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Community preselection for Newtown – Labor contenders

Ms Sharpe, previously a Councillor on Marrickville Council, is currently a member of the NSW Upper House and Labor’s Shadow Minister for Transport. A resident of the area, Ms Sharpe lives with her partner Jo, two children and a variety of pets. As an active member of the local community, she believes her experience in the area will allow her to help the community with a variety of issues.

“I am a local who cares passionately about the inner city and the inner west. I want our voice heard loudly in the NSW Parliament – I believe in equality, diversity and the ability of communities to make change. I want to use my experience to help individuals, community groups, schools and others to deliver for Newtown.”

Key issues at the top of Ms Sharpe’s agenda include transport, overcrowded schools, lack of child care and before- and after-school care, lack of affordable housing, not enough support for renters and the impact of health cuts on RPA. “If elected, I would like to address Redfern station, cleaning and maintenance issues in public housing, lack of child care and the need to involve the community in planning decisions,” she said.

Rental support and overcrowded schools are also a community concern for fellow candidate Sean Macken, a strategic planning consultant for NSW. Mr Macken has lived in the historically progressive area of Newtown his whole life and has been “passionate about improving the lives of people in the inner city for decades”.

“Housing affordability is a killer for everyone under the age of 45. Paying the rent or struggling with a mortgage is a real issue for many of us. Getting a good education is also getting harder as many of our schools are full.”

If elected, Mr Macken would like to focus on the issue of public transport in the city. “I’d like to see a comprehensive, long term, public transport plan to help Sydney along the path to sustainability.

“The new light rail proposal is welcome but the route needs to be changed. The problems with congestion in our area won’t be solved by more clearways and highways and I’m opposed to the Westconnex idea,” he said.

Mr Macken supports the ALP preselection process for this election, saying “Labor needs to try something new”.

“The old system of factional appointments ruined the last Labor Government and has brought Labor to its knees. Getting the community and the local members to decide was always the best way to select our representatives. Local talent should be tested through the democratic process, not appointed from on high”, he said.

It is on this issue that not all the candidates agree. Fellow candidate Natalie Gould, daughter of the late Newtown bookstore owner Bob Gould, does not believe the preselection process is an effective means of finding the right representative for the party.

“I’m opposed to the preselection ballot,” she said. “It devalues Labor party membership, it becomes a sideshow for this election. It’s not a competition of ideas.”

Ms Gould has lived in the area for the past 30 years and has been a member of the Labor party since she was 15 years old, joining the day Gough Whitlam was dismissed from Parliament. She is currently working for the famous Gould’s Books, the store owned and run by her father and an institution among Sydney book lovers.

She is running for preselection because she is unhappy with the current state of the Labor party. “I’m really disillusioned with the way that the party’s going. As ‘rank and file’ Labor party members, we don’t get listened to very much. We don’t often get to say what’s wrong, so for me it’s an opportunity to say how unhappy I am with the Labor party,” she said.

Ideas align with fellow candidates on the pressing issues that Newtown faces.

“The thing about Newtown is, although a lot of people are pretty well-off, it’s progressive. They want to live in a society that doesn’t cut out the ‘have-nots’. We haven’t got enough after-school care, there’s not enough schools – the kids are coming back to the inner city now and we need more schools for them. They’re overcrowded,” she said.

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