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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 13845

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:55): On many occasions over the past three years, I have visited local schools and shopping centres, hosted street stalls, listening posts and gone doorknocking up and down the streets of Bennelong, speaking to people that I am employed to serve and represent. While new technologies and social media may have given us the opportunity to communicate to larger audiences with greater ease, it is through this direct interaction that we can have real conversations and real communication with our constituents.

Over recent months, I have been busy promoting my Bennelong village business initiative, which I launched two weeks ago at the North Epping Festival. This is a campaign to promote the benefits on offer to residents at their local shopping villages, and to encourage them to make the most of the personal service and high-quality products available. This initiative arose out of a constant stream of feedback from local small business owners that they were suffering under some of the most difficult economic conditions, with the gap between the two speeds in our nation's economy growing wider by the day. I did note in question time yesterday the Minister for Small Business was crowing about the wonderful conditions being enjoyed by small businesses. It may be time for the minister to hold street stalls of his own to talk to the local butcher shop or hardware store and inquire to their own experiences on the ground.

Another major issue raised across the electorate from pensioners to young parents, from business owners to apprentices is the cost of living—in particular, electricity prices that are really hurting the average Australian. Electricity is an essential service. It is all well and good for us to promote a more efficient use of our electricity, but it remains a necessary tool to light our homes, boil our kettles and run our businesses. Aside from being a broken promise, the carbon tax is a regressive tax on an essential service. It hurts everybody and achieves nothing for the environment. What this carbon tax and these increases in electricity bills show us is that this government is totally out of touch with the people we are elected to represent. As the representative of Bennelong, I have made a pledge to my constituents to stay in touch with their needs, to keep an open mind and open door, and do whatever I can to promote the best interests of our local community.

A recent local issue has been the proposed development around North Ryde Station, with several thousand apartments scheduled to be built in order to increase patronage at this under-utilised railway station. Epping Road at North Ryde acts as a major thoroughfare for traffic avoiding the M2 motorway, and creates a natural divide between the high-density development around the university, hospital, shopping centre and business district of Macquarie Park on the northern side, and the quiet, leafy residential area full of seekers of the great Australian dream on the southern side. From day one of this project I have made clear my opposition to the development proposal on the southern side of Epping Road, placing me at odds with the Liberal counterparts in the state government, but staying true to my pledge to my constituents. Blenheim Park and the Tennis World site offer recreational space that is increasingly scarce in our nation's largest city and I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the residents of North Ryde as we fight to protect this area.

I have also been actively engaged with some of Bennelong's lively shopping districts on the prevalence of minor criminal activity. Recently, the Leader of the Opposition pledged $50 million towards the installation of closed-circuit television cameras, pledging to use money currently frozen in a victims of crime fund. To quote Mr Abbott from the announcement:

I want our communities to be safe for our children to be out there in the evening. I think we ought to be able to enjoy our communities free of fear.

I will be advocating for some of this funding to be directed to hotspots in Bennelong, such as Eastwood, West Ryde and Ermington. Residents and small business owners are already doing it tough enough in the current conditions without also been subjected to theft, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

These are some of the pledges I have made to my constituents, to serve and represent the good people of Bennelong.