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Premier Barry O'Farrell ckecks his notes at the recent State of The Region address. Premier Barry O'Farrell ckecks his notes at the recent State of The Region address. Featured
01 September 2012 Posted by 

Little new in Premier’s region address

By Red Dwyer

BARRY O’Farrell passed up the opportunity to impress a captive audience with his grasp of the significance Western Sydney, domestically and internationally recently.


Premier Barry O’Farrell, wearing his hat as Minister for Western Sydney, said little about the region in his State of the Region address to a packed function room at Rosehill Gardens rin August.

The 500 business people and local government representatives who came to hear Mr O’Farrell speak did not learn much about Western Sydney.

Only a third of his 30-minute presentation to the Western Sydney Business Connection referred specifically to Western Sydney. 

He spoke of many things, such as, talking about off the millions of dollars to be spent on roads, hospitals and other infrastructure; many of which were not new having been in the public domain for sometime.

He spoke of state-wide policies and initiatives, getting the public sector house in order, NSW living within its means, job creation opportunities, more police and the failures of the past government – which lost a swag of seats in Western Sydney in the last election – and world-class medical research at Westmead.

His second trip to China and how the governor of New Jersey tackled his budget problems got several mentions.

All of the above are worthwhile exercises in making the state more competitive and an attractive investment destination but he was speaking, for the most part, as a premier and not on his regional portfolio, which the audience came to hear.

Mr O’Farrell could have mentioned – that while the region is disadvantaged in terms of transport, jobs, investment and community services – it manages to generate approximately $85 billion annually in gross regional product (GRP).

This represents approximately one-third of metropolitan area’s GRP, a few percentage points less than that of Sydney, east of Parramatta.

He could have mentioned the region has a population of nearly two million people, with a million more in the coming decades, and more than 150,000 businesses.

He could have mentioned that Western Sydney has many advantages such as the availability of large landholdings, lower underlying land values and rents than many established employment areas in Sydney.

More to the point he could have given his response to the recommendations to overcome the significant socio-economic conditions holding back the future of the region contained in two comprehensive reports: the Western Regional Organisation of Council’s (WSROC) Future Directions report and the Urban Taskforce Australia’s Jobs in Western Sydney, Redressing the Balance document.

While he said Western Sydney residents had “the innovation, skills and education that will allow us to compete globally” Mr O’Farrell did not say what could be done to increase the representation of the finance and professional services and IT sectors and the creative industries in the region, thus providing jobs for local university graduates.

In sum, he could have highlighted that Global Sydney’s future is predicated on the growth and development of Western Sydney.

To underscore Mr O’Farrell’s lost opportunity, the Urban Taskforce Australia’s document stated: “We advocate that the Minister for Western Sydney needs to be more actively promoting the region – ‘talking up’ Western Sydney whenever possible and spearheading the [region’s] rebranding initiative“.

The Parramatta Chamber of Commerce has called for a dedicated minister for Western Sydney. “We need someone more accessible, someone who would be focused full time on Western Sydney,” said Stephanie Dale, president of the organisation.

One piece of new information which Mr O’Farrell divulged was the masterplan to safeguard the heritage assets of Parramatta.

The state government has pledged to refurbish and adapt historical sites in Parramatta although funds are yet to be allocated. Sites covered by a master plan include The Old Kings School Site, Parramatta Jail, Parramatta Stadium, Parramatta Park, the Female Factory (Norma Park Centre),the Old Catholic Orphanage and other buildings on the Cumberland Hospital site.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said Parramatta was the centre of much of Australia’s European and commercial history and the masterplan would maximise the area’s heritage, social and cultural spaces and inject over $1 billion into the precinct.

Mr O’Farrell told the Western Sydney Business Connection he had backed the Parramatta Heritage Precinct plan after Geoff Lee, the state MP for Parramatta, brought it to his attention.






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