BY ALLISON HORE
Public transport is driving the debate in Heffron in the lead up to the state election on 23 March.
The Heffron electorate encompasses suburbs in Sydney’s inner south from Redfern and Waterloo to Kensington and Tempe.
Since the seat was established in 1973, it has been held by the Labor Party. In the last State election, Labor won 44% of the primary vote, followed by Liberal with 29% and the Greens with 21%.
Newcomer Alexander Andruska will run for the Liberal Party this year. He works in finance, and was previously financial controller for Skyfii and an accountant for Tom Waterhouse.
“I believe it’s time for change in Heffron and I will campaign tirelessly for that change,” Mr Andruska told City Hub.
“The Labor member has grown complacent. I’ve been talking to the people of Heffron who tell me they are sick of being ignored.”
Need to protect green space
Greens candidate Kym Chapple agrees.
“The thing with safe seats, no matter who holds them, is that it’s easy to take them for granted,” she says.
Ms Chapple is also a newcomer in the Heffron race. She describes herself as a lawyer, activist and policy professional with extensive campaign experience. She is passionate about the need to protect green space within the electorate.
She decided to run because she has been politically involved for a long time and wanted to see more representation of women in the NSW parliament.
“Heffron is not necessarily a seat that the Greens are likely to win, but I feel that representation is really important. There just are more male candidates.”
Mr Andruska says that should he be elected, he will work to deliver more public transport to the area and will push for an acceleration of the investigation into the extension of the Light Rail project further down Anzac Parade.
“Out door knocking, I’ve found the people of Heffron are most concerned about cost of living pressures and access to reliable public transport,” he explains.
With 37% of people in Heffron using public transport for their daily commute, according to the 2016 census, it’s no surprise that it’s a key concern.
Ms Chapple echoes Mr Andruska’s concerns about public transport, saying that the buses and trains “desperately” need to be upgraded. But she doesn’t think the Liberal government’s push for privatisation is the answer.
“There’s an ongoing pattern of privatisation of infrastructure projects which Labor and Liberal have both been part of,” she says.
“I think Heffron is a really good case study because we’ve got WestConnex on one side … and then on the other side we’ve got the light rail.”
Ron Hoenig has been the member for Heffron since former Premier Kristina Keneally stepped down in 2012 and he won the resulting by-election.
He says that in this time he has got funding for a new school in Alexandria Park, secured funding for public housing and delivered reforms to change the business model of exploitative boarding houses, which he says were “rampant”.
In regards to public transport, Hoenig told City Hub, “the problems of transport and development really are at crisis point.
“The Liberals introduced a new bus timetable in December of last year, and it’s largely been a disaster. We need to go back to square one, work out a new timetable, in consultation with the community, and see what a proper timetable looks like.”
He also says that it was at his insistence that Labor has committed to a judicial inquiry into the light rail and WestConnex should they win the next election.
The electorate is changing
Although Heffron is a safe Labor seat, Ms Chapple says the electorate has changed a lot since the 2015 election.
“The electorate going to the polls in March is very different to the one that went to the polls in 2015. It’s grown by 50%,” she says.
“The people we’ve been speaking to are very receptive to what we’ve been talking about, and they care about climate change.”
In the northern part of the electorate, the Greens have strong support, but this has historically been much weaker in the Bayside and Randwick council areas.
Asked whether he was confident of his chances of winning another election, Mr Hoenig said that he takes his responsibility as a representative seriously, and for him it isn’t about winning or losing elections.
“I have been accessible to every corner of the electorate, I have helped thousands of people, I care deeply about all of my constituents, and I live here. Most of my opponents don’t even live here,” he says.
“The people of the electorate of Heffron will make their judgment on who they want representing them and I am comfortable in submitting my name for their judgment.”