People who were not born in Australia will feature significantly in the lead-up to the September 14 election, and this means there are plenty of traps for two of them, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.
The expeditions into western Sydney by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader this week have been accompanied by mention of the wide ethnic spread in the local demographics. But there was a key difference in how the two handled the issue.
“This is the most socially and ethnically diverse region in the nation, in a century when we must know the languages and cultures of our customers and competitors like never before,” the Prime Minister said on Sunday.
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With the cost of living continuing to spiral out of control you have to ask who has the guts at the Federal level to tackle the issue.
We all know that Julia is in Western Sydney this week, but we have to ask if she will feel the full impact of the cost of living pressure faced by families across western Sydney every day. Living in a hotel is a luxury that many western Sydney families simply can’t afford. And living in a hotel room means that Julia doesn’t have to experience the full pain that those in Western Sydney endure when they travel hundreds of kilometres each week traversing the traffic nightmare that Sydney has become.
Julia won’t have to pay for the tolls out of her pocket when travelling on the motorways in western Sydney. And what about the electricity, water or gas bills and other household expenses which families in western Sydney and across Australia have to deal with?
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A recent poll found that one in four Australians thought Tony Abbott would be well cast as the villain in a James Bond film.
When told about that during a recent interview with the Herald Sun, Abbott gave one of his trademark hearty laughs and quipped: “I’m just disappointed that no one saw my resemblance to Daniel Craig.”
One of the strategic election battles in the countdown to September 14 is about framing Abbott’s public image. Many voters may have made up their mind about Julia Gillard, but are still deciding about the Opposition Leader.
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Labor isn’t just afraid of losing valuable political real estate in western Sydney. It also fears the loss of a generation of its best talent.
The casualty list of a Labor wipe-out in Sydney’s west would include the names of some MPs credited with the potential to become Prime Minister.
They include Environment Minister Tony Burke (Watson), Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen (McMahon), Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare (Blaxland) and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury (Lindsay).
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The Gillard Government is facing an election wipeout in western Sydney that will rival the routing that was delivered to NSW Labor in 2011.
Voters know it, the Labor MPs who will lose their seats know it, and the Prime Minister herself surely knows it. But it’s unlikely that too many in the top levels of the Gillard Government have a firm grasp on the true horrors that await Labor on September 14.
Senior Labor MPs are now talking about secret union polling over the past month that reveals the seat of Lindsay could return a swing against Labor of more than 20 per cent - which would set a Federal election record.
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Whatever strange detours this coming eight-month election campaign will take we can be confident that all political roads trudged by the two major parties will pass through western Sydney. And get used to hearing “battleground” associated with any bit of Sydney dirt from Parramatta outwards.
“What you can expect,” said Tasmanian-based Liberal Senate leader Eric Abetz yesterday, neatly wrapping up the two certainties, “is Tony Abbott moving amongst people in areas such as western Sydney which is the key battleground for this election.”
Julia Gillard and crew won’t be strangers in that area, either.
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There aren’t many social ills as badly misunderstood as homelessness.
Several years ago Mission Australia conducted a survey which asked Australians to estimate the number of homeless people on any one night.
Over half believed the figure was less than 10,000. The true number is closer to 90,000. But perhaps the reason people so underestimate the problem is because increasingly homelessness is not about a man sleeping rough on an inner city park bench, but more likely to be a family in the suburbs.
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There’s no doubt that tackling the escalating cost of living is central to keeping the all-important voters of Western Sydney happy. Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world and that privilege shouldn’t come with an expensive price tag, especially for Western Sydney.
We need to make Sydney a place that’s once again affordable for all Sydneysiders. That’s the challenge for both the State and Federal Government. Any failure in this regard may spell disaster at election time for the Government of the day.
After years of neglect and poor planning decisions it’s clear that Sydney has lost some of its gloss and Sydney voters don’t like that. Sydney has become just too expensive for all those struggling Aussie families out there in voterland.
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As a relative newcomer to Sydney, I’ve discovered a phrase I almost never heard mentioned before I moved here: “Western Sydney”. As someone who lives in the Eastern Suburbs, the Western Suburbs aren’t really on my radar. I have little need to go out there.
I did, however, discover some new information about Western Sydney last weekend. Its new AFL team, the Giants, took the field against the Sydney Swans’ second XI. The hapless Giants kicked three goals and got smashed by over 100 points.
Wow. Furthermore, according to ABC’s Offsiders program, the NSW Government spent $45 million redeveloping a stadium which will play host to the team.
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It’s not entirely clear when the political momentum to consider allowing gay marriage in Australia suddenly became so noticeable. The Greens certainly helped pushed it along in Canberra with its Bill to compel MPs to consult their constituents on the topic over the summer break.
But for an issue that really doesn’t have the slightest impact on the vast majority of the population, the tide does seem to be heading in a direction that could leave the two major political parties stuck on a sandbar somewhere wondering how to get off. Maybe its a sign things are travelling better than we thought, what with everyone having time to think about a social issue beyond their hip pockets.
According to a huge poll reported on News.com.au this morning, two thirds of Australians have no problem with gay marriage. Of the 150,000 people who took part nationally, 46 per cent were in favour, 35 per cent were opposed and 19 per cent couldn’t care either way. This is good news for the gay marriage lobby, but there’s a big catch.
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“The voters always get it right” was a regular refrain of former prime minister John Howard. He used it to bat away suggestions that election results could somehow be accidental, such as federal Labor’s victory in the 1993 Fightback! election, his own re-election with less than half the popular vote in 1998 when promising to introduce a GST, or the unexpected defeat of the Kennett Government in Victoria in 1999.
One of Howard’s strengths as a politician was his innate respect for the collective wisdom of the voters. It’s the primary reason he didn’t get bent out of shape by defeat in 2007, both at a general election and in his own seat, and helps explain why he’s provided none of the embittered theatrics and revisionist commentary of other past PMs.
Australian voters are not only smart, they’re often smarter than people such as us who write about politics. Writing about politics, especially amid the stage-management of an election campaign, is a bit like pressing your face up against a tapestry. You can become so immersed in the minutiae that you lose a sense of context and fail to appreciate the broader issues which are exercising the public mind.
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Cross-code recruiting of footballers seems to be the new fad in Australian sport.
If sought-after players can run, leap, mark a ball, evade opponents and draw big crowds, they are hot property on the footy code market.If these players show a wiff of interest in switching codes to earn the big bucks, they could be snapped up by emerging teams.
With the Aussie sporting landscape changing, thanks to new AFL teams Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) plus rugby union team Melbourne Rebels, it seems anything goes.
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Flush with cash, the AFL is heaping shovel-loads into its new western Sydney venture, conveniently ignoring its more important community role in encouraging young people, and especially girls, to get more active.
In its most direct attack yet on Rugby League, the AFL has cracked open the war chest, backing it with legendary player and coach Kevin Sheedy and even sabre-rattling suggestions of high profile poaching of top local NRL players like Jarryd Hayne.
But it is worth considering two less reported issues from only days before the latest flurry of AFL promotion: the NSW Government’s latest investment in preventative health and new research that highlighted a shocking plunge in activity rates among young girls as they approach their teenage years.
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The Harbour City is abuzz with excitement today at news that Kevin, um, Spacey has agreed to be the foundation coach of the AFL’s Western Sydney team.
The star of such films as American Beauty and The Usual Suspects, Spacey – no, hang on, it’s not him, it’s another Kevin. Some bloke called Kevin Sheedy.
Used to play for the Tigers – no, not Balmain, the Richmond Tigers, and he coached a bit for a team called Essendon. Apparently he’s quite the deal down there in Melbourne.
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As the AFL basks in the afterglow of another sensational season, capped by a grand final that will stand forever as a contest for the ages, its arch-rivals at the NRL are dealing with a different set of circumstances which every sporting administrator, marketing analyst and media commentator failed to forecast.
And it’s this - league’s not dead after all. Not even close. League’s going gangbusters. Somehow, the year which was hailed as the death-knell for league has somehow turned into one of its best on record. Even the NRL didn’t see it coming.
The resurgence has been led out of its western Sydney powerbase, crowned with a qualifying final last Friday between heartland clubs the Parramatta Eels and the Canterbury Bulldogs, which in terms of crowd attendance, TV ratings, and the intensity and passion with which it was played, was every bit as good as Saturday’s Cats-Saints blockbuster.
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If anyone else had said it they would have been laughed off the stage – but if you’re Australian football’s philosopher king, you can get away with a bit of bombastic overstatement.
So it was that Kevin Sheedy, coach of the Essendon Football Club for a record 635 games over 27 consecutive years, declared that the AFL’s proposed creation of a new western Sydney team by 2012 was the sporting equivalent of the construction of the Sydney Opera House.
“When you look at the Sydney Opera House people said it would never happen,” Sheedy said. “What we’re about to do out here may come to be regarded in the same way as the Sydney Opera House now is.”
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