Stanley on COVID failures and beyond in Werriwa: “There are a lot of things we need to fix.”


Photo: Supplied

Anne Stanley MP for Werriwa

Amidst the peak of the Delta outbreak in September 2021, Anne Stanley, Federal Member for Werriwa in Sydney’s south west, had been consistently advocating for the NSW Government to assess its health messaging and overall strategy.

“It’s like it was our fault. Well, it wasn’t our fault. The fault lies squarely on the decisions not made by the NSW government.”

She adds that members of her community were “being treated worse than second class citizens.”

According to data made public by The Redfern Legal Centre, the most socio-economically disadvantaged suburbs in NSW were also the suburbs which received the highest number of COVID-19 fines.

Throughout the 2021 lockdown, NSW Health data showed over more than half of all active COVID cases occurred within the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, and Liverpool LGA’s. According to the 2016 census, in Fairfield LGA, 75.5% of households spoke a non-English language. In Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool LGA’s, 63.7% and 57.2% of the population, respectively, also speak a language other than English at home. Given these statistics, it is important to note that NSW Health did not provide real-time translations of the daily 11 am pressers until late July, almost a month after the first day of the NSW lockdown.

Stanley explains just how detrimental this was. “Information was not being translated properly,” she says.

At the time of the outbreak, Stanley voiced her criticism of the state government’s handling of the pandemic, saying, “The messaging from the New South Wales government, the Premier, and the Chief Health Officer since the Bondi cluster started has been horrific and appalling and disgusting.”

A 2021 report published by Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), in partnership with University of New South Wales, found that one of the most represented federal electorates receiving COVID-19 income support payments was in west and south-west Sydney, an area already facing disadvantage before the pandemic.

Stanley MP for Werriwa since 2016 (Photo: Supplied )

By April 2021, the Coronavirus Supplement payment was removed by the federal government and was not brought back during the subsequent Delta outbreak. In September 2021, COVID-19 Disaster Payments were introduced, requiring individuals to have lost a specific amount of work in order to be eligible. However, the report from ACOSS found that almost 80% of eligible individuals on low-income support payments were in fact denied.

This lack of relief to hard-hit communities across Stanley’s electorate meant it also made it harder for businesses to stay afloat the second time around. Throughout the four-month lockdown, she saw first-hand the mental, physical, and financial toll it took on owners.

“A lot of small businesses used their reserves, and for the greater good, did whatever they needed to do to open again,” she says.

Stanley says  at one point, Service NSW had 48,000 small business requests for help. But, quite often, they didn’t meet the criteria. The ABC previously revealed that from April to June 2020, about 20,000 companies had substantially increased their turnover while also receiving $368m in wage subsidies.  Both the Labor and Senate cross bench subsequently sought greater transparency from the Australian Taxation Office. “The New South Wales treasurer tried to get information out of the Australian Tax Office and the federal treasurer was less than helpful,” Stanley says.

A member of the Labor Party since 1996, Stanley has lived in the electorate of Werriwa all her life. She served as Liverpool City Councillor for 8 years up until 2016, when she ran for and won the federal seat. She says her parents and grandparents influenced her interest in politics from an early age. “I was encouraged to think about policy. We were encouraged to read the newspapers, to think about our community and what it meant.” Stanley says it wasn’t just politics her family encouraged her to engage with, but also critical thinking about “what makes a community and what makes people’s lives better.”

Stanley was re-elected for a second term in 2019. Though she remains focused on the community impacts of COVID-19, she is also committed to ensuring other issues receive meaningful attention, such as improving the NBN system, public transport, and healthcare.

“I think there’s lots of things that we need to look at and we need to fix. Medicare is very clearly something that we need to continue to fight for and fund properly. Making sure that we have the infrastructure for the Western Sydney International Airport, and that there is a rail line that links Werriwa to the airport,” Stanley says.

If we want to be a country that is competitive in the world, that has a high manufacturing ability, that utilises all our intelligence and hard work, then we need an internet that works, all the time, not just some of it.”