Last Thursday, 23rd August, NSW Parliament debated the Lift Redfern petition, a document signed by over 10 000 NSW citizens demanding that access for those with limited mobility be installed at Redfern station.
Despite dozens of community volunteers putting in hundreds of hours to gather signatures and otherwise organise the campaign, parliament felt it was only worth 20 minutes of discussion, most of which was given over to politicking. The House was three quarters empty with most MPs not even bothering to attend the debate.
As someone who was heavily involved in gathering the signatures I found this incredibly disappointing. When in opposition Barry O’Farrell promised that any petition presented to parliament with 10 000 or more signatures would be debated in the Legislative Assembly. This sounded like a great way to make parliament accountable to the people and while the Premier has kept his word and debates do occur, they seem to be of very little substance and nothing comes of them.
The Lift Redfern debate simply saw the Liberal party blame the situation on the previous government without making any commitments to fix the situation now they’re in power. The best the Transport Minister could say was ‘we’re reviewing the situation’, which is a bit pathetic given that they’ve known for months that this issue was coming up. All Labor did was spruik their candidate for the Heffron by-election, who as far as I’m aware had absolutely nothing to do with the campaign.
As usual it was left to independents and Greens MP Jamie Parker to say anything of substance.
The whole process showed the government has complete contempt for the concerns of the community. This is the third time I’ve been involved with a group that’s given parliament over 10 000 signatures and the others, highlighting a range of community concerns with the Barangaroo development and Coal Seam Gas, were equally disappointing. I hoped maybe they’d improved the process since then, but it seems all they intend to do is give lip service to community concern, even when the concern is so great that 10 000 people put it in writing.
Liberal and Labor politicians will now likely go off and crow to their electorates about how concerned they are about Redfern station and how they’ve listened to the community. However while they may feel they’ve discharged their duties with 20 minutes of talk the people of Redfern, who have lived with the situation for decades, need action.
The organisers of Lift Redfern will be meeting shortly to decide the next steps to take – the people of Redfern won’t just sit back and take being ignored. The campaign will keep going, you’ll be hearing a lot more from Lift Redfern in the future