Labor candidate Jason Yat-sen Li is hopeful of winning the seat of Strathfield tomorrow against Liberal candidate John-Paul Baladi, with a 5.2 per cent swing towards the Labor party.
Li won the Strathfield byelection when the former MP Jodi McKay resigned from the seat. McKay has held Strathfield for Labor since 2015. The inner west electorate covers eight suburbs: Burwood, Croydon, Enfield, Strathfield, Homebush west, Belfield, Croydon Park and Campsie.
Born in a Chinese-Australian family, Li grew up searching for his sense of belonging in Australia. He has always been passionate about celebrating multiculturalism and diversity, and said he hopes to become a role model for Asian-Australians.
As a schoolboy Li came to public prominence in the lead-up to the Australian Republic Referendum in 1999.
“[What inspired me was the idea that] any Australian person, regardless of their background, could become our head of state, and what that symbolism meant for what our country represents and who we are as a people,” he said.
Door-knocking the district revealed that many people identified their key issues as cost-of-living pressures and underinvestment in public services such as education and healthcare.
Cost of Living
The cost-of-living crisis has intensified due to inflation across Australia. The inflation rate rose 7.8 per cent last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) latest report.
There are also growing concerns about the quality of education and healthcare systems as teacher and nursing shortages increase. Li said several local schools had difficulty finding teachers and had to merge or cancel classes. Hospitals in the area are also overcrowded.
“Essential public assets should stay in public hands and that is key to keeping prices under control.”
The Coalition has sold multiple public services to private companies over the past 12 years, including energy companies and power stations. Li said it is very problematic for a handful of private companies to own monopoly assets.
Labor will also cap weekly tolls to under $60. Private company Transurban operates 11 out of the 13 toll roads in NSW. Sydney Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel are the only two exceptions. In the lead up to the 2022 federal election Transurban indicated it intended to renegotiate the Sydney tollroad contracts with the NSW government.
Education and healthcare
The Strathfield MP has also committed to investing in education and healthcare systems to create job opportunities in the district and improve Australians’ living standards.
“One of the key pillars of the Labor party’s platform in this election is we want to see teachers and nurses and healthcare workers paid a little bit better,” Li said.
The Liberal party introduced a 2.5 per cent public sector wages cap in 2011 but lifted it to 3 per cent in 2022. ABS’s recent report shows that public sector wages in NSW rose 2.5 per cent last year. Private sector wages rose 3.6 per cent, a higher increase than the public sector.
“The result is that people are resigning. They are thinking the cost-of-living pressures are going up and up. ‘I can make a lot more money if I go and work for a company’ they say.”
These problems will be addressed if Labor wins government tomorrow as they have commited to invest in the infrastructure of education and healthcare systems. This will involve building and upgrading new schools and hospitals, including Canterbury, Fairfield and Blacktown hospitals.
Labor is also committed to expanding the capability of the manufacturing industry in NSW. Public transport, such as trains, ferries and buses, are purchased and manufactured overseas to source cheaper fleets. The party plans to manufacture public transport locally in NSW to grow the economy and create jobs.
Victoria has established the Made in Victoria for Victoria: Victorian Rolling Stock Strategy to invest and improve the local transport network. This has created 165,000 new local jobs since 2014 to support the economy.
“So, I think it’s a reasonable question to ask, if Victoria can make these things, why can’t we?” Li said.
The Strathfield MP is “quietly confident” of retaining the seat.
“We’ve really put the work in. We’ve done some really good things across the electorate,” Li said. “We’ve put some short-term and long-term plans and strategies in the electorate, including our signature wellbeing project where we aim to get people to live longer and happier lives here in Strathfield.”
The political career of Li will be secured for the former lawyer, management consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Yatsen Associates. Li has also served on various boards, including the Australia China Business Council, the Chinese Australian Forum, and the National Australia Day Council. He is also currently the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, a member of the University’s Senate and Chair of the Risk and Audit Committee.