NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has declared his party’s by-election candidate Paul Scully “the future of Wollongong” during a caucus planning session held at the Sage Hotel on Sunday.
Mr Scully, who was installed as the Labor candidate after the shock resignation of sitting MP Noreen Hay in August, will face the polls on November 12 in one of three NSW seats up for by-election.
His biggest rival will be popular Wollongong lord mayor Gordon Bradbery, who came within a mere 680 votes of dethroning Ms Hay in the 2011 election and announced his intention for a second tilt at the seat at the start of the month.
Mr Scully, who currently holds the position of chief operating officer at UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, has long held ambitions to run for state or federal politics.
He told fellow Labor members he was confident of triumphing but admitted any victory would be hard-won..
“We face a tough by-election on Wollongong but I have hit the ground running,” he said.
“Over the last month we’ve door knocked 3,500 homes, we’ve made more than 1,000 phone calls to local residents, conducted eight street stalls and been on train stations in the cold and rainy mornings.
“The reception we’re receiving at the moment is strong and positive.”
Meantime, Mr Foley heaped praise on his candidate of choice.
“This by-election is very much about the future of Wollongong and Paul Scully is the future of Wollongong,” he said, at the same time slamming the Liberal government for what he said was its lack of commitment to the region.
“What an insult, the Liberal party, the governing party of the state, can’t even be bothered putting forward a candidate,” he said.
Kiama Liberal MP Gareth Ward hit back at Mr Foley’s barb, saying the party was “getting on with the job of governing”.
“We respect the decision the electorate made at the last election,” he said.
“We’re only in the position of needing a by-election because a Labor member resigned.”
Meantime, the Labor caucus will hold a ‘Community Cabinet’ in the city on Monday, which will see the region’s leaders meet face to face with shadow ministers to thrash out the most pressing priorities for the Illawarra.