, Pnevmatikos dedicated herself to issues relating to job security and fairness in the workplace, while she strongly supported the adoption of the Indigenous Voice to the federal parliament.
Pnevmatikos said in her valedictory speech that “Democracy depends on empowering people to exercise the rights that they have fought for and earned” in a statement which largely reflects her political philosophy and synopsizes her personal allegiance to the less privileged members of the Australian electorate.
Pnevmatikos’ stepping down is a loss for Labor Left. As an MP, Pnevmatikos fiercely supported unions – to the point that she joined union protests to express her disagreement with the new criminal laws that her own party introduced – and she drew a direct link between union support and her party’s idiosyncrasy while paying tribute to union influence in Australia, arguing that “I have stood by you without question.” Despite not referring extensively to other aspects of her work as an MP, Pnevmatikos always took a strong stance on issues relating to womens rights, such as reducing the gender pay gap, facilitating access to abortion, and protecting prostitution rights.
Concluding her speech, Pnevmatikos ensured the Chamber – and her constituents – that she will continue to be “politically active” despite stepping down as an MP.
A daughter of working-class migrants from Greece, Pnevmatikos’ course through academia to the upper echelons of Australian politics, reflects the journey of a very large number of Greek-Australians who, despite thriving career-wise, they kept their – and their families’ – humble beginnings close to their heart, as well as to their personal and professional outlook on life.