community-wentworth

By Di Smith

30 July, 2013

People often ask me why I have put myself in what they perceive to be an impossible situation: pitting myself against someone who is respected, well liked and, according to some commentators, quite possibly the most popular politician in the country.

There are also those that say nothing is at stake this election. That the choice between Labor and Liberal no choice at all. To those people I say, look closer.

My name is Di Smith. I am an actor, an activist, a teacher and a campaigner. Most people who still recognise me from my acting career remember the years on A Country Practice, others from stage performances over many years. I’ve been a member of the ALP since the reformist Hawke and Keating era, and I’ve called Wentworth my home for almost twenty years. My connection to Wentworth is deep and real, as is my commitment to Labor values of equality, fairness and opportunity.

Probably the first really political thing I ever did was stand in front of a couple of hundred shooters in Martin Place to call for uniform gun control laws in Australia. The profile of exposure in a popular television show meant that I could put that visibility and popularity to work – long before the Port Arthur massacre forced the government’s hand on the issue.

I’ve run for local government, been involved with many campaigns to protect Australian content on our screens and stages through Actor’s Equity and MEAA and recently ended a seven year stint in the Bondi Beach Public School community and P&C raising funds and getting involved in whatever was going. This will be the first year I’m won’t be sizzling sausages or parking cars on City2Surf day – I’m actually going to walk it with my cousins (probably wearing a red Labor T-shirt).

But between now and election day day I’ll be fighting Tony Abbott and telling the positive story that Labor has to tell. Because come election day so much is at stake. Even in Wentworth, a vote for Malcolm Turnbull is a vote for Tony Abbott.

Our children’s education is at stake. Labor’s National Plan for School Improvement will raise the education standards of millions of Australian children. It is representative of a Labor government that is committed to better schools for all Australian kids, and contrasts with the Coalition, for whom education funding is merely a fiscal inconvenience.

Equality and social justice are at stake. In Kevin Rudd, Australia has for the first time a prime minister who supports same-sex marriage. In Tony Abbott, Australia has a backward-looking reactionary who would turn back the clock on LGBTI rights.

Our digital economy is at stake – and this is about our future. Labor’s NBN is nation-building infrastructure. The Coalition says that our NBN is like having a Rolls Royce in every driveway, but their plan would give every home a two-stroke Victa ride-on parked at the end of the street. Mr Turnbull’s fibre to the node is very like the old joke about not going all the way and ‘getting off at Redfern’ – very unsatisfying and totally irresponsible.

The environment is at stake. Labor’s emissions trading scheme will make a difference when it comes to climate change. It has already reduced emissions, and it will help Australia lead the way in renewable energy technology. On the other hand, some Coalition MPs aren’t even convinced that climate change exists.
Despite what he would have you believe, Malcolm Turnbull is not a progressive in conservative clothing. He is not some socially liberal Trojan Horse lying in wait behind Coalition gates waiting to wreak untold havoc on poor, unprepared right-wingers.

He voted for WorkChoices. He claims to support marriage equality, yet when given the opportunity, voted against it – something I find truly disappointing as one of his constituents, so I can only imagine the frustration felt by the gay community. To top it off he champions a Coalition broadband plan that would leave millions of ordinary Australians behind.

Labor has a great story to tell. DisabilityCare, like Medicare before it, is something I am so very proud of as a Labor reform. It speaks volumes about who we are, what we stand for. Labor is and has always been the party which reaches back for the people who may get left behind. The National Broadband Network, the National Plan for School Improvement, carbon pricing, an economy that is the envy of every developed nation – these are accomplishments that any government in our nation’s history would proudly call their own.

That’s why I’m here in this apparently impossible situation. Bring it on.

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Wentworth seat report scene-setter