Less than a year out from the next state election, Labor MP Anoulack Chanthivong tells the Voice that conviction and consistency are the most important attributes of an effective politician.
“I will always take my values and views I formed in main street Macquarie Fields, not main street Sydney,’’ says Chanthivong, who was elected to parliament in March 2015
“I think it is an important part of your job as a local MP to realise it is a privileged position and nowdays, when the public are a little more distrustful of politicians, what is important for me is to stand by my convictions, to be consistent, and to be open to what my community thinks, not shy away or flip-flop from positions I held before, whether I was mayor or now that I am an MP.
“Consistency and conviction are what people are looking for in their public representatives and I will continue to uphold that each and every day and remind myself that everything I do and say is always aimed at enhancing our community’s reputation and improving our community’s life in every single way.
“The Macquarie Fields electorate, South West Sydney, it’s my home, it’s where I grew up, where my parents ran their business, it’s where I went to school, I am very proud of it, and I am very privileged to represent our local community.’’
When Chanthivong won Macquarie Fields in 2015, the Liberal Government was also re-elected for a further four years.
Soon after it announced iconic local school Hurlstone would be “re-located’’ to the Hawkesbury campus of the University of Western Sydney, and much of the land to be sold for housing.
Local motor registry closures, cuts to TAFE and other decisions negatively affecting his electorate have meant the new Macquarie Fields MP has been able to get his teeth into plenty of issues over the past three years.
As for the State Government, well, it soon found out that Chanthivong is a formidable foe when it comes to fighting for what he believes in.
He pushed back hard against government decisions he felt were wrong – and he doesn’t plan to stop until the next election.
“All these decisions are bad, our community continues to be short changed by this Liberal Government,’’ he says.
“This is symptomatic of a Liberal Government that doesn’t listen to the needs of our local area and treats our local area and our local people with almost utter contempt.’’
Chanthivong is in no doubt his strong stance has resonated.
“Standing up for your local community is my number one job and I do it with pride,’’ he says.
“The local area is my home, I grew up here, and I know a lot of people who call this place home and I am always proud to be the voice of our local people whether it’s about Hurlstone, whether it’s TAFE, lack of lifts at Macquarie Fields station or train timetables or the two non air conditioned trains I took yesterday in 35 degree heat.
“I mean these are the concerns of our local area and any elected person must always be the voice of the local community, stand up for them and make sure they get their fair share.
“The City Deal for example cut us off from any public investment and it’s so important, there’s so much needed for our growing local area, that, in short, I thought was a dud deal for South West Sydney.’’
Looking ahead to next March’s poll, the Member for Macquarie Fields is in no doubt a State Labor Government is always better than a Liberal Party one.
“A Labor Government will always be better than a Liberal Government that short changes us on the City Deal, a multi billion dollar infrastructure investment commitment of which we got zero dollars,’’ says Chanthivong.
“Things like my Stop the Squeeze survey is a prime example of a Labor MP listening to his community to make sure their voice gets heard and they’re not silenced by well resourced developers and a Liberal Government that panders to them.’’
Anoulack Chanthivong, who served on Campbelltown Council, including on term as mayor, is also concerned with another State Government decision: stripping planning powers from councillors and giving them to so called planning panels.
“The issue is about local decision making and accountability – all elected officials at whatever level are accountable to their local community,’’ he says.
“The verdict the people deliver is always through the ballot box.
“The problem with this system is that you have appointed people who aren’t from the local area, who don’t know the local community, who don’t appreciate the suburban charm and community character we have and the iconic stuff that matters to our people, things we fought for decades like the Scenic Hills.
“Under this arrangement, we now have people who make decisions but don’t actually have to wear the consequences,’’ says Chanthivong.
Under the new system, council general managers and senior officers will determine development applications up to $5 million and the Macquarie Fields MP says the same test of accountability applies.
“This goes back to my previous point, about accountability, because I know when I was on council responding to community calls and contact was actually something I took a great pride in doing because I always wanted to listen to what my community were saying,’’ he says.
“Essentially, I am accountable to them, and I am there to serve them in whatever capacity I can.
“In that sense, the more the accountability the better the decision making is for our local area.’’
As well as hoping to land a second term in parliament, Anoulack Chanthivong is also about to become a father for the first time.
He and his wife Anna – they were married in January 2017 – are expecting their first child this year and the local MP says he can’t wait.
“Having a child is one of the great love and joys of anybody’s life, and family’s always first, whether you’re an MP or any member of the public, so I am looking forward to seeing and caring for our new child with my wife,’’ he says.
“And when you have family it always changes your perspective about what is important, and what you value most, but those values are not separate from what I do as an MP.
“My first and primary job as an MP is to represent the views of our local community, to advance the causes that are important to people, Scenic Hills, Hurlstone, better train services, greater public investment into things like more commuter car parking and being the voice for your local area is your number one job.
“I will continue to do that with great pride and passion and while having a family gives me great joy, it doesn’t necessarily stop my focus in representing the local area.
“I look forward to many more happy joys, and a few sleepless nights as well.’’