Western Sydney: existing for 365 days a year… not just during elections

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In a fantastic piece written for Fairfax, columnists Peter Hartcher presents a compelling argument for the decline of Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity. He argues that there are two types of leaders:

  • Standard transactional leaders: that it, you vote for me and I will give you something; and
  • Transformational leaders: those that want to change the structures and shape of society.

According to Hartcher, Turnbull came to us as a transformational leader and has now proven himself to be a standard, run-of-the-mill transactional leader. In this way, Hartcher argues that there is nothing separating Bill Shorten from Malcolm Turnbull.

The last truly transformational leader, argues Hartcher, was Gough Whitlam – and no where is this truer than in Western Sydney. Whitlam saw the potential for the arc that is now described as greater western Sydney.

Every election, I get phone calls from media who are wondering what the people from the west are thinking. I keep on making the point that this is an incredibly diverse area and there is a complexity here that is rarely, if ever, captured by our political leaders.

I have been at Western Sydney University for almost 10 years and I have noticed a massive change in the region. While we all welcome announcements that improve the quality of life in greater western Sydney, many folk rightly ask: ‘why has it taken you until now to do this?’

In other words: an announcement about infrastructure is not doing the West any favours. Rather, it is simply a government doing what it was elected to do: serve the cultural, social and economic needs of the people.

In a piece I wrote for The Conversation (available here), I outline some of the key issues facing Western Sydney. I emphasise the point that there is no long term plan to assist this growing economy with the economic re-structuring that is occurring – and will continue to occur.

I also had a great chat with Michael Safi from The Guardian who wrote an excellent article on the electoral perceptions of Western Sydney (available here…). In the interview, I note that Western Sydney is a microcosm of Australia: incredibly diverse and heterogenous, and it should be treated that way.

For too long the region has been seen as some homogenous grouping – and it is for this reason that neither party has offered any more that a series of transactions and nothing transformational.

This requires a major re-thing of Australia’s social and economic trajectory – and Western Sydney needs to be considered in that broader context: from social and material infrastructure, to renewable energy and the need for multi-nodal cities.

Anything less than that is a wasted opportunity – and this is exactly what this current election feels like.

 

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