COLUMN: We need a big voice

SELFIE WITH SUPPORTERS: Jodi McKay celebrating with her supporters. Local MP Greg Warren is clearly seen at right, and eagle-eyed readers might also spot former Campbelltown mayor Peter Primrose (1987-88), now an MLC.
SELFIE WITH SUPPORTERS: Jodi McKay celebrating with her supporters. Local MP Greg Warren is clearly seen at right, and eagle-eyed readers might also spot former Campbelltown mayor Peter Primrose (1987-88), now an MLC.

When Jodi McKay became NSW Labor's new leader, and posted this Facebook selfie, it drew hundreds of comments, some from locals.

"Great to see so many strong women in this photo" said well-known Campbelltonian Kim McCausland.

Indeed, women make up 50 per cent of the new Labor Shadow Ministry, an historic first for any major party in NSW or federally.

But it's a bloke, hand on hip, who stands out in this photo - Campbelltown's MP, Greg Warren, a strong backer of the new party leader.

He's now hit the big time.

For the first time in years we have a local state MP who is also a minister. Well, a shadow minister at least.

We've had a bit of a drought that way in recent times, which is unusual.

In the decades before 2011 we had a long list of local MPs as senior state ministers such as Phil Costa, Andrew McDonald, Graham West, Craig Knowles, Michael Knight, and even a Premier, John Fahey. But that run of top-level influence has run dry this decade, if you don't count the months Jai Rowell was very briefly Minister for Mental Health in 2014-15.

It can make a difference.

It was Fahey, after all, who as Liberal Premier in 1993 started the ball rolling on protecting the Wedderburn koala colony after many years of his Liberal predecessor failing to act.

Knowles (our best planning minister) actually knew how to say "no" to bad developments, and if Phil Costa was still minister for water, I doubt Wollondilly Council's warnings on the low dam levels would be as casually dismissed as they are now.

Back in my early days as a reporter in the 1980s I was never at any risk of joining a cheer squad for Campbelltown MP Michael Knight (we didn't get on), but I was the first to admit that we actually started getting major stuff from the government after he made it to cabinet.

Greg Warren doesn't have that advantage; he's stuck in opposition for the next four years. But he is a fighter.

I got a chance to see up close the (successful) campaign he waged to get better bus services for the army of local students suffering from the inadequacy of public transport from Macarthur to Wollongong uni.

Achievements like this might sound minor, but they are notable as he's up against a wall of sneer from a north shore government that seems to find some glee in closing our motor registries, handing scenic protection zones to developers, and sending local commuters the worst trains.

But what his promotion means is that now when Greg speaks out, he's not just a lonely Campbelltown MP having a whinge, but Labor's official spokesman for Western Sydney.

It's also strangely appropriate. I mean, the most inappropriate politicians usually get the jobs.

We end up with environment ministers who hate the environment, planning ministers who let developers plan Macarthur, and, let's face it, we even had Tony Abbott as Australia's minister for women. Seriously.

But Greg Warren has been given three portfolios:

Western Sydney.

Veterans.

Local Government.

For a proud resident of Sydney's greater west who is a former soldier and has served as both a councillor and a mayor, it seems an unusually in-sync gig.

Hopefully, Greg can work toward a future where Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly are more than a mere dumping ground.