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NSW Election Newsletter
Issue 2, 9 March 2015
 
With the Government entering caretaker mode last Friday, the NSW election campaign has lifted a notch with a second leaders’ debate, personalised buses heading to the regions, larger-scale announcements, and of course regular leafleting at Sydney train stations.
 
Over the weekend, Premier Mike Baird lifted his defence against Labor’s criticism of his electricity assets privatisation plan, announcing that a re-elected Coalition Government will appoint former ACCC chair Allan Fels as Electricity Price Commissioner to sign off on future transactions and ensure that privatisation will not increase electricity prices.  Premier Baird also announced that companies bidding for the state’s ‘poles and wires’ would need to sign an agreement stating that prices would be lower in 2019 than in 2014.
 
While electricity privatisation is the ultimate point of difference between the two parties, a new battle ground has opened up on coal seam gas (CSG).  The Coalition sought to neutralise Labor’s pledge to impose a moratorium on CSG activity across NSW this week by announcing the cancellation of a third CSG exploration licence covering much of metropolitan Sydney.  Meanwhile, Luke Foley, seeking to strengthen Labor’s campaign for the Nationals-held seats of Tweed, Lismore and Ballina, announced Labor would implement a permanent ban on CSG in the Northern Rivers region.
 
Elsewhere this week the Government responded to the inquiry into political donations reform, led by businesswoman Kerry Schott, accepting in principle 49 of the 50 recommendations, which if implemented would see donations appear online in real time in the months preceding an election.
 
In other developments, the Coalition announced new law and order commitments, including police station upgrades, and Premier Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian today announced a $100 million upgrade to Parramatta River ferry services, although acknowledged that additional ferry services would be several years away.  Labor meanwhile pledged an additional 500 paramedics at a cost of $46.6 million over two years, and flagged changes to stamp duty for first home buyers by allowing payments in instalments over five years.
 
While a notable absence during the Queensland election campaign, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared with Premier Baird in Sydney on Sunday.
 
The weekend finished with the second leaders’ debate, held at the University of Western Sydney, with a mixed verdict on the outcome.  The live audience of undecided voters awarded the debate to Premier Mike Baird while a poll undertaken by debate hosts, the Seven Network, favoured Opposition Leader Luke Foley.
 
With writs officially issued by Governor David Hurley on Saturday to direct the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election, the first official week of the campaign is now underway.


POWER POLITICS

The last NSW Coalition leader to try to sell off electricity assets was Kerry Chikarovski. The former NSW Opposition Leader went to the 1999 election offering voters an $1100 dividend on the sale of the state’s electricity system and lost.  The last Coalition Premier to take power privatisation to an election was Campbell Newman.  We know how that ended.
 
Power privatisation was not the only, or even the main cause of these defeats, but it undoubtedly played a part.  Privatisation has never been popular with voters, so Premier Mike Baird is taking a risk going to an election with a promise to sell off – or enter into a long-term lease - 49% of the state’s electricity transmission and distribution network.  Governments have been privatising assets and services for years and been returned at the subsequent election, but it is quite another thing to make it the centrepiece of your party’s policy platform and seek a mandate for privatisation at an election.
 
What may make the partial privatisation more acceptable to voters is that the estimated $20 billion sale proceeds will be spent on new infrastructure, rather than paying off debt.  But voters appear unconvinced.   A recent Fairfax-IPSOS poll showed only 23% support power privatisation, down from 29% in November, while 47% support the sale even where the proceeds are used on infrastructure, a fall of 8 points since November.  The business community on the other hand is squarely behind the Premier’s plan and there is a sentiment that this should have happened years ago with Labor having tried unsuccessfully to privatise electricity assets several times, eventually settling for the sale of energy retailers and gentrader contracts.
 
If the Coalition Government is returned it still faces the task of getting the sale through Parliament’s Upper House, where it will need 22 votes in the 42 seat chamber.  The Coalition currently has 19 seats, while the opponents of the sell off - Labor, The Greens and the Shooters and Fishers - collectively have 21.  Only the two Christian Democrats have indicated they are prepared to negotiate on the issue.  The Government will be praying the Christian Democrats retain their two seats at the election and that the Coalition can win an extra seat to help get its key election platform over the line.


SEATS TO WATCH - Inner Sydney

Balmain
 
The electorate of Balmain is located in Sydney’s inner west and is centred on the Balmain peninsular, covering the whole of the Leichhardt Council area.  The 2013 redistribution saw Balmain lose the more conservative voting suburbs of Haberfield and Dobroyd Point and gain the suburb of Ultimo.
 
Balmain was represented continuously by Labor from 1927 until the Party lost the seat in 1988 to former Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser who ran as an Independent.  It was then abolished in 1991, becoming Port Jackson, before returning at the 2008 election, where it was won by Labor’s Verity Firth.  After a statewide collapse in Labor’s primary vote at the 2011 poll, the seat fell to Jamie Parker from the Greens.
 
The Greens hold the seat with a five percent margin over the Liberal Party.  However, with the Liberals likely to place third at this election, the assumed Labor-Green’s margin sits at only 0.4 percent making it one of the most marginal seats in the state.
 
Jamie Parker became the first member of the Greens to serve in the Legislative Assembly when elected in 2011.  He is a former Mayor of Leichhardt Council and served on the Council from 1999 to 2012.  Former Labor member Verity Firth is seeking to regain the seat she lost in 2011.  Firth was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2008 and was immediately appointed to Cabinet as Minister for Women, Minister for Science and Medical Research.  She later served as Minister for Environment and Climate Change and was Minister for Education in the lead-u to the 2011 election.
 
Current candidates
 
  • Jamie Parker (Greens)
  • Verity Firth (Labor)
  • Lyndon Gannon (Liberal)
 
For more information see the NSW Electoral Commission and the ABC.
 
Newtown
 
Newtown is a newly created electorate from the 2013 redistribution and includes parts of former districts Heffron, Marrickville and Sydney.  It lies at the southern edge of the CBD and includes the suburbs of Surry Hills, Redfern, Newtown and Petersham among others.  It is notionally a safe Labor seat with a margin of 4.4 percent in two-party-preferred terms against the Greens.
 
At just 10.3 square kilometres, Newtown is the state’s smallest and most densely populated electorate.  It has the highest rates of public transport use, the highest incidence of people identifying as having no religion, and includes a large gay and lesbian community.
 
Labor’s candidate is Shadow Minister for Transport Penny Sharpe (profiled below), who has resigned from Parliament’s Legislative Council to contest the seat.  The Greens candidate for the seat is Jenny Leong, a human rights campaigner for Amnesty International.
 
Current candidates:
 
  • Jenny Leong (Greens)
  • Penny Sharpe (Labor)
  • Rachael Wheldall (Liberal)
 
For more information see the NSW Electoral Commission and the ABC.
 
Sydney
 
The seat of Sydney is based on the CBD and surrounding suburbs, including Pyrmont, Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo, Kings Cross and Paddington.  The seat was only created at the 2008 election, after the abolition of the seat of Bligh on which it is largely based.  Increasing population density has resulted in Sydney continuing to shrink in size at the 2013 redistribution.
 
The current member is Independent Alex Greenwich who was elected at an October 2012 by-election, following the resignation of Clover Moore after changes to the Local Government Act adopted by the O’Farrell Government prevented Moore from continuing to serve simultaneously as both Sydney Lord Mayor and the State Member for Sydney.  Greenwich secured 63.5 percent of the two-party-preferred vote in that election, placing ahead of the Liberal candidate.
 
Current candidates:
 
  • Alex Greenwich (Independent)
  • Edwina Lloyd (Labor)
  • Patrice Pandeleos (Liberal)
  • Chris Brentin (Greens)
 
For more information see the NSW Electoral Commission and the ABC.


BIOGRAPHIES - The Transport Portfolio
The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP
Deputy Leader of the NSW Liberal Party
Minister for Transport
Minister for the Hunter
Member for Willoughby (NSW)
Member of the Legislative Assembly
Liberal Party of Australia
 
Gladys Berejiklian was elected Deputy Leader of the NSW Liberal Party following Premier Barry O’Farrell’s surprise resignation in April 2014.
 
Berejiklian was first elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the Member for Willoughby in 2003.  She joined the Coalition frontbench in 2005, and became Shadow Minister for Transport in 2006.  As Transport Minister since 2011, she has been responsible for restructuring public transport in NSW, including the overhaul of rail services administration and the amalgamation of transport agencies.  Berejiklian has also led the Government’s efforts on key projects such as the North West Rail Link, Inner West Light Rail Extension, and the roll-out of the Opal electronic ticketing system.
 
Prior to politics, in 1991 while still at university, Berejiklian began working in the office of then NSW Attorney General (and later Treasurer), Peter Collins.  After the NSW Coalition lost the 1995 election, she worked as an adviser to Opposition Leader Peter Collins, and Federal Senator Helen Coonan.  She later joined the Commonwealth Bank, where she became National General Manager in charge of the bank’s youth market.
 
Ms Berejiklian joined the Liberal Party in 1991.  She was President of the NSW Young Liberals and is one of only four female NSW Young Liberal Presidents in the Party's history.
 
Berejiklian has a Master of Commerce from the University of NSW, and has completed studies in Government and Public Administration (B.A.) from the University of Sydney.
The Hon. Penny Sharpe
Shadow Minister for Transport
Candidate for Newtown
Australian Labor Party
 
Penny Sharpe first became a member of the NSW Legislative Council in 2005, following the decision of then Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt to move to the Lower House.  Sharpe is currently the Shadow Minister for Transport and has resigned from her upper house position to contest the newly created seat of Newtown at the March election.  Sharpe is an advocate for the rights of same-sex couples and their families, as the first openly lesbian woman to serve in the NSW Parliament.
 
Sharpe gained her first parliamentary appointment in 2007, as Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Minister for Energy, and the Minister for Mineral Resources.  She then served as Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Minister for Transport, and the Minister for Roads, until Labor’s loss at the 2011 election.
 
Sharpe was born in Canberra, before moving to Sydney to study Food Technology at the University of NSW.  She joined the Australian Labor Party and student politics during her time at university, and became President of the National Union of Students in Melbourne.
 
Prior to entering Parliament, Sharpe worked in a variety of professions, including as a developer of training materials to aid workers in the public transport industry, and then in vocational training and education services with a focus on giving young people workplace experience while still attending school.  She also worked as a policy advisor in State government in the areas of youth, juvenile justice, community development and support, social justice, homelessness, and vocational education and training.  From 2004-2008, she was a Councillor on Marrickville Council.
 
Sharpe lives in Sydney’s inner west with her partner and their three children.
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