By ALLISON HORE
Australia heads to the polls in May to decide who will represent us over the next four years. For those in NSW it’ll be the second election in a matter of months.
Will the status quo result of the NSW election be repeated? Or will there be the shake-up that many pundits are predicting?
Over the next few weeks, City Hub will be talking to federal election candidates across the city of Sydney and giving a rundown on the key issues.
The first seat we’ll be looking at is Kingsford-Smith in Sydney’s south east. It includes the suburbs of Botany, Coogee, Maroubra, Mascot and Randwick.
Labor member Matt Thistlethwaite has been sitting in the seat of Kingsford-Smith since 2013. In the 2016 election, he won just under 59 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis compared to Liberal candidate Michael Feneley’s 41 per cent.
Wilmot challenges Labor
Before entering federal politics, Mr Thistlethwaite was a member of the NSW Legislative Council and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Unions NSW.
In the Gillard government, he served as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs. In 2017, he was appointed Shadow Assistant Minister for an Australian Head of State after Labor announced it would push for a national vote on Australia becoming a republic.
The seat is relatively safe with Labor, but human rights lawyer Amanda Wilmot is expected to pose a strong challenge to the incumbent.
Ms Wilmot has a Masters degree in taxation and a Masters in international law. She has worked closely with the Kimberley Land Council in Broome to help remote Aboriginal communities develop project management and legal skills.
A long-term member of the Liberal Party, Ms Wilmot has previously run for Randwick Council on their ticket.
City Hub was unable to reach Ms Wilmot for an interview, but on her Facebook page she says, “As part of the Morrison Liberal team, I will support local families to reduce their cost of living pressures by supporting tax relief, improving access to childcare and lowering power bills”.
Also running for the seat is James Cruz for the Greens. Mr Cruz ran unsuccessfully for the seat of Maroubra in the recent NSW election and the 2015 election.
For him, it’s housing and climate change which he sees as key issues facing the electorate. He said it was his experience growing up in public housing in Maroubra that shaped his political ideas.
“Living in public housing, you can see that it’s in a really horrible state, it’s just not maintained,” he explains. “This gave me a lot of exposure to how the system doesn’t really afford much to these people.”
Last year’s Wentworth by-election saw Malcolm Turnbull’s safe Liberal seat lost to Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps, who ran on a platform of addressing climate change. Mr Cruz sees this as evidence that the constituents are sick of major party inaction on climate change.
But he says voters have to be careful who they put on the crossbench.
“We’re seeing a rising number of smaller right-wing parties like One Nation and Fraser Anning’s Conservative Nationals Party,” he explains. “These people are anti-science, and if they’re on the crossbench then we will see a continuation of what we have now.”
Labor is also running under an environmental banner in the Eastern suburbs this election. Mr Thistlethwaite launched Labor’s “Clean Our Oceans Program” alongside Tony Burke, the Opposition’s Environment spokesperson, in Coogee last month.
“The amount of plastic ending up in our oceans and choking marine life is alarming,” Mr Thistlethwaite said at the launch. “We want to make sure nippers and their parents don’t need to take plastic bottles to the beach or their local sports club and help increase awareness about the danger of single-use plastics.”
Single-use plastic targeted
The program aims to reduce and eventually eliminate entirely the use of single-use plastic bottles on Sydney’s beaches. Labor has pledged $3 million over the next four years to provide nippers’ programs with reusable bottles and to put in place 600 water refill stations at surf clubs around Australia.
Speaking on the NSW election, Mr Thistlethwaite admitted that the status quo results were “disappointing”.
“What we saw was a government limp across the line,” he says. “It’s really unfortunate because we will really suffer under another four years of the Liberals.”
Mr Cruz doesn’t think the Liberal Party should be too confident about its chances in the federal election based on the state results.
The government was expected to announce the date of the election after revealing its budget last week. However, the announcement was delayed. At the moment, 18 and 25 May are being floated as possible dates.