With the Willoughby by-election still too close to call, independent candidate Larissa Penn says many political commentators are wrong about the cause of the swing — that it’s about local anger and frustration, not just voters mourning the loss of Gladys Berejiklian.
Speaking to NewsLocal, independent Larissa Penn admitted it was hard to predict what would have happened if Berejiklian remained the member for Willoughby.
However, she does believe the Liberals would have faced a significant swing against them – regardless of their candidate.
Independent candidate Larissa Penn, pictured with Gabi Tan (L) and Josie Penn (R).
Ms Penn puts the swing down to growing community anger about inaction concerning issues which matter to local residents, such as the Western Harbour and Beaches Link toll road tunnels, overdevelopment and a need for more public transport.
In a Facebook post, Ms Penn said the results were a community crying out for a locally-minded representative.
“(The results) are not standard by-election swings, they are not just votes lost in the handover between a Premier and newcomer and they are not even a reaction to what’s happening at a federal level,” she wrote.
“The results are a community crying out for true representation … the swing represents neglect and a sense that we are being taken for granted as a safe seat.”
Larissa Penn casting her vote with her family at her old primary school, Cammeray Public School
Ms Penn said members of the local community had raised their concerns over issues such as Western Harbour and Beaches Link tunnels with Gladys Berejiklian when she was still their local member.
“There was a lot of dissatisfaction in the community around her response to the issues,” Ms Penn said. “We haven’t been listened to … we were talking to our member (former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian) and we were not getting any action.”
“So, I think the anger in the community would have grown,” she explained, adding this anger would have resulted in a significant swing against the Liberals, even if Berejiklian remained their local member.
Larissa Penn, independent candidate for Willoughby, campaigning on the day of the by-election.
Ms Penn stressed that Ms Berejiklian’s presence – or absence – in this race was not behind the swing against the Liberal Party occurred.
She said there was a broader problem with transparency and a lack of trust in the state government.
“At the heart of it is not whether Gladys was there or not, it’s the way the government is behaving in terms of their decision making,” Ms Penn said.
She also questioned the government’s decision making process on large projects which were affecting not just her community, but Sydney as a whole.
“The public are really questioning the government’s transparency and decision making in terms of putting the public interest first,” she said.
Penn with her husband, Mark, and children, Josie and Mitch, voting at Cammeray Public School
At a press conference today, Ms Penn said: “It’s not that they haven’t heard us before, it’s that they haven’t taken action.”
“We don’t really want more consultation in the form that we’ve had … (we) want to see some action and change.”
Speaking later, she told NewsLocal this “swing is already a wake up call.”
“I’m happy that it’s done that,” Ms Penn said. “I’m happy that local voices are finally being heard because we’ve been trying to communicate in every way possible and we were not being listened to because we were once a safe seat.”
Larissa Penn speaking at a press conference today
Currently, the Liberal Party remain ahead in Willoughby.
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