1. Tell us your name & political party.
Brian Owler, Australian Labor Party
2. What is your connection to Bennelong and why are you running for the seat?
As a doctor, I’ve treated hundreds of patients across the Bennelong electorate. I’m often stopped when I walk down the street. I also have an appointment at Macquarie Hospital.
I’m running for Bennelong because I’m concerned by the state of our healthcare system and the current government’s complete inaction on the problem of Climate Change. As a neurosurgeon, it’s great to help one patient — but the opportunity to contribute decisions regarding healthcare can affect millions. That’s the difference I want to make as the Member for Bennelong.
3. Tell us a bit about yourself and what other “hats” you wear in your life.
Professionally, I am a neurosurgeon who works with both adults and children and have undertaken research on a number of topics.
I grew up in modest circumstances in Panania. My parents were both teachers. Dad was a fitter and turner who became a TAFE teacher; my Mum worked with kids with special needs. I grew up around children and young adults with disabilities and it had a profound effect on me.
I’m a father of three children and I spend as much time with them as I can.
My other hats are that I have sat on the boards of several charitable organisations, including Autism Awareness Australia and the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.
4. What do you love most about the area and what is your favourite spot?
Bennelong’s diversity is its greatest asset. I love its multicultural community. There are lots of great locations, especially along the Parramatta River with its parks. Eastwood Mall really is a special place that brings cultures together.
I also think that Bennelong’s science and technology precinct in Macquarie Park has enormous potential, particularly with Macquarie University and health orientated businesses.
5. What do you believe are the 3 main issues affecting the seat of Bennelong and why?
Overdevelopment. The most common issue raised with me is that of overdevelopment. Understandably residents are upset that this has happened in the way that it has. Bennelong’s Federal MP must work closely with the community as well as with State and Local Governments to ensure that development is sustainable and is consistent with the area’s heritage and with standards of liveability.
Schools. Our schools are struggling to cope with the growth in local population. Labor will ensure that there is more funding for schools. If Labor is elected, public schools in Bennelong will receive an additional $14 million over the next three years alone. That will make a huge difference in the quality of our education.
Environment. This issue affects all of us: we’re facing a very serious issue in climate change, and currently not enough is being done. I’m proud to run for parliament for a party committed to action on Climate Change.
6. What other key objectives do you have planned for the area? Please provide short-term (under 12 months) and long-term (up to 3/4 years). Please keep to a max of 4.
I’ve announced a range of projects that Labor will introduce in Government.
New Headspace in Ryde. Currently, Ryde locals must travel up to an hour to attend facilities in Chatswood or Parramatta. This investment in mental healthcare for young adults will mean a huge difference for young people across this area.
$5 million for Ryde TAFE. TAFE is such an important way for people to get good, well-paying jobs, and an extra investment for our local horticulture campus will mean that people have a good chance to get a well-paying job.
Extra funding for charitable aid in Eastwood. I went to meet with Christian Community Aid recently to show my support for the not-for-profits in our area. We were able to give them a grant for $26,000 recently.
$500,000 for the Ryde Riverwalk. One of the most beautiful areas in Bennelong is the harbour foreshore. Started by Maxine McKew in 2007, the Ryde Riverwalk is a great place to stroll or go for runs. I want to complete the project, by extending a boardwalk from Looking Glass Bay to Glades Bay Park.
7. What is your party leaders’ biggest strength and biggest weakness?
I have worked with Bill Shorten as an AMA President and more recently as a candidate. I would not be running in this election if I did not personally have faith in Bill and his team. He is a great communicator and has brought the Labor Party through six years of opposition totally unified.
In terms of weaknesses — he probably needs to lay off the Dad jokes.