Mark Speakman’s quest to be Premier, and the part Penrith will play

Mark Speakman chats with the Weekender's Troy Dodds. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Mark Speakman’s alarm goes off well before 5am.

It’s always gone off early, but never quite this early on a daily basis.

But this is the life of an Opposition Leader.

And while the 2027 State Election may seem an age away, it is in these cold winters where future Premiers are born.

It’s where shoe leather is worn thin, and many hands are shaken.

The ground work for what is to come.

On this particular day, Speakman begins his journey from the Sutherland Shire to Penrith well before the sun has risen.

First stop is the Penrith CBD Corporation’s Coffee Catch-up at Panthers Leagues Club.

Rather than deliver a pre-prepared speech full of political rhetoric, Speakman opts to mingle with business owners and managers instead – learning the lay of the land.

The first coffee of the morning is followed up by a dart across Victoria Bridge to meet the Weekender at Laughin’ Boy cafĂ©.

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman in Penrith last week. Photo: Melinda Jane.

This is just the beginning of what is likely to be a regular trip west for Speakman as he tries to wrestle the seat of Penrith back from Labor.

“We would like to win every seat we can at the next election and Penrith is sitting on a margin of one per cent so I expect our Labor opponents and ourselves will be having a fierce contest here,” he said.

“It’s been important to get on the ground here in Penrith, speaking to local businesses. A lot of people out here are doing it tough. Cost-of-living everywhere I go in New South Wales is the biggest issue, and that has a big impact on businesses as well.”

Speakman delivered his verdict on the first third of Labor’s term in government, declaring it hasn’t been what the public had hoped.

“I think a lot of people are disappointed with this government,” he said.

“They were expecting a bit of vision and there is none. There is really no long-term vision for this state. The transformational infrastructure you saw under the Liberals and Nationals won’t be happening.”

Speakman said the Government needed to do more to tackle the cost-of-living and housing crisis in the state.

“There are people turning up in suits at Penrith Community Kitchen because they can’t afford to put food on the table,” he said.

“We’ve seen this government in the last Budget introduce no new cost-of-living support. Instead, a lot of our cost-of-living support that we had has been slashed or cancelled.”

Mark Speakman chatting with the Weekender’s Troy Dodds. Photo: Melinda Jane.

While the Coalition lost plenty of experience at the last election – including the long-time Penrith MP Stuart Ayres – Speakman is confident that he has the right mix to take to the next election.

“We’ve got nine MPs under 40, five under 35… Labor have got none under 35,” he said.

“And while you may not want a government run solely by 20-somethings, it’s important to have that input particularly in the middle of a housing crisis where young people are priced out of buying and even renting.”

While Speakman is yet to don his Speedos and have a splash at Penrith Beach, he did call for the State Government to think beyond the year-to-year beach set-up and investigate implementing Western Sydney Lakes’ full vision for the site.

And he’s determined to keep tackling the domestic violence crisis that continues to engulf the state he wishes to run.

“There’s no magic wand and there’s no doubt that domestic violence is a scourge that effects every community,” he said.

“There’s no easy solution. The key to it all is a lack of respect. That cultural change, calling out bad behaviour, teaching kids respect in schools, that’s at the very heart of it.”

While he admitted the legal system “isn’t perfect”, he backed Apprehended Violence Orders as a key component in tackling domestic violence cases, saying they had the desired impact in about 75 per cent of cases.

“There has to be a whole of government approach to this,” he said.

While the Coalition is some time off locking in a candidate to tackle the next State Election in Penrith, Speakman promised it won’t be the last we see of him in the area – committing to be a regular fixture in the coming months and years.

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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