Jenny Leong
Jenny Leong

The Greens Member for Newtown delivered her inaugural speech on 5 May 2015 in the Legislative Assembly of the NSW Parliament House.

Over 150 members of the local community were in attendance, filling the public galleries. Among the guests were BLF and Green Bans legend Jack Mundey, NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, and former NSW Senator Kerry Nettle.

The speech focused on equality, human rights, and collective action in achieving political change. Jenny acknowledged the recently deceased Wiradjuri man Ray Jackson for his contribution to the fight for Koori justice and noted former member of Newtown Frank Burke’s presidency of the Anti-conscription Council prior to being elected in 1917.


Key excerpts from the speech:


On WestConnex:

“It seems appropriate for me to encourage any potential investors in WestConnex to look closely at the resolve of the good people of Newtown when preparing to borrow or to lend to this unwanted and unwarranted project.”


On marriage equality: (referring to her life companion of 19 years):

“We declined to have our wedding recognised in law. One day, when the institution of marriage is no longer tainted by discrimination, we will get legally married; until then, we will continue to live in sin.”


On Lillian Fowler, the last member for Newtown:

“The electorate of Newtown has a radical past that is still present today. Lillian Fowler, the last member for Newtown in this place, began her inaugural speech to this Chamber in September 1944 by stating:

‘I have always thought that government meant action by elected representatives and the formulation of ideas for the benefit of the people. My ideal government would frown on anything not to the ultimate good of all.’

The main issues on her agenda at that time were proposed changes to electricity delivery, local government amalgamations, which she posited was motivated by the Government’s desire to seek electoral benefits, along with housing, rents and accessible public transport. It seems that some things will always stay the same.”

On local collective action:

“During my time in this place, I look forward to working collaboratively with others—in the Parliament and on the streets. It is the only way that we will ever achieve change.”

“Our community and our neighbourhoods are no strangers to collective action. We have a long and proud history of standing up against injustice, overdevelopment, evictions from public housing, the sell-off of public assets and cuts to public services.”

“We have a radical past. We are a strong community, and we know how to activate, organise and campaign to win.”

“…It seems only appropriate for me to advise those planning to build WestConnex or overdevelop around Petersham Park, those who intend to sell off the Australian Technology Park site, or fill the Central to Eveleigh corridor with unsustainable, unaffordable housing, or those who seek to ignore the imperative for Aboriginal housing on The Block, to factor in the radical history of Newtown before they act.”


On the local area:

“The people who live in the electorate of Newtown are welcoming of difference and diversity, so it is perhaps not surprising that many come to Newtown to feel accepted, or to have their diversity celebrated even if they do not live here.

“Newtown—and the people I met when I moved there—made me an activist. Or at least if I was an activist before—and I am pretty sure I showed signs of it from an early age—it was the people I met when I moved to Newtown who taught me what an activist was.”


On NSW politics:

“It is pretty clear that simply trusting the government of the day to do the right thing is not going to be enough. Slippery words and excuses that continue to allow human rights to be violated are a tacit endorsement of racism, sexism and discrimination.”

“It is clear that the priorities have been wrong for too long under successive governments in New South Wales.”