Thursday, December 07, 2006

How Can New England Attract Attention?

I am just back from my youngest daughter's annual break-up. It's late and I should go to bed. But I wanted to report on a conversation.

After the break-up we went out for a drink with another couple and their daughter to celebrate. The father is a well known Sydney journalist.

I was trying to explain about this blog because I thought that the broader stories that I was running might be of interest to a Sydney audience. His reaction was negative.

Since I started this blog I have written some 85 stories on different aspects of New England's history and life. This includes some quite detailed analytical pieces as well as the lighter human interest material.

I know that I find all this interesting, I would not be writing otherwise, and it is clear from the traffic stats that at least some others do as well. So why, then, is the material not of interest from the perspective of a metro journalist, especially one who sometimes writes about the same type of subject?

The answer I come back to links to one of my constant themes, the way the broader New State New England has vanished from public consciousness. The way New England is now divided into disconnected regions - the Hunter, Mid North coast etc - means that those areas are to small too attract regular attention in their own right. The broader issues simply get lost in the static.

Does this matter? I think that it does.

Take the stories I wrote on the NSW Government's Ten Year Plan as an example. Here I started by trying to define some of New England's needs as I saw them. I followed this up by looking at the Plan in detail against those needs. Then in my third post in the series I set out my conclusions, concluding in particular that the Plan did not meet New England's needs.

Now my analysis may be wrong, but I still think that my conclusion is an important one.

My two posts (here1 and here 2) on civil aviation in New England provide a second example.

The fact that Armidale lost its Brisbane air service may not be important in the scheme of things. However, the fact that the air services to Glen Innes, Inverell, Gunnedah, Armidale, Tamworth, Grafton, Port Macquarie and Taree were all affected by a series of interconnected events is, or so I think, of a different order of magnitude. Certainly if I were Premier of New England I would be seriously worried about it.

So what, then, can New England do to attract attention?

This blog is an obvious first step in that I am trying to use my skills as a policy analyst (among other things, I spent twenty years in the Commonwealth Public Service including eight years as a senior public servant) to define and present the New England case. But in doing so I am becoming impatient in that I want to achieve greater impact.

The issue in my mind is how. I think here that I probably need to start promoting the blog more broadly, trying to encourage people to take up and promote the ideas and the New England cause so that they do become issues in the lead up to the next state election.

In doing so, I do not want to adopt a Party political position. My traditional Country Party affiliations are well known. But from a New England perspective it does not matter whether the ALP, Nationals, Liberals or independents take the main pro-England stance. The critical requirement is that at least some do, thus forcing others to respond.

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