Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why I remain a New England New Stater 10 - the sad case of Newcastle

Note to readers: This post is one in a series using personal examples to illustrate why I continue to support both agitation for New England self-government and self-government itself. Agitation, because its very existence forces forces the Sydney Government to consider New England interests. Self-government, because there are some things that we cannot achieve without this.

I was listening to a radio discussion on the way home from work. A southern commentator compared the favourable treatment (and publicity) that cities like Hobart or Adelaide obtained compared to Newcastle. The reason given was that they were state capitals, whereas Newcastle was treated simply as an extension of Sydney.

I think it true that Newcastle is much neglected.

From the time the Hawkesbury rail bridge was opened to Sydney with rail freight rates set so as to attract freight from elsewhere in New England to Sydney, the city has suffered as Sydney's much smaller and poorer second cousin.

Would Newcastle have benefited from New England statehood, given that it would not have been capital? It is hard to argue otherwise. As New England's major city, Newcastle would necessarily have attracted attention and promotion in a way not possible in NSW.

In 1967 Newcastle voted no to self-government out of loyalty to the then Labor Party who opposed separation. I think that I would challenge those in Newcastle who opposed self-government in 1967 to name a single thing that Newcastle has gained since that the city would not have gained as part of New England.

Since 1967 Newcastle has declined in relative terms. The city is no longer as important or relevant as it was. Some of the decline has been due to broader causes such as industrial change. However, part of it is due to the way that Newcastle has been increasingly sidelined within NSW.

Return to introductory post.

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