“It is the first time we have had a woman head both Government and the opposition in New South Wales, It’s good news,” says former Labor candidate for Bega Leanne Atkinson.
Jodi McKay is the new leader of the NSW Labor Party elected in a party ballot on Saturday. The Member for Strathfield secured 60.5% of the vote, three months after the party failed to gain ground against Gladys Berijiklian and the Coalition at the NSW Election.
The former regional TV journalist won eight more caucus votes (29 – 21) than her rival Kograh MP Chris Minns, on top of 63% of the 10,822 party member votes.
Both candidates were in Bega just two weeks ago making their pitch to true believes locally.
“I think the process was really good and it was important for the members to have a say. Elected members and the rank and file overwhelmingly voted for Jodi, I think it is a decisive win for her,” Ms Atkinson says.
“I believe Jodi has the drive and capacity to hold the government to account. She is very authentic. She is also warm and compassionate.
“Jodi has identified rural and regional NSW and housing and homelessness as being among her priorities. Given housing is a big issue here I welcome her comments.
“Jodi has also spoken about youth and jobs. Again, these are important issues in a community such as ours,” Ms Atkinson says.
In her first speech as leader Ms McKay acknowledged she has some work to do over the coming three years, “I’m aware that many people are learning about me today for the first time. I probably look and sound a bit different to recent Labor leaders.”
“I represent one of Sydney’s most multicultural electorates, I come from a place that is different – the small town of Gloucester.
“When I first announced my candidacy, I spoke about growing up in the country. These country values still guide everything I do.
“But Gloucester is a town that traditionally has not voted Labor.
“The Labor Party I lead will reach out to those in the community who have not voted for us in recent years. It will be a big tent – and it will have a big heart.
“Under this Government, homelessness in NSW has increased by 37% with over 37,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.
“The Premier has made much of signing an agreement to halve street homelessness by 2025, however, there were no measures attached to that commitment in the budget and she’s given no indication how she will achieve that goal.
“Can I say, I’d be very happy to work collaboratively with her.
“I will appoint a Shadow Minister for Homelessness and Housing, and I’m going to talk about social housing, which no other Labor Leader has.
“We will tackle the difficult issues and we will embed in everything we say and do the notion that ‘people matter’,” Ms McKay says.
With Ms McKay now locked in at a State level and Anthony Albanese facing his first parliamentary sitting this week as Federal Labor Leader, local party members are hopeful of a better result when election day comes around again.
“I look forward to seeing the two of them working together,” Ms Atkinson says.
“Both of them feel strongly about regional development. Anthony has demonstrated his commitment with some of the policy ideas he has progressed including the Very Fast Train.”