Tonight's post is a bit of a wander around with a special focus on issues raised recently on the New England New State Movement Facebook page.
Just to set the scene, this graphic is a car window sticker from the 1960s. Things haven't changed, that's what we want, although there is debate among us as to just what development means. How do we balance the environment with development is an example. Are the two in conflict?
One of the issues that constantly comes up is simply the question of giving us choice. Scott Hastings put it this way:
if the present states are so confident in the present structure, let them prove it by asking a direct question in a free referendum: Do you wish to be part of the State of New South Wales.
Of course they're too scared to do this, as the answer would be a resounding NO from the Tweed to the Hunter.
A little history reminder. the people of NSW were never asked if they want to be a state, they just became so as it was the remainder after all the other states were formed.
Just because New England currently lacks the firepower and organization to secede, does NOT in any way mean we consent to being a part of NSW.
I think that's dead right.
My post on this blog, Has the Greiner infrastructure report failed New England?, drew some comments. Sean Duce tartly remarked:
Oh and you forgot to mention Newcastle gets 500 million to reduce travel time by rail to Sydney to the same time period as the World War Two era flyer over the next 10-20 years.
Mark Zaicos commented:
Let's not forget that Greiner hasn't given up destroying regional rail. Countrylink may be sold meaning rail to the New England heartland will almost certainly be cut.
That's right Mark, but remember that Mr Greiner as premier focused just on the great gods of efficiency and effectiveness. He won't recognise the importance of the vision that we are trying to articulate because he sees the role of state government just in delivering services to the majority in that territory and indeed denies the very validity of what we stand for. We don't exist, so we can be ignored.
I commented on the neglect of inland New England New. This issue was picked up in the Armidale Express, if with a little New England focus. I quote:
A $20 BILLION infrastructure spend has snubbed Armidale according to Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay.
He said yesterday much of NSW had been sidelined by former NSW premier Nick Greiner’s 20-year vision for main projects across the state.
“I’m just surprised about how often we have to fight for every outcome and this plan shows it will be no different in future,” he said.
“I’m tired of seeing regional projects being an afterthought and they need to feature far more prominently in future plans, state or federally.”
Richard is right, of course, that's what I said in my post. But the problem is that if we are to strike back, we have to look more broadly and we have to make compromises. If we are to get decent development, I should write a post on what i mean by that, we have to overcome the dreaded local parochialism that constantly allows Sydney and the political parties to divide and rule.
This came up in another Facebook discussion. Scott worried that
hmm. been pondering further on the coastal-inland 'rivalry' (silly to even call it that as the coast certainly doesn't operate with any sense of unity, but anyway).
imagining the electoral map of the state of New England raises interesting questions. i'm not sure how well inland voters would accept a state parliament in which coastal seats were in the clear majority...? or perhaps we'd look at a totally new model than what's used in the rest of Australia?
This led to quite an interesting discussion. But to understand the issues, you have to understand the history.
Now to illustrate, this is a photo of the front of the news agency in Gunnedah. It's a very good newsagency that carries every paper in the immediate region. And where does the region start? Newcastle. The SMH doesn't even warrant a poster!
Now this is not an argument about boundaries, another recurring theme in new state discussions.
The issues here have been fairly well sorted, for in the end it's what people want. One state, two states or even three. But in understanding the issues. you have to look at geography and the way that affects our thinking over time.
Here I want to pause for tonight, for changing economics based on geography creates a fundamental challenge for all of us who care about the North. But that's a subject for my next post.