Changing Campbelltown’s image a priority
While Labor received the majority of votes, the Liberals have been gaining popular support in Campbelltown, writes Lara Irwin.
Residents of Campbelltown made their voices heard on Saturday by celebrating democracy and heading to the local polling booths. After electing a majority Labor council in 2008 (six seats going to Labor, four to Liberal), voters have used this opportunity to call for a change.
Early counting has shown a clear swing to the Liberal Party this election with Labor down 8 percent and Liberal improving 7.3 per cent from the last council election. Despite this headway they currently stand on 28.5 per cent, trailing the ALP with 30.7 per cent of votes.
Cr Paul Hawker, the Liberal front man, is pleased with residents’ change of heart, crediting much of it to issues with Labor government at Federal and State levels. “I always knew that there would be people prepared to vote for us if we were consistent,” said Cr Hawker.
Mayor Anoulack Chanthivong, leading Labor, remains cautious of premature victory celebrations. “We will be seeing counting for many more days to come,” he said, acknowledging the inconclusive nature of early results.
For both parties, improving the image of Campbelltown is a priority. Unemployment and crime still plague the area at rates consistently higher than state and national averages. Unemployment currently stands at 7.6 per cent, compared to a national average of 4.2 per cent, with 21 per cent of Campbelltown’s working age population receiving Centrelink benefits. The national average is 17 per cent.
The manufacturing sector is critical driver of economic activity for the area. The industry accounts for 16 percent of employment in the city, again far higher than state and national averages. 41 per cent of Campbelltown residents work in skilled professions, while national averages stand at over 50 per cent.
Joshua Cotter, a member of the Liberal party and currently running for councillor at the local election, understands the stigma that arises from such statistics. At nineteen, he will be NSW’s youngest councillor if elected. “Lobbying big businesses to relocate to Campbelltown” is key factor for improving youth unemployment, said Mr Cotter, along with “providing more programs and incentive based apprenticeships and traineeships.”
Under the current council, the area has seen a significant decrease in crime. Over the last 24 months violent offences have decreased by 13 per cent. The downward trend is also evident in recorded criminal incidents and property offences.
However, the crime is still high in Campbelltown compared to NSW state averages. Property offences are closer to the state average, but are still surpassing it slightly.
The improvement can be attributed in part to the Campbelltown City Crime Prevention Plan implemented by Mayor Chanthivong’s council and their Community Safety Sub Committee. The Liberal party addressed the issue of crime in a media release by including “make funding available for CCTV cameras to be placed in trouble spots” as part of their 2012-2016 plan for Campbelltown Council.
Cr Paul Lake of the Community First Team, currently standing on 7.1 per cent predicted a greater standing for independents in the coming council. “We are looking at this stage at five seats each for the two major parties and five independents,” said Cr Lake, a former Campbelltown Mayor. Independents hold four of the 15 seats in the current council.
Final results are expected by 15 September.