Greens Newtown candidate Jenny Leong stands against WestConnex

Issue 
Jenny Leong (third from left) say the Greens want to scrap WestConnex and invest in world-class public transport. Photo: JennyLe

Jenny Leong is the Greens candidate in the NSW seat of Newtown – an area often called the most progressive in the country. Green Left Weekly’s Pip Hinman spoke to her about the Greens’ platform and approach to the election.

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What are people telling you about the proposed WestConnex tollway and Labor's response?

The government wants to dump 10 lanes of traffic on the south end of King Street and spend billions on a tollway that won’t solve Sydney's transport needs.

The Greens have supported the campaign against WestConnex from the beginning. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest against plans to destroy their homes and parkland.

Labor supports the Coalition’s outdated motorway agenda. Despite [saying] it would not go ahead with Stage 3, Labor still supports billions being invested into Stage 1 and 2.

People feel as if Labor’s position on WestConnex [in which it commits to the M4 widening and M5 duplication, but without the St Peter’s interchange] is a cynical election ploy.

The Greens want to scrap WestConnex and invest in world-class public transport. We also want integrated cycleways for the west and inner-west and propose a $250 million investment in extending cycleways. We also propose $231 million to fast-track and expand the Transport Access Program for our stations.

What are the other main issues being raised with you?

People are really concerned about affordable housing and how we can keep Sydney a liveable city in the face of threats of privatisation and overdevelopment. People who live in Newtown, Redfern, Chippendale and Surry Hills love where they live, and we must not lose the diversity of these areas.

The needs of long-term renters have to be addressed. The Greens’ plan “Standing Up for Renters” is aimed at strengthening renters’ rights in NSW and giving renters more security.

If elected, I will introduce a bill to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to end “no grounds” evictions, and allow rent increases only once per year and at no more than CPI.

The electoral system largely supports the major parties and those with considerable funds. What sort of electoral reform do the Greens support?

We support an electoral funding system that creates a level playing field for candidates and does not shut out new and emerging parties, or entrench the dominance of the two-party system.

The Greens are committed to a diverse democracy where all voices are heard equally, regardless of wealth, power or inside contacts.

For more than a decade we have campaigned to rid NSW of the corrupting influence of corporate donations to political parties. Our campaigning led to the ban on donations from property developers in 2009. In 2010, we worked with the Labor government to achieve significant reductions in election spending and donations.

Our amendments in the NSW Upper House extended the list of prohibited donors to include tobacco companies and the for-profit alcohol and gambling industries.

There is more to do. Last November, the Liberals and Nationals, with the support of the NSW ALP, passed a deeply flawed law that increased the amount of public funding to parties with MPs to further boost their spending ability during this state election.

Both the old parties voted against Greens’ amendments to put further caps on spending and donations. We would maintain the ban on currently prohibited donors.

Responding to the corruption findings against former NSW Labor MPs, the Greens introduced legislation to extend the ban to include other corruption-risk industries including mining companies and private corporations seeking or holding government contracts.

Many people have lost confidence in professional "politicians". If elected, how would you be different?

The state of politics in NSW is toxic. Four years ago, a broken and arrogant NSW Labor government was kicked out and I fear we have only just begun to see the size and scale of the threat that a conservative NSW Coalition government poses.

Successive NSW governments have turned their backs on community interests, putting the interests of big business, greedy developers and polluting fossil fuel industries first.

The Greens have a long tradition of working with strong communities to achieve change. As a campaigner I understand that the power of elected representatives is only as strong as the community campaigns and actions happening outside the chamber and I am committed to building on this approach.

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