Challenging ‘safe seat’ politics – can change come to Auburn?

After nine decades of Labor representation in Auburn, a new ‘grassroots’ movement has been formed claiming a desire to ‘shake up’ the standard political approach to the electorate. The ‘Change Auburn’ campaign, as it names itself, has decided that the Labor Party (and its notional candidate and potential Premier, Luke Foley) are the epitome of a pattern of neglect and ignorance for the Auburn area. “For too long Auburn has been taken advantage of [as a safe Labor seat],” said Abraham H., a founder of Change Auburn.

Abraham H. said he and a group of associates first considered the Change Auburn idea 6 weeks ago, deciding that social media would be an easy starting platform for community discussions highlighting the demographics of the area, where over 25% of the population fall into the youth category. “The younger generation now do not have the political loyalties of their parents and are often disengaged [from the community],” he said.

Some of the major issues that Change Auburn has sought to raise include the state of education, health and infrastructure services for the electorate – something that they claim has had little “real change” over the past 20 years. Change Auburn suggests that Labor has already had enough chances to improve facilities and that it is now time for an alternative in the Liberal Party and its candidate Ronney Oueik. The group accuse Labor of neglect and failing to understand the social dynamics and infrastructure needs of Auburn, through the lack of “any stringent political commitments for the electorate” as well as the “ignorance of Parramatta Road as a major connection for Auburn”.

“The important thing is for politicians to invest in Auburn”, Abraham H. said when asked about Ronney Oueik, denying an explicit relationship between the group, the Liberal Party and its Auburn candidate. This comes as a number of individuals on social media have highlighted numerous similarities between Change Auburn and the Liberal Party’s campaigning against Labor and Foley ahead of the NSW state election on 28 March. In response to allegations that Change Auburn is simply a Liberal Party funded initiative, the group have decried such criticisms by suggesting that voting for Labor and The Greens would be ineffective to achieve change for Auburn. However, at time of writing, the group has yet to provide any evidence to dispel such accusations, choosing instead to avoid answering such questions and simply repeat their criticisms of Foley, the Labor Party and the Greens.

Real change according to the founders of Change Auburn can only be achieved from a continuing momentum and the group has expressed their “disappointment” at missing out on the registration deadline for the NSW state elections. When it comes to the long term future and involvement of Change Auburn in the community, Abraham H. said that the group intends to run at the next elections in 2019 in order to tell politicians that “Auburn is relevant [and not just] a back water of Western Sydney between Sydney and Parramatta”.

Labor currently holds the safe seat of Auburn with a 7.2% margin.