Dean Harris has announced that he is running as the Labor candidate at the next Federal election and will be holding a campaign launch at 7pm on Wednesday the 25th of July at the Balgowlah RSL Club. Former Premier and now Senator for NSW, Kristina Keneally, will attend the official launch of Mr Harris’s #LetsDoBetter campaign for Warringah.
Mr Harris, owner of a market research and strategy consulting firm, decided it was time to get involved in politics after the local member became Prime Minister in 2013. “There were two reasons I joined politics. The first was due to the broken promises of Mr Abbott shortly after he became Prime Minister; the second was that I felt the Liberal Party has forgotten that we can only have a strong economy when we have a strong society, with prosperity and opportunity available to all. The Labor party is the only party that can form government that understands this.”
Although voters have become disillusioned with politics, and accustomed to policy reversals and broken promises, Harris is pushing for a new style of leadership in the Warringah electorate, where strains on local infrastructure are amongst the worst in Sydney. “I’m not a politician, I’m a businessman,” said Mr Harris, “But I’m running to represent the people of Warringah because I believe we can do better. And I really think we have to do better on many issues of local and national importance.”
Before deciding to run as the Labor candidate, Mr Harris was approached by many people in the community who expressed concern that the current member was no longer representing their interests. One of the most prominent signals of this disconnect was the recent same sex marriage plebiscite, where 75% of Warringah residents voted in favour of marriage equality. “It’s unfortunate for the people of Warringah that the current member seems more intent on promoting his own interests and those of a small faction in his party, than those of this community.”
After a substantial swing away from Mr Abbott at the last election, and the very public disputes he is currently having with his own party, Mr Harris believes the time is right for Warringah to have a new voice speaking for it on the floor of the Australian parliament.
On a national level, Mr Harris believes the people of Warringah want an end to climate wars and the introduction of effective emissions and energy policy – not only to protect future generations, but to stop rising energy costs for current consumers.
Mr Harris also brings up local concerns about the slow, unreliable, second-rate NBN that Mr Abbott and Prime Minister Turnbull have forced upon Australia and very soon, most of Warringah. He believes the NBN is an issue that will have dramatic consequences for people and businesses in the area. “In most industries, data and information technology are fundamental to success. The productivity of many Warringah businesses which depend on the internet will be impaired by an NBN which is not fit for purpose today, and certainly not for the future. The ‘fibre to the node’ technology being rolled out in Warringah is a scandalous waste of tax payers’ money,” he said.
At a local level, Mr Harris suggests that traffic congestion and a lack of suitable public transport infrastructure is a big issue in the electorate. “This is a concern for many people, both north and south of The Spit,” he said. “Having lived in the electorate for the last 11 years, I understand the frustrations people are feeling round here. We do need a solution. In fact, we need many solutions to address this problem, and we need them urgently.”
Mr Harris states that the proposed Northern Beaches motorway may seem like a good idea in the absence of anything else being considered. However, he feels its cost will have a significant impact on local motorists and possibly lead to higher density development on the Northern Beaches. He believes the focus should be on viable solutions that can be implemented quickly, and which encourage people to use forms of transport other than driving. “Even if the tunnel does go ahead, it’s at least eight to ten years away and action needs to be taken sooner rather than later,” Mr Harris said. “More public transport is needed, particularly for the increasing number of residents who need to commute east to centres like Chatswood, Epping and Ryde.”
Mr Harris is a father of two young adults and is worried about the situation facing many people of similar age in the community. “Young people in this country are expected to carry high levels of debt from tertiary education, before they even find a full-time job. And finding that good job is harder than it’s ever been, with youth unemployment and underemployment at historically high levels.”
According to ABS labour force statistics, over 12% of people aged 15–24 can’t find work, a rate that’s 50% higher than it was 10 years ago. The underemployment rate is at a 40-year high of over 17%, which means nearly a third of young Australians can’t get enough work.
Mr Harris makes the point that at the same time, buying a house in Sydney is getting further and further out of reach for young people, with rates of home ownership among people aged 25–34 having nearly halved since 1980. Recent research by National Shelter shows that renting is not an option for many either. In rental terms, every suburb in Warringah is now classified as “unaffordable” to a household with an average income.
“All these things aren’t just big challenges, they’re today’s challenges,” Mr Harris said. “And they simply can’t be overcome with more of the same. They require something better of us. At the coming election, there’s a very important choice to be made – Warringah can choose more of the same, or we can choose to do better.”
Mr Harris invites all members of the electorate to attend his campaign launch on July 25. Please RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Article originally appeared on The AIM Network.