By ALLISON HORE
Now only a few days away, the State election has reached its final leg. While some seats are already safe enough to call, polling at other marginal seats will be watched carefully over the weekend.
Coogee, in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, is one such seat. It includes Randwick, Coogee, Clovelly, Bronte, Waverley, Tamarama and Bondi Junction.
Bruce Notley-Smith, a “moderate” Liberal party member, has represented the seat since 2011 when he defeated the incumbent, Labor member Paul Pearce. Mr Pearce had held the seat since 2003.
In the 2015 election, the Liberal party won 53 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis. With a 5.4 per cent swing in their favour, the Labor’s 47 per cent trailed by 6 per cent.
Coogee now a marginal seat
The seat is now regarded as marginal and will be very much in play in this weekend’s election. Mr Notley-Smith told the Southern Courier that he believes he faces a “a very tough challenge” in being re-elected for the seat.
Prior to running for the State election, Mr Notley-Smith served as the Mayor of Randwick for two years as an independent, making him well known within the community. He grew up in Coogee, attending Coogee Public School, Randwick Boys High School and Randwick TAFE.
“Since the last election there’s been a lot of issues people are concerned about. There’s the (demolition of Allianz) stadium, and of course the inconvenience with the light rail. Some of these things are out of my control,” he explained.
Part of the seat’s uncertainty is based on its polarised demographics. While it’s home to a lot of expensive beachside property that draws in wealthier, typically Liberal voting people, it’s also home to the University of NSW in Randwick.
Mr Notley-Smith was the first openly gay member of the NSW Legislative Assembly. During his time in parliament he worked to expunge the criminal records of gay men charged under historical laws which prohibited male same-sex activity.
He hopes that his moderate politics will help him straddle the demographic divide. And he has some powerful allies in his campaign. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave Mr Notley-Smith a glowing endorsement on a Facebook video.
“He’s delivered for our community in the eastern suburbs in a way that’s never been done before. He is a champion for this community. He knows it. He loves it. He’s part of it. That’s why I’m backing Bruce,” he said.
Mr Notley-Smith told the Guardian that the imminent upgrades to the Prince of Wales hospital, set to cost $720 million, and his support for the container deposit scheme, are some of his proudest achievements.
His “tough challenge” comes in the form of candidate Marjorie O’Neill. She is hoping to win the seat back for Labor who had held it since 2003 before it was lost to the Liberals.
Dr O’Neill is a university academic with a Ph.D in management and economics. She was elected to Waverley council in 2017.
“I am a fifth-generation Bronte local and representing the community I grew up in would be the greatest privilege of my life. As a local I understand the issues this community faces,” she tells City Hub.
It’s the “wastefulness” of the Liberal government that drove her to run for the seat.
“Since becoming the candidate, our campaign has knocked on over 15,000 doors and what we are hearing every day is that people are fed up with this State Liberal Government’s wrong priorities,” she explains.
Not a two-horse race
“Instead of investing in a new school for the eastern suburbs, Bruce Notley-Smith and the Liberals are ploughing ahead with demolishing a perfectly good stadium. Instead of stopping rampant overdevelopment, they are too focused on the failed CBD light rail project.”
But though the polls will likely come down to Liberal vs Labor, it’s not a two-horse race. The Greens earned just over 18 per cent of the primary vote in 2015, and this year there are eight parties in the run for the seat.
Although her chances are good, Dr O’Neill says she’s “not taking anything for granted”.
“I love our community and I will be knocking on doors and talking to voters right up until the finish line. They deserve someone who will never stop fighting for them, so I won’t,” she says.
“If I am lucky enough to be elected the Member for Coogee, I will continue to be a strong voice for our community, unlike our current MP, who has failed to stand up to the Liberal Party and their hurtful policies for the eastern suburbs.”
As the people of Coogee hit the polls this Saturday, it’s anybody’s guess who will win the seat.
Lindsay Shurey: Candidate Profile
By REMI TRAUERNICHT
Former Mayor of Randwick, Lindsay Shurey, is running for the Greens in the Coogee electorate. She works at UNSW Art and Design.
Out of 158 years of elections, Ms Shurey was only the second woman to be elected mayor. She is a long-time resident of Coogee and lives with her husband who works as an architect. She has served her community as Councillor since 2012 and was also very involved in the local Precinct group for a long time.
In September 2018, Ms Shurey stepped down as Mayor to run for the Coogee seat in the upcoming election.
She is an active member of several statutory committees, and is currently the Chair of the Environmental Committee, the Community Services Committee and the Multicultural Advisory Committee. Ms Shurey is the Council’s Delegate on the Sydney Coastal Councils Group.
While Ms Shurey was Mayor, she put her focus on women’s rights and made a lot of progress in the domestic abuse mitigation area. She strives to end violence against women, increase the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and fund shelters and crisis accommodation.
Ms Shurey feels that it is important to listen to citizens, as well as being transparent during her campaign. She wants to ensure that citizens have a voice in their urban environment.
If she is elected, she plans on fighting for the environment and the Coogee coastline. She wants to end sewage pollution in Coogee, and fight to end plastic pollution in all oceans. She strongly supports increasing the area of marine parks. She is fighting to increase tree canopy, improve Coogee’s green spaces and take real action to fight against climate change.
While the Coogee seat has historically belonged to either a Labor or Liberal candidate, polls are showing that Lindsay Shurey, a Greens candidate, does stand a chance in the upcoming election.