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Dai Le aims for an upset in ‘demonised’ electorate

But Dai Le, 55, the deputy mayor of Fairfield City council, is aiming for a massive upset in one of the safest Labor seats in the country – running as an independent in the western Sydney electorate of Fowler.Judging by the reception from locals at a prepoll booth in St John’s Park on Tuesday, Le, a Vietnamese refugee who arrived with her parents at age 11, has a good shot of stealing Fowler, which boats a whopping 14 per cent margin and has never once been out of Labor’s hands.Despite a shoestring budget, Le is in tune with her multicultural community where almost one in five people has Vietnamese ancestry, 60 per cent are born overseas and three quarters speak a language other than English at home.Her secret weapon is the popular mayor Frank Carbone, a former Labor polly turned independent, who is by her side on the hustings each day and features prominently in her campaign literature.During last year’s harsh lockdown, Le and Carbone were the only politicians who spoke up fiercely for western Sydney.“Our community was marginalised, demonised and treated like second class citizens,” Le says of the travel permits and draconian testing regimen which hit western suburbs workers hardest.“Cabramatta and Fairfield were like ghost towns. This wasn’t happening in the eastern suburbs. Nobody was defending us from either party.”And that is something Keneally will never understand.“She wasn’t here when we were locked down. She didn’t go through that”. It is a point not lost on Edmond Kalaita, 83, from Bossley Park, who was among about 2000 people who voted early at St John’s Park on Tuesday.“She’s not living here,” he said, gesturing at a poster of a grinning Keneally.“Dai Le has been in the council for a long time. I think the local will win.”Joe, 66, from Mount Pritchard, was blunter. “I think [Keneally] has just been dropped into a very safe seat. It’s an insult. She was the worst premier.“I’m voting for the one who’s here. She’s the local,” he says, pointing at Le, nearby in a Pink sweater speaking Vietnamese to an elderly couple.“She works hard.”Lifelong St John’s Park resident John McCutcheon, 82, says Fowler is “a powerful strong seat” but Keneally’s candidacy is “bad luck for Labor. She’s not going to go far.”Jules, in her 30s, was one of the few voters willing to speak in the pre-poll queue who didn’t care that Keneally is from out of town. “You can hear from her accent she’s from America,” she says of the Las Vegas born transplant.But Jules is more turned off by the “mean girls” saga in which Keneally was accused of ganging up on the late Senator Kimberley Kitching. “I’m not sure if it’s true but I don’t like the bullying”.Keneally was nowhere to be seen on Tuesday, though she popped into St John’s on Monday.But in a sign that her victory in the deep red seat is not a sure thing, Labor deployed its big guns in on Tuesday. Kevin Rudd and his former sidekick Chris Bowen strolled around the nearby Greenway Plaza shopping centre accosting likely voters.Like everything else in this election, their reception was nonchalant.

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