By Jack Sumner

31 August 2013

Seven of the eight candidates were on stage for a public forum organised by the Northern District Times this week. Missing was DLP candidate Lachlan McCaffrey, who plays rugby for Eastwood and was training in preparation for Shute Shield finals this weekend. His father Simon, the DLP Senate candidate, came of the bench to replace him. Each spoke for four minutes followed by 80 minutes of questions from the floor.

The impressions and opinions given below are based on listening twice to each candidate’s introductory presentation and their responses to questions.

Lindsay Peters (Greens) strongly advocated his party’s policies on refugees, action on climate change, public education & public transport.

Julie Worsley (Christian Democrats) spoke of her party’s support for a fair-minded, decent Australia based upon family and our Judaeo Christian heritage.

Robert Marks (PUP) made a confident presentation on tax cuts, a 20{17ac88c265afb328fa89088ab635a2a63864fdefdd7caa0964376053e8ea14b3} increase in pensions, removal of the fringe benefit tax and onshore processing of asylum seekers. He said a vote for Labor or Liberal would only serve to re-elect the problems. It is remarkable that Palmer United could at such short notice from a field of seven nominees choose someone of Mark’s academic, business and life experience. Palmer fields candidates in every electorate. If they are close to the calibre of Mr Marks, then watch out. 

Simon McCaffrey (Democratic Labour Party) is an obstetrician who joined the LDP because of its support for family,. He placed priority on lowering electricity prices by abolishing the carbon tax and green energy subsidies. He accepted the science of climate change but claimed Australia’s small contribution to emissions made any move away from fossil fuels an act of economic stupidity. The DLP supported a generous paid parental leave scheme and had a commitment to the support of small business. In response to questions McCaffrey also expressed strong opinions against human rights violations in China, particularly in regard to farming of organs from political prisoners; and in support of high-speed to facilitate decentralisation.

John August (Secular Party of Australia) had platform based upon the removal of religious influence on public education, government and legal systems. Religions should not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws and were they to pay an appropriate level of taxation it would provide upwards of $31 billion to public revenue. His supported marriage equality and medically supervised euthanasia but opposed the current excessive level of middle class welfare.

Victor Waterson (Australia First Party) yearned for the days when Australia was self-sufficient and jobs easy to find. He quoted Alan Jones and Senator Heffernan in expressing concern about foreign ownership. Waterson was not looking forward to the Asian century, which he thought would not be “too rosy for us Australians”. Defence spending should be increased and the resultant strengthening would help stop the boats.

These six candidates with widely differing policy platforms all spoke well and made excellent contributions to the debate. Naturally most of the attention and questions were directed at the two major contenders.

John Alexander (Liberals) in his introductory speech emphasised his long-standing connection to the area. He outlined his achievements over the past 3 years:

  • Developing the three tiers of government approach, which had brought coordinated federal/state/local action on illegal boarding houses and the construction of 2 mobile phone towers.
  • Working with small business to hear their concerns and help them through initiatives such as the Bennelong Village Business campaign.
  • Lobbying successfully to prevent excessive aircraft noise.
  • Fostering better community understanding by installing table tennis tables in 40 schools and organising a competition involving 2000 contestants.

In question time, Alexander was strongest when confirming he had overturned Liberal head office preferencing to place Australia First last. He reassured a questioner that a Liberal government would not reduce support given to carers. In answering a question on human rights in China he stressed the importance of a grass roots approach such as bi-lingual schools in Bennelong with sister organisations in China.

Understandably Alexander was on shakier ground answering questions on humane treatment of asylum seekers, climate change, paid parental leave and education, but he managed well, albeit sometimes long-windedly.

Most telling was Alexander’s answer to a question asking for his vision for Bennelong. He concentrated on attempting to ridicule the Labor candidate’s Silicon Valley aspirations, reeling off a list of high technology companies already in the area and equating it to “re-inventing the wheel”.

He was heckled with requests to answer the question and give us your vision. His response confirmed him as more conservative than visionary.

John Alexander comes over as an honest, reliable, hard working MP with a real commitment to the electorate. He didn’t dominate the debates as might be expected of an incumbent parliamentarian and the majority of the audience seemed less than impressed by his contribution. 


Jason Yat-sen Li (Labor) Introduced himself as a business guy, which might be seen as unusual for a Labor candidate. He sought election to Federal parliament to achieve things of national significance but with local impact.

Li had a vision of Bennelong as Australia’s silicon valley, an engine room for jobs, an ecosystem of services and industries growing around Macquarie University, CSIRO and Macquarie Business Park attracting the best companies in the world, whose employees could be happily settled in the attractive, well-established residential areas in the electorate.

He linked this local vision with Labor policies of building infrastructure, public transport, the NBN and better schools. He concluded by identifying the electorate’s greatest strength – its inclusive multi-culturism.

Li answered questions confidently and succinctly. On the subject on refugees he justified Labor’s PNG solution as a deterrent to prevent the loss of lives at sea. However, expressing a personal view he believed there should be a regional solution involving Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and others agreeing to an annual quota settlement of refugees with UNCR processing centres and orderly queues of asylum seekers.

Considering Jason Li only arrived in Bennelong days before the election was called, his grasp of Labor policy and understanding of the electorate is remarkable. It is unlikely that he can make up sufficient ground to defeat a well established incumbent but he has chosen to settle his family in Eastwood and he would be a formidable candidate in future contests.

Bennelong voters are fortunate in the excellent candidates who have nominated. The forum offered a great opportunity for us to weigh them and the policies of their parties. Congratulations to Northern District Times.


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