* Rapid population growth is not being accommodated in the schools
* We’ve had public transport cut in this area
* “In terms of the hospitals I think they’re understaffed…”
* “We’ve got really bad congestion in this area since the M4 was reintroduced.”
* “I am concerned that the State Government isn’t spending enough money on Fair Trading inspectors”
Sydney Labor MP Julia Finn was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the member for Granville at the 2015 state election. Finn served on Parramatta City Council from 1999 and was Lord Mayor in 2004. She sat down for a chat with the "Middle East Times Int'l" about issues confronting voters in her electorate.
WHAT LED YOU TO BE AN ELECTED STATE MEMBER FOR GRANVILLE IN 2015?
When I was a little girl I was very interested in politics and followed all the reforms that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating put in nationally and Neville Wran in NSW, I was really inspired by a lot of things they did. I went to University and moved to this area, I and ran for Council in 1999 and was a Councillor on Parramatta Council. I was the Lord Mayor in 2004-05 and throughout that period got to know the community better and wanted to take the next step to being a Member of Parliament and fight for some of the issues I think are important for us around this area. In 2013 there was a big cut in the train services to this area; they cut out 100 express services a week. Just seeing things going in the wrong direction under the Liberal Government, cut backs in all the services.
GRANVILLE AND NEARBY SUBURBS HAVE UNDERGONE CONSIDERABLE CHANGES IN THE LAST FEW DECADES. WHAT STEPS ARE BEING MADE TO RETAIN THE HERITAGE AND DIVERSITY OF THIS AREA?
There are a number of important buildings around the area that are heritage listed so they’re very hard to demolish, you can renovate or upgrade them for the future. Some of those have actually been embraced by multicultural communities, so for example the Blazer Hall that was the bingo hall before and I think it was the Crest Theatre is a beautiful art deco building, an important part of the heritage of our area. It is now used by the Blazer community for all their community events. In the main street of Granville, you’ve got the Grand Royale which was also an old cinema which is now a big function centre. Not everything around here is significant in terms of heritage so it is making sure that people when they do redevelop they protect the things that are important and take the opportunities on the places that aren’t so important. We’ve seen that work pretty well in this area and I think the diversity of the area it’s been constantly changing. There are waves of migrants come through the area, initially people who came work at Clyde Engineering from the North of England and as well as the Irish and Scottish migrants from around Sydney, all living in this area through to the Greeks and the Lebanese and more recently people from India and Afghanistan and places like that. Of course we’re seeing a lot of units being built closer to transport.
HOW ARE YOU ADDRESSING EQUITABLE ACCESS TO HEALTH, EDUCATION AND TRANSPORT?
I think those things are all really important and the best way to do that is to make sure we have a good universal system for all those things, to make sure our hospitals are as good as they can be, our public transport system is as good as it can be and education is as good as it can be. In terms of the hospitals I think they’re understaffed and we could do better with Westmead and Auburn hospitals. The waiting times are too long, the waiting times for elective surgery are longer than they should be and that is undermining equity of access. There is a growing disparity between the difference between who have access to private health insurance and people who don’t.
We’ve had public transport cut in this area over the last two major timetable changes. Granville is no longer on the Western train line so our public transport is nowhere near as good as it used to be and that is a big problem. We have more and more development being built right next to train stations which should be a great opportunity but if you cut the train services then a wasted opportunity and it just encourages people to drive their cars and cause congestion. We’ve got really bad congestion in this area since the M4 was reintroduced.
In terms of education it’s important that we support both the Catholic and the state systems. To make sure we have great local schools. The biggest problem we have in our local area around the Parramatta district with State schools and Catholic schools is rapid population growth and it not being accommodated in the schools. The Catholic system has similar challenges like all their schools in Westmead are all full too and they have long waiting lists. Parramatta Maris has improved its performance in the HSC over the last decade, so it is a really desirable school and these schools are having to turn people away. The Catholic system wants to grow too and better at planning and building new facilities. Both are struggling under the strain of population growth in this area. I just don’t think people thought about it, they seem to think that kids don’t live in units but if families can’t afford a house then kids are going to live in units.
WHAT PRIORITIES DO YOU PLAN AS A SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR CARERS?
I’ll start with carers first. There isn’t a Minister for carers but carers play a very important role in our community. Particularly supporting people with disabilities, supporting the aged and seniors. Especially if they are trying to stay in their home as long as possible and not move into an aged care facility. The average carer in NSW works 80 hours a week and a lot of carers are seniors and some of them also have disabilities and taking care of family members who are in a worse situation then they are. So it is really challenging and they are not very well supported. I think the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we support them having networks so they can talk amongst themselves and support each other well, make sure that everybody knows about what is available to them, so they don’t have to carry such a heavy burden in taking care of their loved ones. Also provide recognition and additional support to them. I know for say for example in the Lebanese community it always falls on one of the children to take care of their parents and take them to all their appointments. And if some of them have high needs rather than moving into an aged care facility often one of their children will be the person who gives up work to run around after their parents the whole time. Big sacrifices are made and if we can find ways to make it not so difficult so people do not have to give up work or make sure they’re better supported financially and acknowledged for all the free work that they do. And better compensated for all the work they do for free running around after parents, because otherwise the rest of society would have to pay for it. Because the nature of the communities we have, communities take care of your parents.
In terms of consumer protection, I am concerned that the State Government isn’t spending enough money on Fair Trading inspectors and doing enough inspections. They’re also not communicating with the wider community when they find faulty goods. They are certainly not putting that out to the ethnic media; they’re hardly putting it out to the media at all. Other priorities in consumer protection are making sure that that we don’t have an outbreak of underquoting in real estate. When they try to get in extra people to be looking at a property by telling them that it is going to go for a much lower price than the owner is prepared to sell, just to gather momentum.
EDUCATION IS OUR GIFT TO OUR YOUNGER PEOPLE, WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE SCHOOLS LOCALLY; ALSO YOUNGER PEOPLE NEED MOTIVATION FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AND EXCURSIONS TO STAY AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. SOCIAL MEDIA THESE DAYS ARE AFFECTING YOUNGER PEOPLE.
I think there is a lot that can be done to improve the local schools., Westmead needs a second primary school. But a lot of the schools around here need investment in new classrooms, new permanent classrooms to deal with the population growth we’re having in the area. In terms of social media, I think there needs to be more education of parents to make sure that they’re all trying harder to limit screen time. Social media can be great and a whole lot of things with the internet can be great for kids and of course very useful for knowing once they get out into the workforce but if it means they’re missing out on getting exercise or socialising in the real world it’s a problem. I think we need to also be encouraging kids to play more sport or do more art and music if that’s what they are good at and what they enjoy.
OUR PUBLIC HOSPITALS APPEAR TO BE RESTRICTING MEDICAL PROCEDURES TO OLDER PEOPLE.
For some people there is genuinely an anaesthetic risk for having any type of surgical procedure. The older you get there is more risk with anaesthetic but I do think when people are turning 80 they’re using a number when they should be doing an assessment on the person’s health. They need to emphasis more individual assessment of whether somebody is up to having anaesthetic and what their recovery chances are not just decide because they’re 80.
THE STATE GOVERNMENT IS INVESTING HEAVILY INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE STADIUMS BUT NOT ADDRESSING TRANSPORT AND ROAD CONDITIONS IN SYDNEY WEST, IT APPEARS THAT SYDNEY IS DIVIDING INTO THE HAVE AND HAVE NOT REGIONS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
I agree and this area has been marked out as one of the areas that they don’t want to have things. Like the North West Metro has a lot of problems, breaks down a lot for a brand new train but to accommodate going into the network is their excuse for cutting all the services to Granville and to giving us the all stations train to the city. Our services have been cut, even though Parramatta local Government area has the highest population growth in Sydney and that goes right down to Granville station. There are a few others that are not that far behind Parramatta and Cumberland is one of them. So this area has really high population growth yet they’re cutting our public transport to accommodate the North West Metro into the Sydney network. Everybody around here is very angry about the M4 widening project. The tolls are going to be there till 2060. If you stand on the toll roads it’s really, really expensive. You hit the wall of traffic on the City Westlink so you pay $15 or you have already paid close to $8 when you get out of the tunnel at the end and then you just get stuck in traffic. It has helped a bit but it is expensive and it hasn’t fixed the worse problems.
GRANVILLE AND THE NEARBY SUBURBS NEED A NUMBER OF ROUNDABOUTS IN CERTAIN STREETS TO AVOID ACCIDENTS AND DEATH.
I get approached about traffic coming in long streets that run North South through Granville and South Granville often. I helped people put some speed humps that were finished earlier this year which have really helped with speeding. I am always willing to help people out with either drafting a petition or talking to Council and bringing the Council on board to try to get things put in place. It can be very dangerous with the way people drive around here.
WHAT OTHER URGENT ISSUES DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE IN THE FUTURE?
I think schooling at Westmead is becoming quite urgent, it’s not sustainable to have a school so overcrowded. I also think that we have huge problems with waste now that China is not taking our recycling and fixing our recycling I think this is an Australia wide problem, but it is a problem in this local area and also the dumped rubbish on the side of the roads, people are very concerned about that. Those are things in addition to the problems with the local schools and Westmead hospital and the trains and the M4. I think they are really big issues we need to start grappling with, I mean we pay a lot in Council rates for having three bins and we have an expectation that the stuff that goes in the bin with the yellow lid actually gets recycled. I think that is a big issue but also the bulk waste, the collections aren’t done as well as they used to be. Obviously we’ve got some issues with the drought around our local area but aside from the drought when it is raining our parks don’t get mowed very often. I think we need a lot more investment.