The Greater Narellan Business Chamber
Jim Marsden was the moderator. Over the course of the night, each candidate was given five minutes to introduce themselves, followed by 20 minutes of questions from the moderator and finally 20 minutes of questions from the audience.
The first hour or so was around chamber business although there was a pause in the usual proceedings when the CEO of Camden Region Economic Taskforce, Adriana Care, used a prepared statement to attack the Greens candidate, Karen Stewart, for an article she wrote about breaches and regulatory failures of the Taskforce.
Interestingly, during her speech she accepted that there had been breaches but accused the Greens candidate of attacking CRET for political ends. She also accused Karen Stewart of publicly bullying her while, ironically, publicly bullying Karen Stewart. It was perhaps an ill considered moment in what was an otherwise very professional and well conducted night.
Now to the candidates forum, which was impressively handled by moderator Jim Marsden, who also produced the line of the night, suggesting that if he ever gives up law he may have a future in political life or stand-up comedy (they're not that far apart).
Independent candidate Andrew Simpson was given the first speech after the drawing of straws.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): Mr Simpson opened by talking about why everyone was there. He said that if we wanted to maintain the kind if lifestyle and livability of the region that we moved here to enjoy, we should not be put in a position where we have to keep moving elsewhere because of the changes, developments, applications etc that are coming to the Camden electorate.
He said the Camden electorate had experienced significant change with a 30% population growth since 2015 and this was just the tip of the iceberg with a population increase expected of 100% from 107,000 in 2019 up to 233,000 by 2036. He said Camden was in a unique position to take advantage of some of this growth but said it was vital for us to unite in pursuit of the best outcomes. There were, he said, different strategies for providing a balance between the old and the new but they should not and could not be mutually exclusive.
Mr Simpson noted that we have yet to see health, public transport, education and other essential services being delivered at the same rate as residential growth, placing undue strain on our community.
He suggested regional tourism, combined with local places of work, greater public transport links were essential to further strengthen an economic position in the region. He said the New South Wales government must recognise and maintain the appeal, productivity and value of our rural lands as well as providing modern services to the community.
He said he believed the community knows better than those outside it and should stand and advise on what is best for the area. Change will happen but the scope of the rate of that change should be very much dictated by us not others outside it. He said he was here to listen to the electorate, provide a balanced, thoughtful opinion with an ability to strongly advocate on the community’s behalf because, unlike other, he didn't have to toe the party line.
Jim Marsden then thanked Andrew for his speech and more importantly for not taking the full five minutes (to some laughter). Karen Stewart was selected next.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): Ms Stewart started by acknowledging the CEO of CRET, Adriana Care, and her constructive comments and feedback. “I'll take that in the sentiment I think it was given,” she said. As a paying guest, she noted it was not the warmest welcome but she would accept it nonetheless.
Ms Stewart noted that some of the CEOs earlier comments around domestic violence segued beautifully into her platform. She said her mother actually founded the organisation in Camden known as Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. Ms Stewart, herself, had also been the secretary and treasurer there for a number of years and has had to deal first-hand with the effects of domestic violence and those people experiencing financial hardship. She noted that while we support people after violence has occurred she said that as a society we hadn't been proactive in managing the period beforehand. She noted that domestic violence cost the economy $22 billion annually and called it a scourge on society. She said it was welcome news to hear of the refuge that was going to be commenced in Camden.
She noted household stress in our area was important and that some of the housing developments didn't offer some of the cheapest energy options for homeowners, making this harder. She said working on this could help decrease some of that stress and some of the violent outbursts when people aren't coping well with the high cost of living.
As a member of the Greens she recognised that its foundation was an environmental activism, so from her perspective policies needed to be underpinned by acknowledging climate change and the risks it may pose to us.
In terms of population and the growth that has already occurred in Camden, she said the Greens would very much like to see the infrastructure match some of that growth — hospital, schools, roads and also public transport. She suggested looking at mass transit and fast rail that would allow people to move out to regional areas and commute back into the city. She said this would stop some of the increased urban sprawl that is affecting our region.
Peter Sidgreaves was the next to speak and was easily the most prepared of the candidates for this section.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves opened by introducing himself and his background.. He said he was 43 years old and married "to his wife" (which prompted a little good-natured laughter) and had four beautiful girls. That’s why, he said, when people talk about cost of living pressures, "trust me, I get it".
He said he had worked for his family company, which had run for 102 years, before changing direction and working for a multinational company in IT. For the past 15 years he has been working in the K-12 education sector as an IT manager. He said he had been in Camden Council for six years and as mayor for the past six months. As a result, he said most of his priorities for Camden should already be well-known.
Mr Sidgreaves said he had chosen to become a candidate for the State government because he was "deeply passionate" about Camden. He said he wanted to use the work that Chris Paterson had done to make it a strong place, to make it even stronger, “so it is a better place to live, work and raise a family”. He then listed his priorities.
His priorities were:
- To preserve the heritage and natural beauty of Camden;
- To build more schools. He said we had five new schools being built in Camden as we speak and we have two that will be undergoing major upgrades. He said the five that had been commenced were Gledswood Hills, Gregory Hills, Catherine Field, Leppington and the high school and in Oran Park. He said the upgrades were happening at Oran Park Primary — with four new classrooms going in there — and Harrington Park Primary.
- Improve local roads and infrastructure: Another priority is around roads and, in general, infrastructure, so people can get around and get on with your life much better. He noted that in terms of roads he had announced Spring Farm Parkway, which will look to be built over the next number of years. He said the Government was already doing major upgrades to Bringelly Road, Northern Road and of course a few years ago the Narellan Road. He said the Spring Farm Parkway road with a very important link that will connect Camden to Macarthur. He said it was very important to have that connectivity because it would take a lot of pressure off Narellan Road.
- Improve rail access: In regards to rail the north-south rail link has already been announced from Badgerys Creek airport through to St Mary's. He saw it as his role, should he be elected, to get Badgerys Creek through to Narellan line done at the same time.
- Ease cost of living pressures: He noted there were over four programs and rebate programs that the NSW government has already put into place and there were others still to be announced.
- More jobs: He noted the other priority was jobs. He then went on to note that with the Council he had also played a role in the Camden Regional Economic Task force, with its sole purpose being to create a local government environment where it would assist existing businesses to grow and attract new businesses to the area. "We need to have people working far closer to home than we currently do," he said.
Before moving to the turn of Labor candidate Sally Quinnell, Jim Marsden couldn't help but quip, with what was probably the line of the night, that "in reference to being still married to your wife, it goes to show that you are indeed a Liberal candidate and not a National candidate”.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): After thanking her hosts, Mrs Quinnell pointed out that the room was filled with business people of experience and knowledge, saying that she felt it was a little daunting sitting up in front of them all. She started by saying that a lot of people had mentioned she was mad going into politics and asked her why she had decided to become a candidate. She said, she was not mad just incredibly passionate. She said she was naturally a passionate person and didn't know how to be any other way.
Recounting her background, she said that she was a graduate from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and started teaching music in Western Sydney. She also taught in the north west of Sydney and found herself teaching people of all socio-economic backgrounds. The family then moved to England when she said she had the "most unbelievably difficult teaching path of my life". If you ever want to talk about the effect of class on education, society and business opportunities then England is the place to go.
The family returned and moved Camden to raise their three children. Before they moved into the local area they travelled all around Sydney to find a place with her husband could easily commute to the city. This was all upended when they took a drive down the main street of Camden and decided instead to call Camden home. She then started teaching at St Clairs in Narellan Vale. She said one of the best things about teaching locally was seeing the children she taught around Camden. One of those children, now an adult, appeared at the pre-poll as a voter. He is now a professional musician. She said it was great to know that you can have an impact on people and help shape the lives.
After finishing at St Clairs, she decided to run her own music teaching business, called Bandemonium. She noted there were people of the room who were customers of hers. She said that taught her a lot about what it means to run a business, whether it was finding staff, finding customers, organising BAS, organising super, doing payrolls and all the parts that go into running a business. Her business went from running five school bands the first year to now running 35 school bands. The local schools she taught in include Camden Public, Camden South public, Narellan Vale, Marwarra, St Clairs, St Justins, St Pauls and a couple of schools in the Macarthur area. “We have over a thousand customers in the MacArthur region,” she said..
She was about to move on to priorities saying she was extremely proud of what Labor was doing for young people when the one minute bell rang. "Are you kidding me? I've only just got started," she said.
With the short time to go she returned to the importance of passion from a local member. She said you can't teach children without having passion. You can't run a small business without passion. "You certainly can't run for State Parliament if you don't have passion."
She concluded by saying the four points Jim Marsden had made in an earlier video about the keys to good business were the same for being a parliamentarian. Trust — which has to go both ways. Trust of the member and the member needs to trust in the community. It means community of course, because you are representing the community and everyone in it. Integrity, because that is paramount; and excellence.
Jim Marsden noted that a community wants politicians of trust and integrity because at the moment there is a general feeling that this does not exist in politics.
The question-and-answer session now commenced with questions from the moderator, Jim Marsden.
Mr Marsden’s first question went to Greens candidate, Karen Stewart. Jim Marsden noted that she had spoken about the population surge in our area and infrastructure. He asked her if she believed the infrastructure matched population growth for our region.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): She said she felt the population surge had created pressure on public resources. She found when she had to move her 15-year-old son from one school to another, the schools all said they were full. She said she felt it was important to match resources to the population as it grows.
Jim Marsden then gave a slightly different version of the question to Peter Sidgreaves because he was a representative of the current State Government. He asked, do you believe that the developments that are occurring in Camden electorate have had the appropriate level of infrastructure — roads, transport, education and health — over the past 5 to 10 years?
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): The short answer was, yes, the infrastructure provided was sufficient. He said the fact that we have a Southwest Growth Centre, which dictates the population growth, meant we did have appropriate infrastructure. He said it might be a little bit late with schools but in terms of the roads and south-west rail it was up to scratch. In terms of schools, he noted there had been five new schools built with two of those ready for next year and that there were upgrades in other schools as well.
In regards to health, he said Campbelltown hospital was our regional hospital whether we liked it or not. He said it was dictated by the South West Area Health Service district, which had just had $766 million invested in it. He said this investment was not an election promise but something that had already been done. Stage 1 was completed some years ago. Stage 2 has now been announced. It will include extra beds for paediatrics and mental health patients, an updated emergency department and a decked car park.
Jim Marsden then paraphrased Mr Sidgreaves response for clarity and said, "so you do think infrastructure has kept up with population growth". In that case can I then ask you this question again on population and infrastructure, "have you tried to get a car park at Leppington station after 10am in the morning?"
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves said he was well versed in that issue and said that getting a park there was probably impossible by 7:30am to 8am. He said the Government had already announced 350 additional car spaces at Leppington and this was in excess of what had been promised by Labor. He said if he was elected as the candidate the extra 350 car parks would be just the beginning and he would fight for more car parking spaces at Leppington. He said this was in addition to 700 spaces going into Edmondson Park station. He said Opal data told them that a lot of residents from Hoxton Park, Prestons and Leppington were coming to Edmondson Park. In his view these additional car parking spaces were only the start.
Jim Marsden then turned his attention to Sally Quinnell (Labor). He noted that Michael Daly had spoken of the excessive development in New South Wales because of population growth. He noted Camden was one of the fastest growth areas in New South Wales and it was on a massive amount of greenfield development. He asked whether she thought the greenfield development in Camden excessive.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): Mrs Quinnell noted that Camden had not just met but exceeded its population growth targets. She said we were building new developments in a very roundabout way, saying the developers had been required to upgrade the roads, schools "after" developments. "I'm sorry, you cannot say that 42 demountables for children at Oran Park public school is slightly too late — it is chronically too late," she said.
She noted the situation at Leppington Station was unacceptable, saying it must make it hard for developers to be able to organise people to even buy the blocks.
She said, that Labor were looking at changing the planning rules to produce better ideas and more surety around government requirements, with schools, fire stations appearing in the first stages of development, not after the event. She said she was hearing from people who moved into the estates that they were upset. She was even hearing from people at Mount Annan who said they couldn't take their children to Mount Annan High School because there are no longer spaces left in that area. “They have to go to Campbelltown High School”. She said she had heard from people at Oran Park who had been waiting nine years for a high school.
Mrs Quinnell said we are doing infrastructure the wrong way round. We need to make sure the infrastructure and services are done at the beginning of the development not well and truly after. That is the role of the State Government.
Jim Marsden then turned his attention to the independent, Andrew Simpson. He noted that the independent candidate had said services had not been delivered at the same rate as the growth was happening. He asked for some examples and was quickly given a shopping list worth of issues.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): Mr Simpson started by saying this growth had been forecast and planned since 2006. “We can't just say we didn't know that 100,000 people going to be moving into the area,” he said. Then he went into the list of issues, saying:
- It was not good enough that schools from day zero were overcapacity.
- He said it was not good enough that parking stations were at capacity from the day they were opened.
- He said it was not good enough that the train stopped at Leppington when there was a Greenfields opportunity to bring it to Oran Park at the very least, “right now”.
- He said the Spring Farm Parkway should have been opened 10 years ago when it was first talked about. “It has been committed and paid for already in a Stage 1 proposition by Landcom and the developers as part of a special infrastructure contribution fund”.
- The Parkway, he said, should have been brought into Glenlee and there should be a train station in Glenlee servicing most of Camden, Elderslie and the new Spring Farm development.
- It is not good enough that the government owns 17 ha of land at Leppington right next to the station and it we're still having conversations about how sometime in the future there might be 300 to 400 car spaces. What we should be trying to do is get the cars off the road at the first place and bring in some express buses to get people to the train station instead of having to rely on cars of the first place.
Jim Marsden highlighted the reference by Andrew Simpson that the train should already go to Oran Park. He asked Karen Stewart what she thought about that proposal.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): She said she felt that infrastructure would support the growth in the area but said she would also like to see the introduction of light-rail. She said we should put light-rail from Luddenham all the way down to Campbelltown Station. She felt this would take a lot of cars off the Narellan Rd. As a Greens candidate, she said we need to encourage how we manage the use of fossil fuel powered cars, so she thought light rail should be adopted as many cities are harnessing it.
Jim Marsden then turned his focus to the candidates of the major parties, starting with Peter Sidgreaves (Liberals). He focused on Campbelltown Hospital and the future investment of $700 million that has been proposed. He asked if, in Mr Sidgreaves estimation, this was sufficient and whether Campbelltown was the right location.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): He said he believed $766 million would make a significant difference to the hospital. He believed Campbelltown was the right place to invest in as it covered the whole Macarthur area. He noted there were also upgrades of the Liverpool Hospital in the north-eastern part of the electorate. For this reason, he felt $766 million was sufficient for the time being.
The same question was then put to Sally Quinnell.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): Mrs Quinnel started by noting our region has three of the longest waiting lists in New South Wales with Campbelltown, Liverpool and Nepean. She said this bodes poorly for the future considering the amount of development we are seeing. She said she would not only like to see the new hospital at Gregory Hills but also explore the option of having a hospital in the north of the electorate. She said it did not have to be a Grade 5 hospital, like Campbelltown, but a Grade 3 or lower level hospital could be built using a private/public partnership.
Jim Marsden then went with a gotcha question, asking the candidates starting with Karen Stewart if they knew what the jobless rate was in Camden.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): Ms Stewart said she could not give him the direct statistics off the top of her head but she knew the under-25's had a higher rate of unemployment. She said she would like to see that improve further even though statistics showed it was improving. She agreed with Peter Sidgreaves, saying she would like to see an increase in the number of jobs in the local area so people don't have to commute. She explained she already had the luxury of living three minutes from her workplace and understood this was a unique prospect. She wanted the growth of jobs in the area to grow so more people could stay in the area, spending their money here and building the sense of community.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): He said from memory it was 3.8% for Camden. He said he believed jobs needed to be looked at holistically and there needed to be recognition of the difference between full-time jobs bringing appropriate income and part-time jobs.
He said the Aerotroplis promised 200,000 jobs but statistically this was not even close to the realistic figure of jobs that would likely be supported. He said looking at Sydney airport, 85% of the jobs were full-time and there were around 60,000 jobs in total. He said this means we have to consider that 15% of jobs at the Aerotroplis were likely to be part-time and may not be enough to support a family.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberal): Mr Sidgreaves said, from the State government perspective since the last election over 420,000 jobs had been created. In addition, he said, Western Sydney Airport would create 200,000 jobs. He noted the Premier had announced an agricultural precinct, which is likely to increase the estimate of available jobs.
He said if we wanted to talk about jobs, then it had to recognizsd that 3.9% unemployment is the lowest on record for New South Wales. He said the New South Wales government had achieved that. While in government he would continue to aim at achieving full employment.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): Mrs Quinnell agreed with the estimate of 3.8 to 3.9%. She pointed out that a lot of those jobs were not full-time and this skews the employment numbers. She also wanted to talk about the opportunities to create local jobs.
She noted what long commutes do to family lives. An Oran Park family told her that the local library was beautiful but they could never go there because they spent 20 hours a week commuting. This was one of the reasons to bring jobs to our region.
She noted the Labor party has a policy that will make it easier for job projects to be made State Significant if they have a 50% local employment stipulation. She said, this means we will be employing local people. She also said they were going to bring TAFE back up to scratch after eight years of it being ripped apart. “This means we are going to have the ability to train people locally to then get jobs. This way we can employ local young people.”
Jim Marsden then turned questions over to the audience.
Question 1: FUNDING FOR MACARTHUR MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE.
Maryanne Strickland, secretary of Camden Chamber of Commerce, first directed at Peter Sidgreaves (Liberals).
Maryanne noted she had received an election mail-out saying the Liberals are recruiting 820 doctors, nurses and health service professionals for our area. Her question went to medical research, as it was the foundation of better treatment for patients. She also noted that medical research facilities were major economic drivers and all major hospitals have research institutions affiliated with universities, except Campbelltown. She highlighted that Prof Annemarie Hennessey, the Dean of the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University, is short of $20 million to build a world-class medical research called the Macarthur Medical Research Institute. The plans are already drawn and ready to go but the Federal Government has said they will not give the last $20 million. She asked the candidates, if you were elected, do you all commit to all commit to advocating immediately for this extra funding for the Institute?
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves noted Liverpool already had a fantastic research institute. He said he would support a Macarthur Medical Research Institute. He said, the more we can have that research, the more it would ensure proper and better health services.
Jim Marsden said he was well aware of the research centre need. He noted that he and Tony Perich sat on the board of the Institute and he was personally confident that through negotiations with the State Government it would go ahead regardless of which party took power.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): She said she supported it 100%. She said she had a conflict of interest in supporting it because a friend of hers was a medical researcher who had to go overseas for five years because she could not find a job in Australia. This could have given her the opportunity to stay.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): Yes, he supported it. He noted he was fortunate to meet with Sydney University when it was in discussions with the Westmead Hospital Precinct. He would certainly advocate bringing that same kind of research facility to Camden.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): She also agreed that the area would benefit from the research institutes affiliated with local universities. She noted that the Greens and Liberals did not agree very often but that she felt that Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation concept was a good one. She said innovation was vital to develop world-class facilities.
Question 2: WOULD MR SIDGREAVES REMAIN MAYOR IF ELECTED?
Melissa Hawkins, member of the Labor branch of Camden.
Melissa said she was born in Camden, worked in Camden but now has to commute by train but has children local schools. She said she was a single mother who had no interest in politics until recently. The question that she paid money tonight to have answered was to Peter Sidgreaves. As Mayor and a potential State member how would he do both jobs?
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves said if he was elected he would step down as Mayor but would continue as a councillor, at least until the next election. He said he did not want any elections between now and actual election because it would cost ratepayers $100,000. For that reason he would remain as a councillor until September 2020.
Question 3. WHEN WOULD YOU CROSS THE FLOOR FOR THE COMMUNITY?
Alvin Stone, Council Reporter.
This is a question I put forward for all three party members. We talk about community and trust, so what would make you for the community cross the floor? I'd like to start with Peter particularly because the entire time I have been following Council you have always voted with the Liberal party as a bloc and never opposed your own people. So I'm interested to know at what point he would step across the floor for the community.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Alvin, as you are aware the Labor Party is also in the Council as well and they vote as a group.
Council Reporter: I interrupted at this point to state that I had done the figures and that there were only two people who had voted every time with a bloc, they were both Liberals and Mr Sidgreaves was one of them.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves said he would cross the floor when there was a passionate issue about Camden and that it was, in his view, nonsensical to the people of Camden.
Jim Marsden then asked Mr Sidgreaves to give an example, Peter? What would get you so enthused as to cross the floor, particularly in a government that is likely to be there by a thread?
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): He said he would cross the floor if anything in his view that relates to his priorities should the Liberal party take a different view. For example if they were not going to build the Spring Farm Parkway or they are not going to provide services that will benefit the community at all. At that point I would then cross the floor.
Jim Marsden then moved to another question without asking the other party candidates but, never fear, we got back to that question the Labor and Green candidates later (see further down).
Question 4: WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN STATE GOVERNMENT FOR BUSINESS IN THIS AREA?
Name not given.
We were talking about jobs in the area but jobs are only created by businesses. Taking Camden as an example, in particular the challenges along the main street of Camden keeping the shops full primarily because of the rents being charged. I know of half empty arcades at the moment. The landlord doesn't care. I know somebody who lives in Mount Annan who has a shop in Darlinghurst because it is cheaper than having a shop in Camden. So my question is, what would you do in the State government for the businesses in this area? (Question gets applause)
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves said he would sit down with local owners of businesses in Camden and try and convince them why having a vibrant, active Camden Main Street had greater benefits for business owners and landlords.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): She noted that as someone who opened a shop last November, she had to go to Narellan Town Centre because she could not afford main street Camden. Mrs Quinnell said she was finding that along Argyle St, Camden, the businesses were becoming all of a similar sort.
“I love where we I am [at Narellan Town Centre], but there is no way that main street Camden was ever in our realm. I'm being told by businesses that the rent is going up 4% regardless of CPI every year. In one arcade in particular, in a two-month period rent went up by 25%. That arcade is now completely empty.”
She said State members needed to sit down and meet with the owners to find out how this is working for them and why they didn't care about empty premises. She said we needed to look at what can be done as a community to reinvigorate the area. She said it was very important for Camden to make sure it has its own personality. Without distinct personalities for shopping precincts they would end up in constant competition between Oran Park, Gregory Hills, Narellen and Camden - no one wins.
Jim Marsden commented that it was all very well for a politician to say that but had the candidate thought about what you can actually do to bring about that end?
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): She said the first thing she would do, as Mr Sidgreaves said, would be to meet with the landlords, business owners and renters of that space to look at how subsidies and grants could be used to enable local businesses to get a bit of a hand up.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): Mr Simpson started by saying he was the owner of a business in Camden. He said he looked for 12 to 18 months to find a shop because of the rent issues and is not directly on Argyle St. He said the increased rent to get on Argyle Street on per square metre basis was about another $10,000 at a minimum. He said there was very little that could be done other than to give incentives to local owners, as opposed to the businesses, to keep strong businesses open on their premises. He said currently landlords are able to claim all rent deductions whether a shop is open, closed or empty. “It doesn't matter to them,” he said.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): Ms Stewart also has a business on Argyle Street. She said she had to negotiate the first four weeks, "so I could sand the floors myself and get it up to where we felt it was fit to be an accountant's office".
Her approach to the rent issue was to look at disincentives for landlords to have empty properties.
She said Camden’s foot traffic made it unique. The heritage CBD allowed opportunities to embrace tourism and increase the foot traffic further. She said if business owners understand there is a disincentive to having empty properties then that might empower some of the businesses to feel they can negotiate with their landlords. She noted she had an increase in rent after three years well above what she thought was reasonable, so she negotiated with the landlord who dropped the increase to a more reasonable amount.
She said felt it was important to empower business owners to make them worthwhile to landlords, saying it would opening the lines of communication.
Question 5: WHAT CAN YOU CONSTRUCTIVELY DO FOR SMALL TO MEDIUM BUSINESSES?
In this room you have a collection of businesses from very small candle makers to multi-million dollar businesses. I would like to get some points from each of you about what you could constructively do for the small to medium businesses.
Jim Marsden noted that small to medium businesses were the largest employers in the region.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): Ms Stewart said tourism was important. She felt Camden and Campbelltown councils had done good work on that front. She said that as a community we needed to know what we are selling about our town – not the goods that we are selling at the stores but what makes our region unique.
She also called for surety and consistency around public policy across State Governments. “We haven't had concrete policies for a very long time,” she said. Examples of insecurity for business appeared around penalty rates, climate policy, workers wages and more. She there were too many scare tactics used by politicians that added to business concerns.
She also said there needed to be a community as well as business perspective. “If I have to pay my workers more, that upsets me but it may increase the amount they spend in the community. It's not just business owners we also have to look at spending.” She said, if there is low consumer confidence that affects us all.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): Mr Simpson first said we need to look at small business at a local planning level where we see neighbouring businesses popping up that are going into competition with existing businesses. He referenced a proposed development in Elderslie, 4km from Camden and the emerging Spring Farm. “Why on earth would we put yet another neighbourhood centre in there?” he said. He said the proposal suggested another hairdresser, coffee shop, takeaway store and even a hardware store. He called on a more holistic plan in terms of business and residential development.
Secondly, he wanted to see the State government promoting tourism to the area.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves noted the development at Elderslie was still going through the Council but anyone has the right to submit an application as long as it was in line with Council plans. He said the Council had requested an economic study in relation to the Elderslie development.
In talking about what the State Government can do to help small businesses and job creation he noted the Liberals had announced an $80 million TAFE in south-west Sydney that has yet to be located and would provide 100,000 free TAFE and VET courses. “I know how Labor spoke about destroying TAFE but we are actually the largest provider of VET services in the country,” he said. “This has increased in the last two years by 29%.”
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): Mrs Quinnell did not respond to Mr Sidgreaves final comment saying she didn't want to get into tit-for-tat.
The first of two things she wanted to talk about was bringing planning back to the councils and the people who lived locally and new the area. This would mean business development would be appropriate for the area and decisions were not being made by people who don’t live here. “If a development is going on in their shop some 4 km away, in some parts of Sydney that would be okay. In other places it might not be okay and that is why should come back to the local council,” she said.
She also wanted to talk about policy certainty. She said it impacted businesses when you governments made decisions and announcements without having done due consultation. She referenced Warragamba Dam and the M9 as two examples in and around our region. “We are not going to announce an M9 orbital then find out that the community doesn't want that,” she said.
Jim Marsden pulled up Mrs Quinnell for going a little bit off topic. I'm coming back to it, she replied.
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): She said it was all about surety, and that business needs surety. “You need to know where you stand on the rules and what you can and can't do,” she said.
Question 6a/6b: WHAT ARE THE CANDIDATES POSITION ON THE IHAP PANELS?
SUPPLEMENTARY: WHAT WOULD MAKE THE OTHER CANDIDATES (Labor, Greens) CROSS THE FLOOR?
Eva Campbell, Small business owner and independent Camden councillor
Eva starts by noting the business proposal for Elderslie neighbourhood centre referenced earlier was well outside Camden Council specifications for the local environmental plan. Her question is, what are the candidates attitudes to the independent hearing and assessment panels?
She also asked for a supplementary to ask what the other two party candidates would cross the floor for (thank you from the Council Reporter)?
SALLY QUINNELL (Labor): In regards to crossing the floor, Sally Quinnell starts by focusing on trust and how, even as a politician, she does everything in her power not to be duplicitous. She said, if the community asked for her to cross the floor, then she would seriously consider it within the boundaries of her position.
She noted it is very difficult in the Labor Party to cross the floor. She said, if the community was to tell her they were directly opposed to what was being voted on in State Government then she would fight tooth and nail before it got to the vote. “I would make so much noise that Hansard would be full and the back rooms would be full of me knocking on doors fighting for my community, because that is my job.”
She said if she disagreed with the vote there was a chance she would cross the floor. “But I will promise you this, whatever way I voted, I would make sure everyone knew it and why. That way you would have full transparency, my reasoning and where my thoughts came from.
In regards to IHAP, she said the Labor party, in principle, supported independent planning oversight. She said at the moment there was not an independent process. She said the IHAP was approving whatever was recommended. She said the community need to make sure that what the Panel is doing and what they are ruling on is following the rules and mandate that the Council has put together. She said she wanted to make sure the rules of IHAP and the community consultation process were transparent. “The community needs to find out about developments a lot earlier in the process,” she said.
PETER SIDGREAVES (Liberals): Mr Sidgreaves said Camden Council had nine elected representatives. These councillors have residents from the community contacting them asking what they can do about certain developments but, unfortunately, the IHAP process means councils can't do anything. He said councillors can speak to directors on a particular issue and urge them to reconsider but they cannot influence the outcome for recommendations on any development application or proposal.
“I personally would get rid of IHAP. I don't like it,” he said.
ANDREW SIMPSON (Independent): Mr Simpson said he would review IHAP in its current form. “I would return it to a true independent, community-selected panel on behalf of the community not on behalf of other people who may or may not have interest in our region. I believe, from what I have seen, there has not been one submission knocked back by the Panel,” he said.
He also suggested the community has a channel to respond to and challenge the ruling of IHAP. “Currently, this does not exist,” he said.
KAREN STEWART (Greens): She agreed with Peter Sidgreaves. “We did not elect these people, there has not been a democratic process to select the people on that Panel,” she said.
She suggested a voluntary referral to IHAP my be more beneficial and create more transparency.
She noted the Greens do not accept political donations but that other people who might be on that panel and are affiliated with parties could be open to handshake deals. She clarified she was talking about completely legal activities that are currently allowed behind the scenes.
Ms Stewart also agreed with independent Mr Simpson that if the IHAP was to exist in some form then it should be made up of community members on a voluntary basis. “I don't think the IHAP is very democratic process and I would rather see it disbanded or made on a voluntary basis.”
She said the councillors deal with the community, who know its best, which puts them in a better position to make some of those decisions.
In terms of crossing the floor, she explained the Greens operate differently from other parties. The members of the local Macarthur Greens tell the locally elected officials what they can and can't do.
She concluded by noting that we are likely looking at a minority government, so the crossbenchers could turn out to be rather powerful players.
“I don't think it would be a terrible thing for Camden to have a crossbencher that was monumentally important to the State Government,” she said.