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Vaucluse candidates’ top priorities – community, planning, justice

Anne Susskind
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Published: 10 March 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The Liberal, Labor and Greens candidates discuss their policy goals, political backgrounds and involvement in the electorate in a Q&A with ANNE SUSSKIND.

As the NSW state election looms, the Vaucluse political juggling game is hotting up. What was once a done deal for the Liberal Party feels a bit more fragile, with the surprising ascension of a Teal federally in Wentworth last year, and climate change anxiety remaining top of mind for everyone. As well, the conservatives’ fears of a radical Labor government under Anthony Albanese have not materialised.

Corflutes are everywhere in this most affluent of electorates as it searches its conscience, enjoying its privileges but also, in its more altruistic moments, comprehending the responsibility such privilege brings and trying to make its children one step better, more generous, kinder.

They are also more environmentally aware in a seat where Greens candidate Dominic WY Kanak points out his party has been runner-up in the past four elections.

The Jewish Independent Media published a lengthy profile on independent candidate Karen Freyer and asked for an interview with Liberal candidate Kellie Sloane, whose party has held the seat for generations. Sloane's office declined, saying it would like to respond in writing to written questions. In turn, the Q&A format will be extended to the other main candidates.

While this seat may be something of a weathervane about the national mood, the practicalities of a state election may also play a role. Preferences are not compulsory and could be the deciding factor if, as expected, the other three main candidates preference each other. The numbers are complex. But a close study might bring a “shiver down the spine” of the Liberals, says one political insider, who claims it would only take a 15% drop in the Liberal primary vote to see a “change of colour” in the electorate.  

The Jewish Independent

KELLIE SLOANE, LIBS

Do you have a message for the Jewish community in Vaucluse?

I am a member of the Liberal Friends of Israel and stand with the Jewish community against antisemitism. I will continue to stand up for the rights and the safety of this community and would like to offer my thanks for the support the community has shown me during this campaign.

Are you confident of winning the seat?

I am taking nothing for granted and have been working very hard to engage with the Vaucluse community. This electorate needs a hard-working, effective local member who will be a strong advocate for our community’s needs in government.

What is your top priority?

Community! Everything comes back to this. How can I help build stronger local communities? How can I ensure the needs of our diverse community are met? How can I ensure our community feels safe and respected? When looking at any policy issue, I will always start with the question, “How does this impact on our community” and what can I do to improve outcomes?

What are your other goals?

We are facing challenging economic times, with cost of living the main concerns I have been hearing about from the local community. At a local level I will be a strong voice for the delivery of local infrastructure, and continuing Gabrielle Upton’s work to deliver transport, services and stand up against inappropriate development. I also want to protect our unique built and natural environment to preserve the local character.

Why did you decide to go into politics?

It feels like a natural extension of the work I have been doing over the past eight years as CEO of Life Education Australia (children’s education NGO). I want to extend that advocacy work to all areas of our community, whether it be to small business, to the elderly or to community and faith-based institutions.

Earlier in my career I was a TV journalist, so I am a trained listener, I am curious, and I love people! I will enjoy hearing about people’s concerns and priorities and giving those issues a voice at the table.

Do you know the local area well? Where do you live, and when did you move here?

Our family moved to the eastern suburbs nine years ago. This is home! It’s where our boys have grown up and go to school, where we are active in local sporting clubs and community groups, and where we have wonderful friends and family. I can’t think of a more beautiful and special part of Sydney.

Are you confident the Libs will win the election?

This will be a very tightly-contested election, so everyone’s vote matters. Our community faces a choice between the Perrottet government, with a strong economic record that has allowed it to invest in key infrastructure, frontline services and community amenities - and anyone else that could force families and businesses to face an even more difficult and uncertain economic future.

The Jewish Independent

MARGARET MERTEN, ALP

Do you have a message for the Jewish community in Vaucluse?

I will never wear a Nazi uniform and have a passionate personal commitment to history and how serious it is for everyone to understand and know about the Holocaust so it can never happen again. This is particularly important right now, given the alarming rise in antisemitic behaviour reported in many of our Vaucluse high schools. 

How do you think you will fare in the election?

It's great to see a field of strong female candidates. While the seat has been held for 83 years by the State Liberal/Nationals, I feel there's a mood for change. It was great to see in federal election that the Wentworth community decided to change representation. There's a sense that the country is heading in the right direction.

What is your top priority?

The need for better planning laws to manage the overdevelopment that is rife throughout our beautiful area. The need for strong and urgent action on climate change and the absolutely urgent need to save our biodiversity such as koalas. Better health services, roads, education, aged care, restoring public integrity via an independently funded ICAC. There's a lot to do. 

What are your other goals?

I am committed to practical ideas to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Things that people can do themselves without huge financial outlays but that together really add up. I'd like to see getting solar cells onto apartment roofs made easier; more public EV chargers as many Australians are planning to make their next car electric but need the infrastructure to support this change.

Why did you go into politics?

I had to stop yelling at the TV and do something. The defining moment was when Gladys Berejiklian told us that she believed there was little wrong with pork barrelling. I just couldn't get past that. The recent example that was uncovered of John Barilaro playing favourites with bushfire recovery grants further cemented why we need a fresh start for NSW under a Labor government.

Do you know the local area well? Where do you live, and when did you move here?

I have deep family roots in Waverley. My great grandfather was the Minister for Agriculture and Land in the first NSW State Labor Government in 1910. I have lived in Bondi for nearly 30 years and was lucky enough to buy a flat very near the beach many years ago. My mother, who is 87, has just moved in next door to me and is loving rediscovering the landscape of her youth.

The Jewish Independent

DOMINIC WY KANAK, Greens

Do you have a message for the Jewish community in Vaucluse? 

As an Indigenous person, I share a history of intergenerational trauma and historic human rights struggles with the Jewish community. As a local politician, I am committed to peace, social and economic justice and join with the Jewish community in sharing environmental protection action plans against accelerated climate change threatening our common future.

How do you think you will fare in the election? 

For the last four elections, the Greens have been the runner-up in Vaucluse, each time narrowing the margin. I’m working to make Vaucluse a marginal seat so it’s not taken for granted.

What is your top priority?

Justice. Justice for First Nations Peoples through a Truth, Treaty, Voice process based on words from the Statement from The Heart. Justice is addressing the need for affordable and secure housing, for the impacts of climate change and for ending discrimination against all people. Preventing the ongoing deaths of First Nations Peoples in custody is within the power of the NSW government.

What are your other goals? 

I hope our community will vote for a sustainable future for all of us. The Greens are asking Vaucluse voters to support decisive policies against any further planning and approval of coal and gas projects such as the proposed "PEP 11", which would affect the seabed off Bondi Beach. More affordable housing and support for renters’ rights are vital. Food security is important with our over-dependence on fragile supply chains and excess CO2 emissions from transport. We need locally-based food production and green-transitioning manufacturing.

Why did you go into politics? 

I’ve been politically active from my teen years, meeting Australia's first Aboriginal politician, Uncle Senator Neville Bonner, who inspired my interest in citizenship and democracy. I was attracted by the Greens' four pillars of justice, peace, eco-sustainability and grassroots democracy and stood for the Greens in the 1999 NSW Election and then was elected to Waverley Council later that year.

Do you know the local area well? Where do you live, and when did you move here? 

I have lived around the Eastern Suburbs from the mid-1980s and in Bondi since 1999.

As a local councillor, I am familiar with our local area and have engaged with residents on broader NSW and federal government matters. One of my proudest moments was stopping the privatisation of Bondi Pavilion. Right now, South Head (Sydney Harbour National Park) is under threat of commercialisation and the alienation of public space.

KAREN FREYER INTERVIEW: Independent senses an ‘appetite for change’ in Vaucluse

Photo: Kellie Sloane, top, Margaret Merten and Dominic WY Kanak

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