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Gillard denies dodging 'westies'

Published: 8:42PM Wednesday March 06, 2013 Source: AAP

Julia Gillard hasn't ventured into any shopping malls but she says she's meeting plenty of community members during her stay in Sydney's west.

The prime minister insists she's governing, but the five-day tour certainly feels like a mini-election campaign as ministers and local MPs appear with her at daily announcements attended by large media packs.

At Punchbowl on Wednesday, Gillard was asked by reporters why she had not visited any shopping centres and whether the meetings she was attending were stage-managed.

She said she had just met with local community members about public safety and would continue to be available in various ways over coming days.

"I've got the opportunity to spend a few days here. I'm taking it," Gillard said.

"... It's part of what we routinely do ... governing, talking to people, listening to community members, taking the opportunity to explain what the government is doing."

Gillard winds up the tour on Thursday.

Outside Punchbowl Community Centre, grandmother Nadia Mouhamad waited with her daughter and grandson to see the prime minister as she went into the meeting.

"She's a good lady. I vote for her," said the pensioner, who thought the government should increase pensions.

Her daughter Linda had a different view.

"I don't know if I personally like her. I think they are just as bad as each other," she said, referring to Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

A local who wanted to be known as Sam said he would be a "happy Labor voter all the way" but he thought Mr Abbott would win the next election.

He said Gillard's broken carbon tax pledge had particularly harmed Labor's prospects.

At Rooty Hill RSL club, adjacent to where Gillard is staying, self-employed electrician Keith Darley, 35, said he had been a Labor Party member but was now disillusioned with both parties.

"They would have to be dead-set stupid to think they're going to get re-elected," he said of Labor.

"It's western Sydney week, western Sydney must be like the poor cousin to get so much attention."

But Darley said western Sydney's problems, like cost of living pressures, lack of good infrastructure, crime and closed shops, could be found across Australia.

And he said the west was changing.

"You might think we come from western Sydney wearing Ugg boots and flanno shirts but there's a lot of accountants and lawyers and school teachers."

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