Jo Haylen MP: all aboard for progressive politics
By ALEC SMART
Jo Haylen MP for Summer Hill, cuddles a baby saltwater crocodile at Dulwich Hill Fair,
assisted by Anthony Stimson of Australian Wildlife Displays. Photo: Alec Smart
Jo Haylen, Summer Hill MP and the Shadow Minister for Transport, is a rising talent in Australian politics. A popular and engaging personality, we caught up with her to discuss how she balances forward-thinking politics with community responsibilities.
Ms Haylen probably came to most people’s attention in the Inner West as the youngest-ever female Mayor of Marrickville during her 2013 - 2014 term.
In 2015, after the Marrickville electorate was divided and replaced with Newtown and Summer Hill, Ms Haylen won pre-selection as the state MP for Summer Hill.
At the 2019 NSW state election she was comfortably re-elected with 43.66% of the vote, a swing of +11.8%.
Since her inaugural speech to the NSW Parliament in May 2015, she’s made over 400 speeches in support of progressive issues and reforms. These appeals, documented on her website, range from marriage equality; environmental awareness; multiculturalism; tenants’ rights; extending Sydney’s light rail service; supporting the LGBTQI+ community; Indigenous respect; keeping public transport publicly-owned; and preserving local heritage-listed sites like Callan Park.
In addition she has called for the reformation of domestic violence laws.
As Mayor of Marrickville Council, Ms Haylen earned a reputation for delivering projects that enhanced the region, particularly Marrickville Library. As an MP, does she find it challenging to continue developing community-based programs?
“I don’t think you can be an effective MP unless you have a good relationship with your local council representatives... We’re always talking to one another and my work as a state MP would be a lot harder without them!”
Jo Haylen, Summer Hill MP, plants a young Eucalyptus tree on
National Tree Planting Day, Tillman Park, Sydenham. Photo: Alec Smart
What does she like about the Transport portfolio and how does she see herself influencing future policy?
“Public transport should be affordable, accessible and reliable for everyone in Sydney. We’re lucky in the Inner West where so many of us have the choice between relying on a car and using the public transport system. Everyone in Sydney deserves to have that choice, because it’s how we improve productivity, liveability and health right across the board…
“Even though there is massive population growth in Western Sydney, the vast majority of public transport projects delivered by the Coalition either start in the middle of Sydney and head east, or run from the Northern and Eastern Suburbs towards the CBD.
“These growing communities deserve accessible, affordable and reliable public transport services and that’s what I’ll aim to deliver as part of Labor’s public transport plan.
“We are also dealing with an epidemic of shoddy, overseas-built public transport infrastructure that just isn’t up to the job. The Liberals bought cracked trams, ferries riddled with defects, and trains that didn’t fit the tracks from overseas. Thousands of NSW manufacturing jobs were lost and in the end, it cost the taxpayer more than if we built this infrastructure here. It’s time to recognise that this policy has completely failed, and we need to build our trains, trams, ferries and buses right here in Australia.”
Aside from transport, what are some of the most important issues that concern her?
“I think our Governments - both state and federal - need to do much more to address climate change. We need to build and develop more sources of renewable energy and we need to do more to support electric vehicles and electrify our public transport network.
“This isn’t just about cutting carbon emissions and saving our environment for future generations, it’s also about making sure we don’t lose the all the economic opportunities and the jobs that come with new technology and new sources of energy.
“Gender equality is also something that’s very important to me. I think right now we’re in the middle of a really exciting moment in Australian politics. There’s a genuine groundswell across the country for women’s safety in the workplace, an end to the gender pay gap, and for more representation and respect for women right across society. The leadership of young women like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, who are unafraid of speaking truth to power, is an inspiration to many people, including me. I think we might be on the cusp of making some real progress!”