BY ALLISON HORE
With less than a month until the state election, the race for the seat of Maroubra is reaching its final leg.
Labor has held the seat of Maroubra since the electorate’s inception in 1950, making it a very safe seat for the party.
Labor’s margin was broadened from 1.6% to 2.3% after a change in the electorate, when Coogee was lost to the seat of Coogee and Daceyville was gained from the seat of Heffron.
The district of Maroubra is in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. It covers the Randwick and Botany Bay local government areas, including the suburbs of Botany, Banksmeadow, Daceyville, La Perouse, Chifley, Malabar, Matraville and Maroubra.
Since 2005, the seat has been held by Michael Daley, who was a local councillor at the time of his election. After Luke Foley stepped down following sexual assault allegations from an ABC journalist, Mr Daley took leadership of the party.
Mr Daley was born and raised in Maroubra. His parents, brothers, sisters and their respective families all still reside there. Before going into politics, Mr Daley worked as a customs officer before completing his degree in legal studies and being admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW.
The future of Port Botany’s Yarra Bay and Molineaux Point will be on people’s minds come polling day. The Berejiklian government’s plan to build a permanent cruise ship terminal on the site was met with a backlash from the community.
The terminal would accommodate up to two mega cruise ships with a capacity of around 5,000 people.
“If Yarra Bay was spoilt or lost altogether, its current users would move to our other, already crowded beaches,” says community group Save Yarra Bay on its website.
“It makes no sense in such a fast-growing city as Sydney to sacrifice a precious recreational asset like this beautiful beach.”
Mr Daley does not support the government’s proposition, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that “Sharing Garden Island occasionally is the best option for everyone”.
“We will have no cruise ship terminal in Yarra Bay. It will destroy the environment – the last remaining beach on the northern side of Botany Bay.”
Liberal candidate for Maroubra, the ultra-marathon runner Pat Farmer, told the Daily Telegraph he also thinks the state government should rule out building a cruise ship terminal in Yarra Bay and instead turn the area into a national park.
He thinks the logistics of the project make it too difficult to go through with.
“For one, they would have to put in another breakwall … and if they do that it would run into the port’s shipping lanes,” he said.
“Everybody’s hit the panic button but there’s no way in the world from an engineering point of view it could ever happen… The best way to put the concern to bed is to turn it into a national park. That way, nobody can touch it.”
Mr Farmer is a veteran candidate for the Liberal party.
From 2001, he held the seat of Macarthur in the Australian House of Representatives before losing the preselection for the seat in 2010 following his controversial move to Mosman and retirement from politics.
In the last state election, he returned to the Liberal party, running unsuccessfully for the seat of Macquarie Fields.
Despite not being a local to the area and Maroubra being a safe Labor seat, Mr Farmer feels good about his chances.
“For far too long the area has been taken for granted,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“When I was asked to run, I said I will be a ‘small l’ Liberal and a big people person.”
And with the Liberal party taking shots against the incumbent for undisclosed developer donations during his time as councillor, perhaps he has reason to feel confident with the state election less than four weeks away.
“Serious questions” to answer
In the 2015 election the Liberal party managed to take out 35% of the primary vote, which rose to 39% on a two-party preferred basis.
It was reported that during his time at Randwick City Council between 1995 and 2008, Mr Daley did not declare a conflict of interest in at least three cases. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said he had some “serious questions” to answer.
But these allegations have always been denied by Mr Daley.
“In my 23 years in public life, I have always acted with integrity and propriety,” he said in a statement to SBS News.
“As a Randwick councillor, I moved to strengthen rules regarding assessment of development applications more than a decade before it became law in NSW. I was opposed by the Liberals.”
With such good numbers supporting him, and a big dose of self-confidence, Mr Daley may well be heading for a political victory on 23 March.