Q&A with Kogarah’s state election candidates

Hear from candidates contesting the seat of Kogarah in the state election

Kogarah candidates: Tracy Yuen (Greens), Troy Stolz (Independent), Craig Chung (Liberal) and Chris Minns (Labor)

Quotations have been lightly edited for concision and readability.

Tracy Yuen, The Greens

What's the top issue that you want to tackle in the Kogarah electorate?

It is really difficult to pin things down to just one issue. The issues I've received have been varied, and we're just hitting a wall in so many areas. The increased cost of living, particularly for renters, overworked nurses, long wait times for patients, public schools not receiving the funding and infrastructure they need to run properly, frustration around truck traffic entering suburban roads, and lack of action on preserving our heritage and green spaces. Then of course, the hold of poker machines in our clubs and pubs. Gambling harm is something that I've experienced first-hand, so it holds a particularly close spot for me.

What are the ideas that you and the Greens have to solve some of these issues?

If elected, I would spend less time meeting with lobbyists and more time advocating for our community groups to ensure they come first in all the decisions I make. I'd bring back smart investment in our key sectors like health, education, and affordable housing. A lot of the time, the people involved in a problem already know the solutions. It's just that our politicians don't listen to them or prioritise those solutions. For example, in the health sector, I want to see reinvestment in the whole sector, including 15% pay rise for nurses, midwives, and paramedics. As well as safe nurse to patient ratios. More locally, I'd want to see a paramedic station to fill the ambulance gaps in the St George area. It's just about having our MPs doing the job of advocating for resources in our electorate. We've had this Labor MP for the last eight years, but they've dropped the ball when it comes to advocating for our Kogarah residents.

What are some things you've learned from the voters since deciding to run?

I've learned how much how community development is led by passionate grassroots groups, especially groups of residents, parents, or health staff. Like I mentioned, people involved in the problem already know the solutions. So nurses already know they need more staff to patient ratios on the hospital floor. Parents know when a school is falling apart and is lacking resources to function properly. Renters know they need a government body with the power to stand up to landlords when their rent goes up massively. People with gambling addiction know we need pokies to be less accessible, and for there to be protections in place against gambling harm. People in Kogarah know the problems, they know the solutions, but we don't have our MPs listening to them.

What do you think separates yourself from other candidates running?

Firstly, I'm not a middle aged man [laughs]. I'm also not a career politician and I have no desire to be powerful or at the top. I got into this because I saw how badly our systems and services were getting and that the politicians just seem to be so won over by lobbyists and big businesses that I thought I could do a better job. I come from a health and science background and I just approach things from a different angle. I'm very practical and hands on. My day job is running consultation workshops, trawling through research reports to design evidence-based programmes, putting together budgets, evaluating data to see what works. I could bring value in analysing a problem and being integrated with how we solve it, instead of just outsourcing everything to staff and being the talking head up front. I'm good at thinking outside the box.

And what's a hidden gem that you can share with the readers?

One of my favourite spots is in Bexley North. It's a big grassy clearing in the middle of the Wolli Creek Two-Valley Trail. When you go through this bush walk you suddenly come to this big clearing and it’s completely empty. It's just the grass oval surrounded by bush on one side and then you have the train line and the houses on the other side. And it's very magical. It's a perfect place for a picnic or to stargaze or just to relax on a hot day.

Troy Stolz, Independent

What's the top issue that you want to tackle in the Kogarah electorate?

Reformed gambling. My background and my well-documented journey is in gambling reform. I'm not an anti-gambling reformist or activist. I think we need real gambling reform to protect those that have issues with problem gambling. And also the money laundering aspect of it as well. Kogarah has $2.5 million a week [in pokies losses]. It's up there in terms of gambling harm and damage it's doing to the community, and the statistics are there that it's fuelling the organised crime, and it’s being enabled to clean the money fuelling the ice scourge we've got as well.

What are the solutions you’re proposing to solve this issue?

We need to regulate the gambling industry and reduce the number of machines in pubs and clubs. We need the regulators, both federal and state, to play their part and even the government to tax the industry. There's a big furphy about what's actually going back into the industry, community wise. And it's not as pretty as it looks — 1-2% of revenue from clubs in particular is going back into the community — it's not enough. And they're only 19% paying tax. You and I would love to pay 19% tax. Pubs are paying a little bit more. We need to put some safety measures in place for those with addiction, and the Crime Commission recommendations, and cashless gambling system, are a massive step forward.

What have you been learning from the voters since you've decided to run?

No one knows who Chris Minns is. I’m gobsmacked that they don't know. I've been lucky, I've been fairly high profile with my whistleblowing on the industry. So that's probably been a benefit. I think the community have had enough of corruption and pork barreling. They want some transparency. They’re disappointed, in both tiers of government, in terms of what they're delivering around transparency, accountability, and ethics. As an independent, I can tick all those boxes. I mightn’t live in the area, but it's not about whether you live in the area, it’s how you're going to contribute to the area. I've got a track record on contributing to my fight as a whistleblower, blowing the whistle on money laundering in the gambling industry. So I've got track record for that and I’ve served my previous community on the Central Coast on various boards, Chamber of Commerce. I've also served my country in federal law enforcement with a 10-year stint. I can match those words with outcomes and actions.

What separates yourself from other candidates?

The party politics is an issue. I can work for the community interest, not vested interests. I don't have to answer to a party. I can be nimble. I can make a decision. Even some of the good candidates, whether they agree or disagree with the policy, refuse to cross the party line. As an independent, you can bring that to the table as well. I'm not owned by anyone. I don't answer to anyone, including big corporations.

Before we wrap it up, can I get a hidden gem that you could share with the readers in the area?

I’ve spent a lot of time at 18 Grams Cafe. A great place to go and unwind and have a coffee. The other thing is there's so many decent restaurants and cafes in the seat of Kogarah. They're under-utilised and I think the nightlife could be vibrant if we didn't have the pubs and clubs and the pokies draining the local economy and taking the business away from restaurants, cafes and other sectors.

Craig Chung, Liberal Party

What is the top issue that you want to tackle in the Kogarah electorate?

The one issue that keeps being repeated time and time again, is the cost of living. People want to make sure we've got a strong economy. Federal issues like interest rates, and other cost of living pressures, are really bearing down on people. Making sure they can have a job, making sure that the economy stays strong, is the number one thing by far and away that anybody talks about. The Coalition government's got a strong track record. Dom Perrottet is the only one that’s been able to deliver a strong economy and deliver infrastructure, roads, transport, frontline services. People are saying, we trust the government can continue with a strong economic plan.

What are the solutions you’re proposing to solve this issue?

Having a track record of being able to deliver the infrastructure, because of the strong economy, is number one thing people reflect on. They look on your history and what you've been able to do. The long-term economic plan that Dom has laid out, means we will have the infrastructure to continue things like cost of living rebates for people. $250 rebates for energy, continuing the delivery of frontline services. We've delivered 11,000 nurses and midwives. There's almost 10,000 more teachers in our schools. The only way we can continue to do that, is if we have a strong economy, and only Dom Perrottet has got the plan for that.

What have you learned from the voters since deciding to run?

It's really come to light how hard the cost of living is impacting on families in our community. When I go door knocking, that's the number one thing that they talk about. The other thing they talk about is they're pleased that we have the infrastructure. I was talking to a guy who drives trains this morning, and he said, “You guys actually keep building stuff. If you keep building stuff, I'll have trains to drive.” People are reflecting on that, and saying you guys have got a track record and that's what we want to continue. The strong economic management points to what you're gonna get in the future.

What separates yourself from other candidates running?

I’m part of Dom Perrottet’s team, which has a strong track record of delivery. Just here in Kogarah, we've done major upgrades to St George Hospital. Almost three quarters of a billion dollars worth of upgrades. Just last week, I was with the health minister, commencing stage three, up to $411 million. We have committed to completely upgrading Kogarah Public School for $18 million. We've committed to the Intergenerational Project for Kogarah Community Services, and just on Saturday, we've committed $40 million to reopen Carss Park Pool. These are the things that truly separate us. We have a track record of delivery and we're able to continue to deliver because of the strong economy.

And what's a hidden gem in the area that you can share with the readers?

Carss Park down where the old Scout Hall used to be. I attended Kogarah Bay Sea Scouts to Carss park there. That whole park there overlooking the water from where you can swim around at Carss Park, up to Carss Cottage, and down the other side looking over Kogarah Bay. It's one of my favourite spots in the electorate.

Chris Minns (Labor) was not available for an interview before our deadline. He’s probably pretty busy. We’ll update the article if he becomes available.

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