Mitchell hills alive with sounds of Liberal music: seat report by @AlisonParkes
Mitchell is in Sydney’s outer metropolitan North West. Once rural and semi rural, it is experiencing the rapid development of subdivisions, dormitory suburbs and business parks as it undergoes a population boom which has probably rendered every known statistic about demographics obsolete.
Mitchell was proclaimed in 1949, and contains some of the newest suburbs in the country within its boundaries. It also contains some of oldest towns in the country, and was home to The Battle of Vinegar Hill convict rebellion in 1804
The biggest story of Mitchell is how rapidly it is changing. Farms became turf and agistment paddocks. Market gardens became subdivisions full of McMansions and three-car garages. Residential streets are full of townhouses and unit blocks. Golf courses are now shopping centres. Two-lane roads become parking lots during peak hour. Big box stores are moving into areas that two years ago were just plans on a map, catering to the many families escaping the city for the quiet life within driving distance of Chatswood, the Sydney CBD or Parramatta.
In some Mitchell streets two bedroom fibro houses with car parts and machinery in front yard, cows and sheep in back are stand beside actual mansions complete with guest houses, home business offices, pools, tennis courts, landscaped lawns and thoroughbred horse stables.
Mitchell’s main suburbs are Baulkham Hills, Beaumont Hills, Box Hill, Castle Hill, Rouse Hill, Winston Hills and West Pennant Hills. Lots of celebrities live or grew up here – international sports stars, television celebrities, morning radio shock jocks, church and business leaders. People come here for the quiet life.
It is the the second safest Liberal seat in NSW and Sydney’s bible belt of Sydney. Mitchell is the Hills in Hillsong, the pentecostal megachurch whose ‘prosperity doctrine’ is enthusiastically embraced by residents and overseas students who are studying at bible college. There are more nuclear families and fewer single parents than anywhere else in Sydney. The word conservative doesn’t adequately describe how conservative it is.
Our local candidate is Alex Hawke, a potential Liberal party leader, who has said publicly he is a Hillsong Christian. According to his Wikipedia entry has strongly rejected allegations that he is a “right-wing extremist”, saying he represents the values of his electorate.
As yet, there doesn’t appear to be an ALP candidate. I contacted the ALP via email and received no reply, and half an hour’s search with every possible combination on Google produced no answers. Mitchell a very safe seat, so who Labor stand as a candidate would have little effect on the result. Katter’s Australian Party member Adam McKern has been endorsed. He has a good chance of picking up votes from the rural parts of the electorate. The Greens are standing Michael Bellstedt, who may have more luck with the conservationists on the south-eastern side of the electorate, as some in the north-west drive around in utes with ‘Save The Country, Shoot A Greenie’ bumper stickers.
I’m Alison Parkes (yes, relation), No Fibs citizen journalist for Mitchell. I live on the corner. A step to the west and I’m in Macquarie, a step the south and I’m in Greenway. It often feels like my suburb is overlooked, although most voters in every electorate have likely felt the same way at some point. I belong to no political party, though I am Left.
This is the last federal election I will be here, as my area is currently being developed into business parks and transport hubs. In the past I’ve been flooded out and in dry years faced the threat of bush fires. The biggest issue facing people who live closer to the city is will they get to work on time and the cost of private school fees.
There is a remnant of rapidly decreasing bushland,. I’ve seen kangaroos and platypuses in the past, but sightings are getting rarer – I see mainly foxes and rabbits now. I still live on tank water because my suburb is not connected to the mains (‘city water’ as we call it), mail delivery is four days a week, we don’t have street lights or curbs and guttering and I remember the day they tar sealed my road. My little corner of Mitchell has very little in common with the rest, and is over 100 square km compared with Malcolm Turnbulls’ Wentworth at 30 sq km or Adam Bandts’ Melbourne at 46 sq km. Size might sound unimportant to some readers, but if you live on the boundary you are a long way from your representative in what is a metro area.
The south-eastern part of my electorate is as foreign to me as the other side of the moon. The issues that affect me and the people around me would be of no concern to most people in my electorate – as long as they have some place to park their cars at night and a McMansion to store their clothes in and $100 or so in their pocket to pay for the weekly tolls to get to work (State Governments have spent the past 80 years promising public transport).
Recently ‘very significant’ coal deposits have been found near my farm, and there are proposals for coal seam gas wells across the road as soon the State and Federal Governments give the go-ahead for fracking. Just down the road in neighbouring Macquarie, the O’Farrell government is planning to demolish one of the oldest bridges in the country – locals question the need – perhaps to make easy access on the other side of the river for mining operators, a new housing development? Who knows – residents don’t.
So why should I care? Why should anyone care what happens in a very safe seat?
Nothing I do will change the outcome. No party I join, no leaflet I hand out, no Corflute I display will change the fact that Alex Hawke will be the MP on 14 September and the day after.
But this is precisely why we should care about very safe seats. It is too easy to drop out of the democratic process and become complacent. As Rob Oakeshott once said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant”.
Map of Mitchell via wikipedia, released under Creative Commons which allows reproduction