The battle joined in Bennelong: @preciouspress reports

Jason Yat Sen Li

Jason Yat Sen Li


By Jack Sumner (@preciouspress)

21 July 2013

My July 1 report Will there be a Battle for Bennelong  asked whether the Rudd redux might cause Sam Dastyari and NSW Labor to re-categorise Bennelong as a winnable seat, allocate funds accordingly and insert a candidate with the wherewithal to win.

On July 19 the answer came with Jason Yat-sen Li‘s selection as the Labor candidate. Mr Li’s impressive credentials will hearten Labor supporters and should give cause for some concern to the John Alexander campaign team, but his high profile alone will not be enough to win the seat from the well resourced and well known member who holds it.

Maxine McKew was widely known too but her win in 2007 was founded on her using that popularity to attract a large committed support team that worked with her, over a period of months, pounding the streets of Eastwood, Epping, Ryde and Ermington.

On Saturday Eastwood’s Rowe Street Plaza was awash with blue t-shirted Alexander supporters and on Sunday Mr Alexander did a meet and greet at the Ryde netball carnival, indications that the Liberals will join the battle already well prepared, with the advantage of incumbency and hard to defeat, however effective their opponent’s campaign.

I hope to interview Mr Li to find out more about him and his plans for Bennelong. I have asked Mr. Alexander for the same privilege.

One of the several advantages of incumbency is extensive coverage in local media as the MPs go about their electoral duties. In addition to reports and photographs of his attendance at various functions, John Alexander provides opinion pieces on the performance of the federal government. His press release this week was headed ‘Federal policy hits Bennelong (An excerpt from a speech I recently gave in Parliament)’  In it he made three claims which I thought worth questioning.

  1. “In Bennelong over the last 5+ years of Labor Government thousands of workers have lost their jobs” A MP’s office is able to access electorate specific statistics more readily than I can but in an area where the total number of unemployed would not exceed 5000, I would be surprised if “thousands have lost their jobs” under Labor was not hyperbolic.
  2. “According to the most recent ABS data over 3,000 small businesses in Bennelong have closed their doors each year under this government”. Mr Alexander has been good enough to confirm to me that 12,764 small businesses closed between June 2007 and June 2011 which justifies the claim. However the press release goes on to blame the government’s “great big tax, more regulation and broken promises for the closures”. Would it therefore have been fairer to also have taken into account the number of businesses which had opened over the same period and to quote the net gain/loss rather than only one side of the equation?
  3. “In Bennelong alone there were 15 school halls built that never taught one child one thing but had an average cost to taxpayers of $2million per building.” Again this is no doubt literally true but is Mr. Alexander seriously suggesting that the pupils at the 15 schools concerned received no benefit from these BER investments? Would the principals, teachers and parents agree with him?

On Friday 19 July, I raised these queries with Mr Alexander’s office and will advise you of the response.

In conclusion I also report that Julie Worsley for the Fred Nile Christian Democratic Party, and Robert Marks for the Palmer United Party will also be joining the battle for Bennelong.
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  1. John Alexander doesn’t have a single original thought of his own. He is given a script from Liberal Party HQ and just a copy/paste with the bits filled in. I would also seriously question how effective his attempts to “trash” the BER school halls will be given I am not aware of a single person who has complained about them in the area.

    • John Alexander, to my knowledge, has not asked one question in Parliament. He’s just a celebrity seat warmer and another yes vote for the Liberal Party agenda. Pathetically sad.

      • Erm… Aren’t nearly all questions asked by Shadow Ministers? As for the single original thought: I went to a high speed rail conference recently and he was one of the key speakers with some interesting ideas on tax reform to attract infrastructure investment. Definitely not party policy but led to a very good discussion. And by the way, his comment on BER was that the government overspent. Halls that should have cost $500k were charged to the taxpayer at $2mn. They may be nice halls but that is our money, and yes, that is a problem!

      • According to the investigation of the BER results, Frank, what you say is nonsense, but of course the Coalition swear by it. You can fool all of the Abbott supporters all of the time. Just keep saying it, no supporting evidence required.

      • Frank are you suggesting Alexander wrote that speech on tax reform himself? Also I’m interested to learn how tax reform equates to a speed rail conference? Where is the speed rail in Australia? Or are you referring to a future type of rail travel which I read will not see fruition for some 20 yrs
        How can tax reform relate to something 20yrs hence? I note on the programme for that Conference Mr Alexanders speech was entitled ‘Investment in Growth’. Sadly it appears it wasn’t earth shattering enough for him to place on his web site. The closest around that time is a short speech in the House relating to the Epping to Parramatta rail link. That appears to be a regular patterned Liberal PR Stunt type speech common place in debate in the House usually prepared by staff.
        He was ok at tennis though :-)

  2. Nice piece Jack and presume you have your request in for interview with Mr Li.

    The Alexander comment on BER halls is patent nonsense – as his staffers and their kids could testify to within the electorate!

  3. Thanks for the updates Jack… I would be surprised if Mr Li doesn’t put Labor in with a winning chance in Bennelong. Await further news with interest.

  4. Tits on a bull ref useful and J Alexander. The man is a nobody, an ineffectual bench warmer. His existence consists of making up the numbers in the HOR feeding Liberal propaganda handouts to his electorate, never a thought of his own, even the 15 min x 1min free for all MP’s enjoy on sitting days before Question Time, Alexander dutifully reads from a prepared script in a dull monotone.
    If Labor cant unseat this wooden man with their Asian candidate, in a seat with a very large Asian population something is seriously wrong with their local organising and communicatioon

  5. It seems that in Mr Alexander’s world, school halls are meant to “teach” children. If they don’t, they’re a waste of money. What an asset he is to our parliament!

    • I don’t know why John Alexander is so against the school halls. Without them there would have been no-where for the schools to put his contribution to our childrens education; Ping-Pong tables.

      • Did you miss out on the John Howard flagpole, Scott? Much more useful than a ping-pong table, and cheaper too.

      • Actually, flagpoles themselves are more expensive, require council approval to install, need planning and a hole dug and concrete footing poured. As for pingpong tables, I’m curious how many of them are in the teachers lounge, or how many or still in use after the first batch of balls have been lost and the rubber peeled off the paddles. I’m sure people appreciated flagpoles in-lieu of actual spending on infrastructure though.

  6. Jack, I enjoy the lively banter and am impressed by everyones comments. I think its worth a call to say G’day to me (Rob Marks on 0412 262744) as Palmer United Party is fielding more candidates than any one party on election day. We have a few surprises and common sense policies that are worthy of your coverage.
    I have tried to encourage a public debate with John and Jason with no response from either party, maybe you could get it going? The feedback I have had from the elctorate is “I have half a chance”, people have had a gutfull of both ALP & LIB.

  7. John Alexander was known for his sooky attitude on the tennis court. I have heard nothing of him since 2010.