Climate change, taxes and local initiatives dominated discussion during the Sydney electorate candidate forum yesterday at Glebe Town Hall. Four of the six candidates running for the seat of Sydney attended the event and answered questions on the local and federal policies of their respective parties from a crowd of passionate locals.
More interesting than the expected political bickering was the presence of Liberal party candidate Jacqui Munro, who, according to the moderator, stepped “into the lion’s den” of a visibly progressive and anti-Liberal Glebe crowd.
Munro, who described herself as a “young, 28-year-old, bisexual woman, who doesn’t always tow the party line” was met with some light heckling and hostility when she spoke about the Liberal party’s climate change policies and taxes on big business.
“From what I understand, I might be the first Liberal candidate to come to one of these forums in a long time,” she said to a laughing crowd. “It’s refreshing having the Liberal candidate attend,” said Labor candidate Tanya Plybersek.
As a public supporter of the 2017 gay marriage vote, a believer in renewable energy and an opponent of Sydney’s ‘lockout laws’, Munro represents the very progressive branch of the conservative Liberal party. The moderator jokingly asked Munro if she was sure she was in the right party.
Munro knew she had her work cut out for her by attending. “The diversity of views that are represented here hasn’t always included a Liberal voice”, she said when interviewed after the event. “I can’t expect people to support me or support the ideas I represent unless I’m willing to stand here and stand up for them.”
The headline candidate of the day was the incumbent Sydney Labor MP since 1998 and deputy leader of the opposition, Tanya Plibersek. “I do not for a minute take the support from my electorate for granted,” she said.
With a busy campaign schedule which forced her to leave the forum early, Plybersek made her time count as she listed her long record of local initiatives in the electorate and dominated the discussion with the charisma of a seasoned politician. Plybersek is the clear frontrunner in the election with a current margin of 15.3 per cent, “I’m grateful every time you return me to Canberra,” she said.
The shadow minister for women and education also strongly commended the efforts of 16-year-old student Daisy Jeffrey, who was interrupted by yells from a visibly older crowd, asking her to “get to the question” as she spoke. Jeffrey, a climate school striker advocate and Stop Adani campaigner, said when interviewed after the event that she felt angry with those shouting at her during the forum, who she believed did so because of her young age.
“My generation, we’re the ones that are going to be dealing with the effects of climate change, so with all due respect, please zip it,” she said.
Donning some Stop Adani earrings, the young activist attending her first public forum, shared that this experience had been more daunting than speaking in front of thousands of people at the Sydney school strike on March 15. “That was a lot easier because everyone agrees with you,” she said.
Tim Piccione is a 24-year-old Media and Communications postgraduate student and aspiring journalist with a passion for Australian and American politics.