21 July 2013
My July 1 report Will there be a Battle for Bennelong asked whether the Rudd redux might cause Sam Dastyari and NSW Labor to re-categorise Bennelong as a winnable seat, allocate funds accordingly and insert a candidate with the wherewithal to win.
On July 19 the answer came with Jason Yat-sen Li‘s selection as the Labor candidate. Mr Li’s impressive credentials will hearten Labor supporters and should give cause for some concern to the John Alexander campaign team, but his high profile alone will not be enough to win the seat from the well resourced and well known member who holds it.
Maxine McKew was widely known too but her win in 2007 was founded on her using that popularity to attract a large committed support team that worked with her, over a period of months, pounding the streets of Eastwood, Epping, Ryde and Ermington.
On Saturday Eastwood’s Rowe Street Plaza was awash with blue t-shirted Alexander supporters and on Sunday Mr Alexander did a meet and greet at the Ryde netball carnival, indications that the Liberals will join the battle already well prepared, with the advantage of incumbency and hard to defeat, however effective their opponent’s campaign.
I hope to interview Mr Li to find out more about him and his plans for Bennelong. I have asked Mr. Alexander for the same privilege.
One of the several advantages of incumbency is extensive coverage in local media as the MPs go about their electoral duties. In addition to reports and photographs of his attendance at various functions, John Alexander provides opinion pieces on the performance of the federal government. His press release this week was headed ‘Federal policy hits Bennelong (An excerpt from a speech I recently gave in Parliament)’ In it he made three claims which I thought worth questioning.
- “In Bennelong over the last 5+ years of Labor Government thousands of workers have lost their jobs” A MP’s office is able to access electorate specific statistics more readily than I can but in an area where the total number of unemployed would not exceed 5000, I would be surprised if “thousands have lost their jobs” under Labor was not hyperbolic.
- “According to the most recent ABS data over 3,000 small businesses in Bennelong have closed their doors each year under this government”. Mr Alexander has been good enough to confirm to me that 12,764 small businesses closed between June 2007 and June 2011 which justifies the claim. However the press release goes on to blame the government’s “great big tax, more regulation and broken promises for the closures”. Would it therefore have been fairer to also have taken into account the number of businesses which had opened over the same period and to quote the net gain/loss rather than only one side of the equation?
- “In Bennelong alone there were 15 school halls built that never taught one child one thing but had an average cost to taxpayers of $2million per building.” Again this is no doubt literally true but is Mr. Alexander seriously suggesting that the pupils at the 15 schools concerned received no benefit from these BER investments? Would the principals, teachers and parents agree with him?
On Friday 19 July, I raised these queries with Mr Alexander’s office and will advise you of the response.
In conclusion I also report that Julie Worsley for the Fred Nile Christian Democratic Party, and Robert Marks for the Palmer United Party will also be joining the battle for Bennelong.
More Reports from Bennelong