In most election campaigns there are candidates that end up becoming a bit of a laughing-stock, and it seems that the campaign currently underway in NSW is no different.
Much of the focus of the campaign in NSW will be in the Western Suburbs of Sydney as this is the real battleground. Western Sydney is considered Labor heartland however those who live there open themselves up and welcome the Liberals to the area every election campaign when they stray out of their comfort zones to visit.
The last NSW State Election saw the Labor Party slammed and deservedly so. Labor had some corruption revelations surrounding a few of its MP’s and as a result of the fallout saw a record swing against them at the election, in the end the Liberals picked up a couple of seats in Labor’s heartland, something they are hoping to expand upon this time around.
This time however things are different, it is the Liberal Party suffering before ICAC with 10 members forced out of the Party and the resignation of a sitting Premier.
In the seat of Riverstone the Liberal Party held off pre-selecting a candidate while awaiting the findings of ICAC to be released as they were hoping to have one of those on what has become known as the ICAC cross-bench Bart Bassett, announced as the candidate last week. Instead Kevin Connolly will run again, the Liberals second choice to someone covered in corruption questions.
With decisions like that it is no wonder Western Sydney is not looking so flash for them suddenly, particularly with other candidates on offer like Andrew Rohan.
It is early in the campaign as yet but Andrew Rohan who is the current Liberal member for Smithfield has jumped in as an early favourite for the campaigns biggest fool award.
The electorate Rohan hopes to represent is the new electorate of Prospect which covers areas such as Smithfield, Wetherill Park, Greystanes, Toongabbie, Wentworthville, and Girraween amongst others.
Considering his performance it is little wonder even his own party see him as a long shot.
Most of you won’t know of the name Andrew Rohan and that is understandable, most in his electorate don’t know it either. However to his credit, Rohan is out there trying to get in front of people this campaign so they will know who he is.
In his community newsletter which the taxpayer funded being sent out to thousands of homes in November including those in the new seat of Prospect, he was good enough to let people know where he was going to be campaigning by holding mobile offices so people had a chance to see what he could offer the community.
The Pendle Hill station mobile office showed exactly what Andrew Rohan was capable of. Utter failure
You will notice that the Pendle Hill and Toongabbie mobile offices were listed as being on different days but the same date. Whatever skills Mr Rohan may have, reading calendars is not amongst them.
Luckily those who chose to show up with issues were looked after at the mobile office of the Labor Candidate Hugh McDermott a few hundred metres up the road where it has been a regular feature. It is understood many local issues were discussed there along with constituents making comments regarding Mr Rohan’s competence.
Some may call this trivial, but bear this in mind this newsletter would have been proof read numerous times and I would say dates for public appearances are pretty important things to have correct.
However this is not the first time for newsletter gaffs. A booklet in multiple languages was also sent mailed out with taxpayer funds where Rohan invited people to “drop in and say hello” at his office. Alas, those hoping to do so would have been dismayed to find that there was no address or even suburb where that office may be. Upon realising this foolish oversight that was not picked up by him, his staff, or his printers Rohan did what any good Liberal would do and dipped once again into the public purse to have the document reprinted and resent to thousands of homes where it no doubt graces kitty litter trays to this day.
Residents claim that they have been bombarded by newsletters, booklets and Xmas cards from Rohan, which is OK except that these residents don’t live in his electorate.
With the new electorate boundaries there are areas in Prospect that are outside the seat of Smithfield where Rohan is the member.
Rohan is allowed to campaign in these areas, but he must do so using his own campaign funds.
Instead Rohan has sent numerous amounts of what can only be deemed campaign material to residents in the new Prospect electorate using taxpayer funds.
It has been alleged by many that could be a breach of parliamentary entitlements, in fact it could be multiple breaches. One would assume that a political party in as much hot water as the Liberal Party is over corruption revelations would be careful not to misuse parliamentary entitlements, however not Andrew Rohan who seems to think the public purse is there as his personal election campaign fund.
So how can we be sure that this was done using parliamentary entitlements? Because it is printed on the back of the mailouts and mailed out to residents outside his electorate bearing the parliamentary crest as the envelope pictured below shows.
The NSW Department Of Parliamentary Service has this to say under the heading “Use of entitlements for electioneering or political campaigning purposes”
“The Determination of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal states that Members’ entitlements may not be used in relation to activities of a direct electioneering or political campaigning nature.”
I would interpret any correspondence with people outside a Members electorate to be campaigning, particularly when it informs people of times and dates of campaign mobile offices, Xmas wishes, and letters of introduction.
It is important to also note that this would not be the first time Rohan has been found breaching the rules around Parliamentary entitlements.
In September 2012 Rohan was caught breaking parliament rules by using parliament funds on a mailout endorsing a controversial and at best questionable Fairfield Councillor candidate during the council election campaign.
Rohan also sent another campaign mailout to residents outside his Smithfield electorate using parliamentary entitlements last April as the letter bearing the parliamentary crest linked below clearly shows. The address on this letter is in the current Toongabbie electorate.
In the letter Rohan claims
“I am excited to be representing you…”
Unfortunately for Rohan these people are already being represented by sitting members that were elected by the very residents that he was mailing.
Clearly given Rohan’s ongoing commitment to allegedly break parliament rules and misuse parliamentary entitlements you would think that Mike Baird would step in and sack him, however Baird has chosen to follow the Liberal tradition that has seen the downfall of so many of his colleagues in ICAC over the last two years, and turned the blind eye.
So what does someone happy to spend willy nilly from the public purse for their own purpose campaign on? Two areas of focus for the campaign have been education and transport.
Pendle Hill Railway Station, the one where Rohan failed to show up to his own mobile office is in need of a revamp, and certainly a lift for the elderly and disabled. This is something that Rohan has chosen to focus on, and would have no doubt campaigned on had he shown up on the 14th December. Rohan is promising locals the lift at the station that they have been calling for and that is an admirable promise indeed. However admirable doesn’t cut it when one looks at the facts.
The inconvenient fact number one is that the upgrade Rohan is promising is not in the Coalitions budget, therefore the funding for it doesn’t exist.
The second inconvenient fact is that the only reason the station needs a lift is because of a broken promise by the Coalition Government. Election promises are not recyclable, they are not something you can promise then fail to deliver and promise again next time.
Last election Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian was campaigning with the Liberal candidate and promising that Pendle Hill station would be upgraded with a lift when they formed government.
That was three years ago, and lo and behold, here they are promising it all over again.
Assuming your electorate are stupid and naïve is not an endearing trait.
However on the education front Rohan has brought in the big guns. Rohan attended a meeting at Girraween Public School to promise the school an additional $784,000 in funding.
This is quite an act of desperation coming from a government that slashed approximately $1.7 Billion from NSW education.
However Rohan showed the need for improved education when he posted about the desperate promise on Facebook, as the post edits below show.
Three lines and three typos (5 lines on a phone screen), although I note these were corrected two days later.
What is most alarming is that Rohan couldn’t spell Girraween. This is a suburb he claims to represent the interests of and yet he can’t even spell it?
Even if it was a staffer who wrote the post, I would have assumed that they were able to spell the name of a suburb they were paid by taxpayers to serve.
As someone who writes a lot I’m not going to get too high and mighty about typos, but to not know how to spell a suburb you claim to represent, I’d say that’s a bit beyond the realm.
This campaign we can expect to hear a lot of talk from the Premier and other Coalition Ministers from Sydney’s North Shore about how important The West is to them.
We can see how important the West is by the quality of candidates on offer such as the one to eventually announced in Riverstone, and the at best questionable actions of the candidate for Prospect.
The people of Western Sydney deserve better.
Frankly, we all do.