I missed an important interview with Sunrise of Chanel 7 today because a usual 15 minutes’ drive took about 70 minutes.
Familiar story which happens far too frequently!
It is well known that transport is a big issue for people in Western and North Western Sydney.
Living and working in Western Sydney and interacting with people-professionally or socially, have given ample insight into what is needed in this part of Sydney where 2 million ie 1 out of 11 Australians live, and where majority of Sydneysiders live too.
As I see it, and from my perspective, these are the major issues;
I am listing them here without giving any consideration to the relative importance of these issues.
1. Crimes: Shootings have been in the news. There are gangs which are doing what gangs do. I am aware of many students who have been bashed up without any fault of theirs. One of them had a severe head injury and will probably never be able to work. There are people who get assaulted while getting out of train stations. People are scared about becoming victims of the shootings or assaults. Police are doing what they have to do or can do. Whatever has to be done by the Govt must be done to give Police resources to deal with the criminals. If more CCTV and more cops on the patrol will do the job, I am all for it. If anti-gang task force comprising of officials from various agencies will do the job, that is sweet too. We want safe streets where we can do things we want to do without worrying about the next drive by shooting, assault or knife attack. Let all good ideas come from all directions to help control crimes because we want real actions, not spins.
2. Transport: People in Western Sydney complain continuously about poor transport facilities in the region. They have to waste hours after hours on the roads which are full of cars, moving ever so slowly. We need better public transport with an efficient networking of the transport facilities. NSW Transport master plan has come out and a debate on it is ongoing. People have commented that it is Sydney CBD-focused. Comments have been made that 70% of Sydney people live in the West but 70% of jobs in Sydney are in area away from the West, thus forcing people to travel to Sydney CBD. We need more jobs in Western Sydney.
3. Jobs & employment: Unemployment rates are much higher in Western Sydney. Some say, it is double of the national standard. This is not good because it has a linkage with quality of life, general & mental health and so many more parameters. We need initiatives and incentives which will facilitate creation of jobs in various sectors right here in the West.
5. Proper utilisation of human resources: Western Sydney is very multicultural in nature with >40% of people with some connection with overseas ancestries. Western Sydney is generally the first place where new migrants choose to live. There are obvious reasons for this to happen. This phenomenon gives some boost to the economy, particularly housing and retail sectors, but more can happen, if dealt with smartly. What I have seen and heard is that their training and skills obtained overseas are not properly utilized. This happens mostly on the pretext of lack of “local” experience, leading to rejections of their applications for jobs. I believe that this should be addressed by offering incentives to the employers to employ suitable new migrants who have skills/training for the job, with provision of more active supervision and assistance for bridging courses/training to get them up to speed, if necessary. A smart country like Australia must utilise migrants who it accepted as residents fully and appropriately, making them a part of the economy.
6. Industry & Infrastructure: More industries and infrastructure projects in the region will obviously create more jobs and rejuvenate Western Sydney. To encourage these projects and industries, and to kick start the economic growth of Western Sydney, Govts of all levels should offer incentives to the businesses to set their bases in the West.
7. Health services: The waiting lists for health services are bigger with longer waiting times in the West. Even emergency services take longer to be delivered compared to the East. Funding for the services must be such that they are equitable, sufficient and appropriate, not only for acute services but also for preventive services ie health education, and community care.
8. Airport: Independent studies have told us that Sydney will need second airport soon. Current airport will not cope with further load for long. If second airport is not coming forth, it will affect the economic growth of NSW. Multiple sites have been mentioned but they all get bogged down in politics. Politicians start worrying about votes. It is about time that Govts and politicians focus on economy, not just votes. If Sydney’s second airport has to be created, it has to be in Sydney basin, not Canberra. It will cost money [Approx. $10 billions] but then every mega project which is essential for our economy will need investment. An airport in Western Sydney is expected to give a major boost to the economy in the West, creating an environment for infrastructure projects and employment opportunities equivalent of approx. 40000 jobs,
9. WSROC & other stake holders: Wester Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils is a perfect group, comprising of Councils of Western Sydney. They know what is required in the region. Their views will be of significant importance. They along with key leaders from businesses, public policy and communities should be used as the key stakeholders for debates, analysis and sounding boards.
10. Cost of living: It is an important issue all over Australia but more so in Western Sydney. Rising prices of essential commodities like food, rising cost of electricity, high rents, cost of education, child care, high cost of petrol and so many items which are needed for day to day living are all adding to the pressure. Carbon tax has been an issue although not as bad as was predicted and there are some support available to compensate struggling families. No one can deny that there are people and families who/which are really struggling. Everything must be done to ease the pressure on them.
Two million people of Western Sydney need comprehensive policies/plans for the economic growth of the region. These policies must be outlined now and must be properly costed with source of funding outlined.
People in Western Sydney are smart people and they can see through the slogans and spins.
We need decent, honest and meaningful plans/policies for the long term, not just for the election in Sept 2013.
A word of caution for both major parties: We want substance, not spins!
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/4th March, 2013