NSW election on a knife-edge

An election poster attacking Sydney's lock-out laws. In the background, the chaos caused by Light Rail construction (Photo: Amy Seaborn)

If the views of the people of Strathfield are anything to go by, Gladys Berejiklian’s Liberal government will narrowly claw its way back into power in the NSW state election on Saturday (March 23).

With a razor-thin Labor majority of 1.8 per cent, Strathfield – a densely-populated area in Sydney’s western suburbs – is one of the state’s most marginal electorates. As such, it could help to determine the outcome of the closely-fought election.

With opinion polls putting the two major parties neck and neck, many experts are predicting a hung parliament for NSW. That would mean Labor or the Liberals forming a minority government with the help of minor parties and/or Independents.

In the electorate of Strathfield, which covers the suburbs of Burwood, Croydon, Homebush, Enfield and Strathfield, locals are divided about who to vote for on Saturday – but, by a slim margin, more people expressed support for the Liberals than for Labor.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian: fighting to be re-elected

As recently as last week, Labor leader Michael Daley appeared to have the upper hand in the campaign.

He went head to head with influential 2GB radio host Alan Jones, threatening – if elected – to sack him and others from the board of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) Trust. The Trust has backed the Berejiklian government’s highly unpopular, $729 million demolition and replacement of Allianz Stadium.

This week, though, Mr Daley was forced to apologise for claiming that young people were leaving Sydney and being replaced by “Asians with PhDs” who were “moving in and taking their jobs”.

He made the comments six months ago to a meeting in Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains, but a video of him speaking was leaked in the final days of the campaign.

In the Westfield Burwood shopping centre today (March 20), Anne McKenna, a 55-year-old business owner, said of Mr Daley:

“I think he has really lost the plot. I doubt he will get many votes around here.”

However, Sally Baker, a 32-year-old nurse, said: “His video was pretty racist, but it’s nothing compared to what the Liberal Party has said and what they stand for.”

While the clampdown by Ms Berejiklian’s government on live musical festivals has angered many young voters, some Sydneysiders welcome the move. Belinda Liberalle, a school administrator, said:

“I hate music festivals and what they have become, so I’ll be voting Liberal. I don’t want my daughters running around at concerts with drug users and sellers.”

Elsewhere in Sydney, many residents are fed up with the ongoing disruption caused by construction of the controversy-plagued Light Rail project connecting the CBD with the eastern suburbs.

During the final televised leaders’ debate on Wednesday evening, Mr Daley was unable to recall precise figures for Labor’s key plans to boost funding of public schools and TAFE courses.

A report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald revealed that Allianz Stadium could have been upgraded to meet safety standards for just $18 million.

– additional reporting by @ari_kimber, editing by @kathymarksoz