I spent today largely following the Labor campaign trail in Auburn. Here’s what I saw.
Labor’s candidate for Auburn is the Opposition Leader Luke Foley who was ‘parachuted’ into the seat from the Legislative Council to replace Barabara Perry. Following some weeks of invisibility by the new Labor leader in the Auburn area, Luke Foley voted this morning at Concord West Public School and then briefly visited Lidcombe Public School. The Labor presence at most of the polling booths in the electorate were manned by volunteers of an Asian background including a number of overseas students from China.
As I walked into the polling place, I stopped and collected a How to Vote card from each of the parties contesting the seat (except for the Christian Democracts whose only presence was a single ‘no same-sex’ marriage sign).
I asked a volunteer (whom was paid commissions) from the No Land Tax party what their major focus policy area for NSW was, he replied with an expletive and said “I don’t know”. Next along the walkway to the polling booths were volunteers from The Greens and the Independent Paul Garrard, both handed me How to Vote cards but also struggled to name the candidate and a policy despite it being printed on the flyer.
As I progressed towards the Voter Identification queue, several Labor volunteers gave me a How to Vote card, again I asked “why should I vote for your party?” and like the previous party volunteers’, no one was able to give me an answer. As I waited in line outside the building, a few Liberal volunteers (whom I believe may have actually been in breach of electoral rules as they were less than 6 metres away from a polling place) proceed to hand me a How to Vote card.
The Liberals were the only party that had multilingual How to Vote cards at the polling station and I followed by asking them the same question of “why should I vote for your party?”. Finally there was 1 person that could answer me briefly by stating the Ronney Oueik, Liberal candidate for Auburn would upgrade Berala station with a lift.
To that I replied that Luke Foley had also announced the same commitment last week. As I was leaving the polling station today, a volunteer for Independent Paul Garrard tries to hand me a How to Vote card, I tell him that I just voted. He tells me that I should vote again (if I want to pay the fine). I ask him what 1 of his candidate’s policies were. Once again the volunteer is unable to answer.
Luke Foley kept a low key approach in Auburn as he had done in the previous weeks from between visiting Lidcombe Public School and before appearing at the Labor function at Doohleys Lidcombe Catholic Club in the evening to concede defeat. The Labor function in Lidcombe commenced around 7pm and for the first hour, the mood was calm with most present paying little attention to the results on the big screen except when Auburn was broadrasted showing Foley’s lead of Liberal rival Oueik.
Former local MP Barbara Perry arrived just before 9pm to a loud applause. She greeted the supporters and informally thanked everyone for their involvement. This was followed by a several Labor figures including John Faulkner and last but not least Luke Foley himself with his wife Edel McKenna by his side. Luke Foley addressed a small pack of media and about 150 supporters by thanking his staff, volunteers and family for the involvement.
In his concession speech, Foley praised Premier Mike Baird as “honourable” for refraining from personal attacks during the campaign but also said that the Labor “heartland has returned”. He thanked Labor supporters for revitalising the party and that Labor is now in a better position for the 2019 state elections.
Highlighting a new side of Labor included praising the success of up to 10 new female MPs in the Legislative Assembly. Luke Foley also stated his intention to nominate for the position of NSW Labor leader and said that “Under my leadership the NSW Labor Party will be guided, above all else, by our timeless Labor values,” and “a fair go for all [as well as ] helping hand for those who need it in life”. The event concluded with a several rounds of applause and Luke Foley exiting just after 9:30pm.