By Mariana Podesta-Diverio
The electoral race for the state seat of Newtown is coming to a head with campaigners from Labor and the Greens taking to the streets.
This will be the first election for the seat, which was formed after the Marrickville electorate was divided into Newtown and Summer Hill in 2013.
The Liberal Party have not been serious contenders for the seat as it’s considered one of the most progressive electorates in the State and includes Lewisham, Petersham, Stanmore, and parts of Dulwich Hill.
The current member, longstanding Labor Party veteran Carmel Tebbut, announced her retirement in 2013 making way for a leadership change
Although the former seat of Marrickville was traditionally a Labor stronghold, it looks like the election will be a close race between Greens contender Jenny Leong and Labor Candidate Penny Sharpe.
Jenny Leong, who has been an active member of the Greens for over 10 years, won the Greens preselection for the Newtown candidacy against Fiona Byrne in February 2014. Ms Leong’s campaign history includes working as the Federal Election Campaign Coordinator for the NSW Greens last year.
Ms Leong said that one of the exciting things in the seat of Newtown is that it’s made up of a community with strong progressive values.
“There are issues that are local to the seat of Newtown and are important to the community, but there are also bigger issues that people living in Newtown care about,” Ms Leong said. “We have the opportunity to reshape the state of politics in NSW after so many years of toxic and corrupt behaviour. “
Ms Leong pointed to the issue of sniffer dog searches in places like Redfern train station as a concern for community wellbeing.
“At Redfern station you are six and a half times more likely to be searched by a sniffer dog, but they’re much less likely to find something in their searches,” Ms Leong said.
“You have to ask why Redfern has such a big drug-dog presence. We are committed to ending the NSW Police Drug Dog program. It’s not effective and it doesn’t work.”
“I’ve seen the impact that police powers without oversight, or used for a political agenda, can have on people’s human rights and civil liberties,” she said.
Penny Sharpe currently the Shadow Minister for Transport said that she spent last year talking to locals across Newtown to develop the Newtown Community Plan.
“There are 36 key actions within the plan,” Ms Sharpe said. “But schools, transport, health, affordable housing, domestic violence, pressure from ove-rdevelopment and the lack of services like childcare are the issues most frequently raised.”
Ms Sharpe, who is openly gay, also said that supporting the young LGBTI community of Newtown is a personal priority.
“I want every LGBTI young person in Newtown to be treated equally before the law,” Ms Sharpe said. “I want them to be able to be the fantastic person that they are – at home, on the street, at school and at work. I want them to have access to the programs and support they need to achieve this.”
This is at odds with NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who has does not support same-sex marriage. Ms Sharpe has defended Foley’s uncertainty regarding the issue.
Polling for the state seat of Newtown will take place on Saturday 28th March.