Nine candidates will vie for the seat of Sydney at Saturday’s federal election, with sitting member Tanya Plibersek calling on voters to trust in her ability to deliver.
Speaking at REDWatch’s candidates forum in Waterloo on Monday night, Ms Plibersek listed the initiatives and investment made by the Labor Government over the last three years.
The government has built over 1,000 affordable rental properties since 2010, spent $16 million on upgrading Annie Green Court for the homeless, $170 on the Sydney Cancer Centre at RPA and $56 million on implementing the ‘education revolution’ in local schools.
“I think that I’ve worked well for the people of Sydney over the last 15 years and I ask you to put your faith in me for another three,” Ms Plibersek said.
“I haven’t just been working as you’re local member, I’ve been working as a minister in a Labor Government. The challenge of achieving something is not just believing it, but it’s how you deliver things and how you deliver real change.”
Ms Plibersek, the Federal Minister for Health and Medical Research, easily reclaimed her seat at the 2010 election, garnering 43 per cent of the primary vote despite suffering a 6 per cent swing against her. She is the favourite to prevail over Liberal candidate, Sean O’Connor and Greens candidate, Dianne Hiles.
“My job is delivering and doing the things that are possible within a federal system of government, knowing always that a democracy relies on 22 million Australians giving you a mission to lead the nation,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Life is a lot more complex than slogans. Tony Abbott is great with his three-word slogans but I think sometimes we get caught with slogans on the left as well.”
Ms Hiles, an accountant and the co-founder of Children Out Of Detention, said the major parties had used the “hysteria” surrounding asylum seeker policy to divert attention.
“It’s a question of proportionality,” Ms Hiles said. “This whole refugee issue has been blown completely out of proportion.
“It is taking out attention off things that really matter, such as climate change, the social conditions for Aborigines, single parents and students living in poverty while they have to work all hours to get their degrees.
“[The Opposition] are in cohorts with Rupert Murdoch to eliminate the Greens, who over 1.5 million people in this country vote for.”
Socialist Alliance candidate Peter Boyle said deporting asylum seekers to Nauru or Papua New Guinea was “cynical”.
“It’s a way of diverting attention through divide and rule,” he said. “It has been used forever and ever. I think we should get rid of mandatory detention … it’s expensive and wasteful.
“[Labor] just made it up this year. Behind this of course, there’s much greater suffering that comes from the wars that we have had a hand in. Because we want to flog off more and more coal and gas, we are going to be creating future refugees. If Papua New Guinea is full, what’s next?”
Independent Jane Ward has focused her campaign on the cost of living, arguing the “cost that builders have to pay is so high that they can’t build affordable housing”.
“Thousands of dollars need to be taken off so that they can actually make some profit,” she said.
Fellow Independent Joanna Rzetelski said she believes there needs to be more diversity in parliament.
“We only have two parties … Kevin Rudd’s announcement about Garden Island – how was this consulted?”