The Federal election can’t and won’t be held on 20 October because, as everyone who lives in Bennelong can tell you, that’s the date of the Granny Smith Festival.
Much has been written about how Bennelong has changed over the years, of how solid middle-class WASPs have been replaced by Asian migrants. This assumes obvious differences like Korean-language signs in the streetscape have more importance than they do. Bennelong people are strivers and joiners, same as they’ve always been. Instead of the piano lessons behind closed doors, the coaching colleges in the main street demonstrate both parental ambitions for their children and the means to realise them.
It’s easy to mock the parade at the Granny Smith Festival. Each of the schools has a float, so do the dance schools, the churches and the services clubs. Their sheer variety and often gaudy nature show a community in flux.
The buttoned-down Bennelong of years past would have joined the rugby club and the Liberal Party with none of this showiness, but the rules have changed. A more diverse community has taken the mantra of choice to heart. There is a yearning for community and cohesion, without sacrificing a commitment to upholding standards and being taken seriously.
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The candidate who best addresses the concerns of this area is Maxine McKew. McKew’s brochure — delivered twice in the past fortnight – speaks to this need. A Strong Voice for Bennelong is the title on the front page, where McKew is pictured with the kind of smiling children who are the very focus of aspirational locals.
John Howard has become a remote figure in office. In contrast with McKew, little in Bennelong indicates that John Howard is our local member and wants to be re-elected.
If the Labor candidate was Maxine Smith, the kind of try-hard local candidate you find in most marginals, she wouldn’t have a hope against Howard. The people of Bennelong have been used to seeing their local member at the centre of national affairs. But the prospect of a local member who can maintain this presence negates the lese-majeste involved in knocking off a prime minister.