Albanese plays craft bar-room politics in Sydney’s inner west


Co-owner Pat McInerney said the Albo Corn Ale was one of the brewery’s best sellers: “It’s a popular local beer like the man himself.”

His assessment is not shared by Jim Casey, the Greens’ candidate for Grayndler, which overlaps the state electorates of Newtown and Balmain, both held by the NSW Greens. Mr Albanese won the seat at the 2016 election with a 15 per cent margin on a two-party-preferred basis over Mr Casey, according to the Australian Electoral Commission.

“He’s a professional politician who is a creature of the Labor Party machine,” Mr Casey said.

A firefighter, Mr Casey said he was not a member of the Labor party because he is a union activist.

“The ALP’s refusal to legislate for a right to strike is a deal breaker for me,” he said. “They’re just such a disappointment.”

Both candidates agree that climate change is an important issue, but Mr Albanese said his electorate was “quite sophisticated politically”.

Clutching schooners of Albo Corn Ale, Anthony Albanese poses for a photograph with Ben Suggate at Willie the Boatman Brewery. Credit:Steven Siewert

“They understand you need someone who is a member of a party of government rather than a party of protest and they want real action on climate change,” he said. “They don’t want just posturing.”

Liberals’ candidate Derek Henderson referred questions to the party’s media manager who did not respond to The Sun-Herald.

The sound of planes preparing to land at nearby Sydney Airport did not seem to bother drinkers at the craft brewery – a far cry from that battles over aircraft noise that used to dominate local politics.

Asked how he intended to vote, Mr Suggate said: “I want to buy a house next year so I guess whatever party is going to support me the best.”

Mr Albanese said Labor, if elected, would ensure first-home buyers do not have to compete with investors for existing houses.

“If he’s trying to buy a house around here that’s existing property, then that will make a difference for him,” he said.

Mr Albanese said social justice issues and the environment were priorities for voters, but aircraft noise also remained a concern.

He noted the dramatic changes in his electorate over the past two decades: “It’s much younger and there are a lot of professionals moving in.”

With a beer in hand, Mr Albanese drew a distinction between pubs and craft breweries, which he said contributed to the local economy.

“There’s no pokies, there’s just atmosphere and collegiality,” he said. “People come to see their neighbours, to see their friends, to see their mates. You can bring your kids here. You can bring your pets here.

“You don’t need security at craft breweries. There’s a reason for that.”

Mr Albanese, who is also Labor’s spokesman on tourism, had earlier expressed concern about the state of Sydney’s nightlife and cultural scene buffeted by lockout laws and heavy-handed regulations governing live music venues and festivals.

“Sydney is in danger of losing its reputation as a global city,” he said. “I think Melbourne is getting ahead of Sydney.”

He conceded that planning was a state government matter but said: “I think that federal politicians can play a role in debating those issues while recognising the state government at the end of the day controls much of the agenda.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a cut in Australia’s migrant intake last year, declaring the “roads are clogged” and buses, trains and schools in Sydney and Melbourne “are full”.

But Mr Albanese said he was comfortable with the country’s and Sydney’s population growth.

“We do need with an ageing population to continue to have growth,” he said. “We also need to acknowledge that migrants contribute to economic activity so that’s important.”

Mr Albanese said people were rightly concerned about “bad development” on inappropriate sites with a lack of infrastructure.

“People want to live in communities with increases in density but it’s got to lead to an improvement in their quality of life,” he said. “Too often we’ve seen greed and overdevelopment in the wrong places.”

Mr Albanese said he had no doubt there was a great deal of cynicism about politics: “In part, that’s a product of the last 10 years, you know, and the changing of senior office holders including the prime minister but others as well”.

Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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