A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?
Good government depends, very significantly, on a robust, razor-sharp but constructive opposition; one that holds the incumbents to account, while promoting a considered, progressive and viable alternative. Report card respondents broadly rated NSW Labor’s performance in this regard, over the past two years in the West, as moderate.
If they still stand, then NSW Labor’s pre-election (2019) commitments to accelerate the Sydney Metro West, boost nurse-to-patient ratios, and lock-in (15-20 per cent) affordable housing mandates will address significant areas of need for Western Sydney. Similarly, appropriately resourcing the Independent Commission Against Corruption would help address growing accountability, transparency and integrity concerns.
“Appropriately resourcing the Independent Commission Against Corruption would help address growing accountability, transparency and integrity concerns.”
Plans to strengthen Industrial Relations Commission protections for under-paid and gig workers would be welcome among worker cohorts highly represented by Western Sydney residents. Equally, a suite of policy commitments made under ‘social justice’ and ‘women’ themes would respond to significant gaps in the Government’s response to a range of issues, particularly relevant for a socioeconomically diverse region like the West.
LOSS OF FAITH
Other aspects of NSW Labor’s record are troubling for Western Sydney. The party’s strident and sustained rejection of the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was repeatedly cited, in report card responses, as a disappointment. The rationale for Labor’s stance is not seen as being sufficiently explained, resulting in it being viewed by some as emblematic of a loss of faith in, and connection with the West, in favour of inner-Sydney interests.
“The party’s strident and sustained rejection of the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was repeatedly cited, in report card responses, as a disappointment.”
The need for a more coordinated approach from the Opposition on championing its considerable Western Sydney constituency was also noted, with issues like school-aged digital literacy, infrastructure and internet access seen as areas where Labor’s voice was needed with more intensity. Similarly, Labor is viewed as not having challenged the Government with the necessary rigour on significant failings in social housing stimulus, support for under-paid ‘essential workers’, migrants and refugees and small business innovation.
Critiques of Labor were tempered with exceedingly positive reports of the commitment, dedication and ability of particular representatives. The capacity of individual members to rally and champion the interests of constituents at the electorate level was commonly described as exceptional, with certain representatives viewed as standouts; some of them, highly experienced, but underutilised.
“The capacity of individual members to rally and champion the interests of constituents at the electorate level was commonly described as exceptional.”
On the basis of those assessments, it is clear that Labor retains significant capacity with respect to its Western Sydney credentials at the grassroots level. Coordination and consolidation of effort remains an issue. It is also evident – through inquiries and similar fora – that particular early-career Labor MLCs have markedly high levels of awareness of, and commitment to, Western Sydney and the issues critical to the region. They must be utilised. Labor rates a C+ in the West at this mid-term point, with clear paths for improvement, and enough time – if committed – to mount a very compelling, alternative vision for Western Sydney.
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