New analysis of the NSW Government’s mid-term performance in Western Sydney reveals that while it scores an ‘A’ for its work in health – in particular, its pandemic response – it falls short on key priorities like education and housing.
Prepared by the Centre for Western Sydney, within Western Sydney University, the ‘Mid-Term Report Card’ evaluates the NSW Government over the first half of its current term, ranking its performance across six priority areas for the Western Sydney region:
- Health and Wellbeing – Rating: A
- Place and Connectedness – Rating: B+
- Society and Culture – Rating: B
- Sustainability and Economy – Rating: B-
- Education and Participation – Rating: C
- Housing and Community – Rating: C-
The Centre for Western Sydney is a collaborative research and advocacy hub, that works with community, industry and government partners to address the pressing issues of Australia’s most politically contested, and fastest growing region.
The Centre’s Director, Dr Andy Marks, says that in constructing the Mid-Term Report Card, the Centre asked regional stakeholders to highlight areas where they believed the Government had performed well, as well as areas for improvement.
Contributors to the Centre’s report included corporate and community peak bodies representing hundreds of the region’s businesses – large and small – along with grassroots community and non-profit groups, local government, the NSW Government and Opposition.
“The NSW Government rates a B- overall for its performance across Western Sydney,” said Dr Marks. “That’s a broadly positive result, but after a decade of incumbency, challenges related to fairness, transparency and accountability are emerging,” he added.
“While the Government has rated exceptionally well in ensuring the health and wellbeing of Western Sydney residents, it is missing the mark in other critical areas. Uncertainty clouds key jobs-generating transport connections, like the Parramatta Light Rail link to Sydney Olympic Park. Similarly, firm commitments are yet to be made to connect stranded new residential areas in the south west to the larger network,” said Dr Marks.
Educational inequity was an issue of particular interest for report participants, noted Dr Marks, “There is real concern that the gap between the region’s most well-resourced and under-funded schools appears to be widening. We saw the repercussions of this during the lockdown, with many students having limited or no internet access.”
The NSW Government’s clean energy incentives, under Energy and Environment Minister, Matt Kean, were seen as a potentially transformative industry-attraction and technology opportunity for the West, however, Dr Marks observed that, “respondents agreed much more needs to be done to address the region’s climate and urban heat issues.”
Dr Marks said, “Penrith recorded the hottest temperature on the planet in January 2020, if that doesn’t focus the Government on the urgency of this task, and the opportunities it presents, then nothing will.”
Turning to social housing, Dr Marks said, “Nearly all respondents highlighted the staggering gulf between Victoria’s and NSW’s stimulus investments, describing it as a ‘missed opportunity’ to address a generational challenge for a region like Western Sydney.”
“The re-location of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta was widely applauded by report participants”, Dr Marks said, while noting that support for community-based arts and culture across the West was also critical.
Dr Marks accepted it is a bold move for the Centre – which was re-launched in November 2020 – to publicly critique the performance of a sitting state Government.
“The report is indeed bold – but it is also very necessary,” said Dr Marks. “The Government is at the critical halfway mark of its current term. Close scrutiny is important when so much of Western Sydney’s ability to thrive relies on truly collaborative and engaged policy.”
“Western Sydney will continue to play a leading role in our nation’s recovery. Targeted job creation remains an urgent task, as does improved access to quality education regardless of income. To really thrive, the West needs to be better understood by Government.” Dr Marks said. “That’s an ongoing task that requires Government become far better listeners.”
“This Report Card will help hold the Government to account for their existing promises to Western Sydney. Importantly, it will also provide a constructive roadmap for the future of our region, one that truly reflects the voices, opinions and aspirations of its residents.”
This is the first Report Card in a regular program of state and federal government benchmarking the Centre will undertake for, and with, its region.
The communities of Western Sydney can have their own say by taking part in the Centre’s online survey. To rate the Government’s performance, complete the Centre for Western Sydney survey.
The Report Card is being discussed by a panel of experts on Friday 26 March 2021, at a special event celebrating the University’s support of the Daily Telegraph’s Best of the West campaign.