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The new seat of Newtown

The seat is expected to be a two-horse race between the Greens’ Jenny Leong and Labor’s Penny Sharpe, who have each been on the campaign trail since last March. Rachael Wheldall was announced as the Liberal candidate in February this year.

Jenny Leong is a former human rights campaigner for Amnesty International who has previously run for Heffron and the federal seat of Sydney.

Penny Sharpe is attempting to make the transition into the Legislative Assembly from her current position as a Member of the Legislative Council, where she is the Shadow Minister for Transport.

Rachael Wheldall has worked at the University of Sydney and volunteers with the Sydney City Rotaract. Unfortunately she was unavailable to be contacted in time for publication.

Development has been one of the dominant issues in the campaign so far, with plenty of action happening in the form of the Central to Eveleigh project and the WestConnex motorway. Leong warns that the impact of these developments will have a lasting impact: “These developments will change what this area looks like forever.”

The proposed motorway has enraged both the Greens and Labor candidates. Sharpe claims that the impact “will destroy our local area for no benefit whatsoever. I think that the plans for what they are proposing in this area are a disaster. The idea that we are just going to bring traffic in here and dump it at the end of Sydney Park and that is going to fix any problems I don’t think will work.”

The handling of the Central to Eveleigh project has come under fire from both candidates, who criticise the government’s community consultation process.

“It is a clear example of what is wrong with the state of NSW and what we are doing in relation to planning issues. The same week that they ran a community consultation on the Central to Eveleigh community plan they also announced that they were putting the Australian Technology Park up for sale, which is a key part of that site and that plan,” Leong explained.

“The best way to step up to that is through a strong opposition. A real opposition that stands up against privatisation stands up against the sell-off of infrastructure and against the cuts to public services, but also isn’t willing to compromise when it comes to discrimination, when it comes to the interests of those in the parliament who might have much more conservative views than the people of Newtown have.”

Sharpe, however, is a bit more open to the Central to Eveleigh project but is still concerned about how it will be implemented. “For me, in terms of representing the community in these areas, I don’t think we can support development without proper community consultation. I’m not against development but I am against development that is not done properly and that doesn’t have proper community consultation.”

 

“Central to Eveleigh is a huge opportunity to do some interesting things with some really good design. I’d like to see affordable housing. I’d like to see public space. I want to see walkways. I want to see it as an opportunity to deliver something really beautiful, sustainable and liveable, and I just don’t see that [happening] at the moment.”

 

For Sharpe the difference between her and Leong comes down to a fundamental question. “I think the real question is: Can one person really be a lobbyist to reach the major parties to try and get change, or do you think change can actually happen within parties that seek to form government? I think that’s the big difference between me and the Greens. If I’m elected I’ll be a senior minister in a Labor government or opposition. I’ll be an influential member and be able to shape the politics either in government, or in opposition, seeking to form government in the future. For me, that’s why I’m in the Labor [party]. I think that change happens through government and I believe that that is where it’s delivered and that’s what I want to be part of and bring our community into that discussion and be well represented.”

 

However, Leong cites Clover Moore as an example of an individual who was a voice in parliament and set an agenda to bring about change, standing up for the community.

“People are voting for someone that will sit in that NSW parliament and will represent and vote for the views that represent and reflect the people of Newtown. They are not voting for a representative that will advocate and lobby internally behind closed doors for their positions in cabinet or a Labor faction room. The reality is they are making a decision on who will represent their progressive views in parliament, and I believe the Greens’ values and principles align very closely with many of the people’s values in the Newtown community,” she explained.

 

“One of the reasons why I have such concern about the Labor party saying one thing when they are in opposition and doing another is the fact that when they had the chance to introduce a National Human Rights Act, which would have protected the most vulnerable in our community, they chose to move on to a different political platform.”

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