By Christopher Brown AM, Chairman WSLD
With the dust now settled on the NSW State Election and returning Premier Mike Baird having announced his new Cabinet, let’s take a look back at what transpired and what it means for Western Sydney.
Following its historic result in 2011, the Liberal Party, and its “Let’s get NSW Moving” transport/infrastructure campaign, was confident it could hang on to many of the local seats it won under former Premier Barry O’Farrell.
Coalition confidence was not totally misplaced, faring reasonably well in Western Sydney. It improved its margin in Parramatta, rewarding the Government’s massive investment in the area, and retained East Hills, Fairfield, Holsworthy, Seven Hills and Mulgoa. Former Howard Minister, Jackie Kelly, and her patronising anti-Badgery’s Creek campaign didn’t get off the ground (pun intended), attracting only about 4000-odd votes in Penrith, with WSLD favourite, Stuart Ayres being returned comfortably. (Mind you, if Kelly receives the same vote at a Federal poll and directs preferences to Labor then Fiona Scott MP would likely lose her seat – so there is some warning here for the airport lobby.)
Despite being on the wrong end of the election result, Opposition Leader Luke Foley remained positive and positioned the outcome as a step towards victory in 2019. Securing the seat of Granville, via Parramatta Councillor Julia Finn, was a good win, as was Campbelltown with a 14% swing back to the ALP. Safe Labor heartlands such as Liverpool and Blacktown were also retained with improved margins. Former Punchbowl High Principal, and rising star, Jihad Dib was elected as the new MP for Bankstown.
Premier Baird is not taking any chances though and new Transport & Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance (who switched places with new Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian) has wasted little time in “getting NSW moving”. Work has continued on the North-West Rail link, including the start of drilling for the new second Sydney Harbour Crossing, while an announcement on the Western Sydney Light Rail routes is expected in the coming months.
Castle Hill MP, Ray Williams, has been returned to his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Western Sydney, supporting Premier Mike Baird who has retained ministerial responsibility for the region. Baulkham Hills MP, David Elliott was appointed Minister for Emergency Services, and Parliamentary Secretary roles went to Geoff Lee (Communities) and Mulgoa’s Tania Davies (Youth).
It would seem that the popularity of Mike Baird and Western Sydney’s desire for new transport infrastructure overwhelmed a local dislike of power privatisation. The long term problem for Labor is that its traditional heartland area is still prepared to elect Liberal Governments and the Opposition will have to work hard to regain the trust of its Western Sydney base after many years of infrastructure neglect. However, with both state leaders claiming 'a win', and with plenty of seats still in play, it’s reasonable to conclude that Western Sydney will again play a vital role in deciding the election in 2019.
The community will be watching closely the Government’s resolve on local government amalgamation to see if the Premier is prepared to leverage his political capital on much-needed micro-economic reform and civic modernisation. Another big challenge for the Government will be to turn the infrastructure promises into real jobs for Western Sydney, where youth unemployment remains shamefully high. Big projects like the Olympic Corridor redevelopment, investing in the River City CBDs, relocating public servants and cultural facilities and leveraging Badgerys Creek will be the Premier’s best chance of success.