By ALLISON HORE
The state election is now only two weeks away and the race for the NSW parliament is on its final leg. And with the polling margins between Labor and Liberal drawing ever closer, those seats currently held by crossbenchers will be the ones to watch.
One such seat is Newtown, which stretches from Surry Hills and Redfern in the east to Lewisham in the west. Although it has existed since 1904, it was merged and then abolished in the 1990s.
For the 2015 election, the seat was recreated and Greens member Jenny Leong has held it since then. Ms Leong moved to Newtown in 1996 when she was just 19 years old, but her career as a human rights campaigner with Amnesty International took her around the world.
Before entering the NSW parliament, Ms Leong sat on the University of Sydney Senate and was president of the university’s Postgraduate Association. She also unsuccessfully ran for the federal division of Sydney in 2004 and 2007.
During her time in parliament Ms Leong has been particularly focused on rental rights, she tells City Hub, as well as advocating for accessibility upgrades to train stations and campaigning against WestConnex.
Minor parties nominate candidates
In the 2015 state election it was, predictably, a Labor candidate who ended second to Ms Leong, with 30.8% of the primary vote to Ms Leong’s 45.6%. The Liberal party received only 17.8% of the primary vote.
With neither major party holding the seat it’s not a surprise to see that many other minor parties are also contending for the seat. The Sustainable Australia party, Animal Justice party, Small Business party and Keep Sydney Open have all nominated candidates for the seat.
City Hub spoke to Aaron Le Saux, candidate for the Small Business Party, late last year. He said it was the difficulties his Surry Hills business experienced as a result of the Light Rail construction that inspired him to run.
“Crown Street was epic. It was one of the best places in the Sydney scene and having a 50% drop in foot traffic for a business is absolutely devastating,” he said.
Of all the contenders it’s Labor candidate Norma Ingram who poses the biggest threat to the incumbent. Ms Ingram is a Wiradjuri who grew up in the area, and has been active in the political scene for most of her life. This is her first run for office.
“We’ve really been represented for such a long time by males, non-Aboriginal males. I’m really proud that in federal government we’ve got some Aboriginal people represented. But we need more in NSW,” she tells City Hub.
“We need that representation of Aboriginal people for our voice. I don’t want other people talking on my behalf as an Aboriginal person.”
In her career, Ms Ingram has been chief executive of both the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW State Aboriginal Land Council. She has also facilitated training programs at the University of Technology Sydney and was the senior Aboriginal co-ordinator at TAFE.
She also served as an advisor to Sydney City Council on Indigenous issues, but says she wants to be the one “making the policy,” not advising those who do, and is proud that Labor has chosen her to run for Newtown.
For her it’s housing affordability and a lack of social housing that is the biggest issue facing the electorate. And she has personal experience in this. Last year she was sent into a housing crisis by rental increases on her Erskineville home.
But Ms Leong, who is the housing spokeswoman for the Greens and has regularly spoken at rallies on the issue, says that it was Labor policy changes which allowed the state of the housing economy to get to the point it is at.
No public housing sell-offs
“Under the previous Labor government, we saw sell offs of public housing and that opened the door for the Liberals and Nationals to sell off even more. The Greens are committed to having no sell offs,” she says.
Though analysis says that Ms Leong is safe in her seat, she isn’t taking the campaign for granted. But Ms Ingram says she has had a lot of support on the campaign trail and feels confident about her chances.
She says that the only way to ensure the Coalition doesn’t form a majority in parliament is to vote for Labor.
“Make your vote count. There’s either going to be a Labor government or a Coalition government. The Liberal government has already had eight years and look what they’ve done,” she says.
Ms Leong says she would “rule out ever supporting” a Coalition government, but says it would be up to parties like the Greens to provide checks and balances to a Labor government.
To read about the Candidate for Keep Sydney Open, Laura White – Click here
To read about the Liberal Candidate for Newtown, Rohan Indraghanti – Click here