NSW: It’s not actually that bad. No, really.
When NSW Labor is wiped off the map tomorrow, it will partly be because, as Joe Hildebrand pointed out, the Labor government has rather impressively committed every sin known to mankind. But mostly, it’ll be because the government is widely viewed as having reduced this state to tatters. The question is: Is NSW really in such bad nick?
I have lived in NSW for about 30 of my 41 years. The sun still shines, the trains still crawl and the water still runs, except of course for that time in 1998 when it was full of nasty parasites.
In most respects, this state is nowhere near the basket case some make it out to be. Obviously, NSW would have benefited from something approaching a competent government for much of the last 16 years, but it’s not all gloom and doom in Woolloomooloo, and beyond. Let’s take a closer look.
The first indicator of any jurisdiction’s economic prosperity should be the labour market. And NSW has lower unemployment than VIC, QLD, SA and TAS, as these figures show. Interestingly, only WA with its mining boom, and the Territories with their bloated public services, outperform NSW.
A spokesman for the NSW Business Chamber gave The Punch the following rather amusing quote:
“We’ve never said there’s anything wrong with business in this state. Businesses have just gotten on with the job and for the most part have ignored the government.”
Last year, the CEO of the Chamber, in response to an unfavourable business survey in which NSW ranked 7th, had this to say:
“I am very upbeat about NSW. The state’s economy is in better shape than its critics suggest. That is not to say we don’t face challenges, we do, but we have weathered the economic storm better than was expected.
“NSW is performing well given the impact of the GFC on the banking sector and the impact of the dollar on the tourism and manufacturing sectors.
“NSW is a diversified economy which means it won’t experience the booms and busts of less diversified economies. For example, Western Australia is profiting from a rebound in the resources sector and the ACT has been sheltered from the GFC and its impacts due to its large government sector.”
He didn’t add “so there” but you can kind of hear it in his tone, can’t you?
Oh, and by the way, NSW still has a AAA credit rating. Queensland doesn’t. And here’s something you may have forgotten. The NSW government is actually in surplus, or was last time the Treasurer looked, which admittedly may have been a fair while back.
A dumb government makes dumb students, right? Wrong. In last year’s NAPLAN test, NSW students were in the top three in virtually every category.
As recent events have shown, NSW also ranks highly on both the bullying index and the bully floor-slamming index.
By some indicators, NSW is struggling. As Table EA.9 in this report shows, we have fewer nurses per head of population than any other state.
But as Table 4.2 on page 46 of this report shows, we have more beds per person in the private health system than any other state, and more beds per person in the public system than any state except SA and the Territories.
Table 5.2 in that report is an interesting one. It says we get admitted to hospital less than anyone except Tasmanians. Maybe we’re just scared of our crappy hospitals with their lack of nurses.
But the big health indicator for most people is the waiting time for elective surgery. Well, get a load of this. Table 6.4 on page 78 of the above report shows that we get our elective surgery done within the recommended time 91 per cent of the time, which is way better than any other state and the national average of 86 per cent.
This subject is an absolute minefield, not least because of the government’s senseless, incredibly expensive to and fro-ing over the mooted light rail in central Sydney, which would have disrupted traffic and cost a billion or so, all to replicate a route which buses and trains cover perfectly adequately.
Leaving that bandwagon behind momentarily, some pretty handy transport infrastructure has appeared in NSW Labor’s 16 years. The airport rail line and the Chatswood to Epping rail link, to name two.
And of course, huge, wonderful freeways which my Dad – who has lived here for most of his 71 years – can hardly believe exist, like the M2, the Eastern Distributor, the M5, the M7 and the Cross City Tunnel. Click on the map tab at the Sydney Motorways website. It’s pretty impressive.
Admittedly, many of these projects are mired in financial quicksand, and our grandchildren’s grandchildren could well be paying for them. Bet they’ll be glad they’ve got ’em, though.
We lose. No stats can be cited to save Sydney on this front. Sydney’s median price remains higher than any Australian capital, and you now need approximately double James Packer’s income to buy a one bedroom flat.
Must dash. Off to my night job at a strip club to save up for a deposit.
There is one flipside, which is hardly positive for NSW, but is at least something of a leveller. And that’s the fact that the other cities are rapidly catching up in the housing (un)affordability index. The Feds deserve the heat for this one.
Law and order
NSW crime stats show that the incidence of violent and property crime is slowly dropping over time.
But there’s one area where NSW appears well in front of its neighbour, Victoria. As these figures show, NSW has about 16,500 cops. Victoria has closer to 11,250. This is some pretty simple, home-baked mathematics here, but if you divide the population of the two states by the number of cops, you come up with one cop for every 489 people in Victoria, and one for every 436 in NSW. Feel safer, Sydneysiders?
There is one other good reason for NSW people to feel safer than their southern cousins. If Underbelly has taught us anything, it’s that Victoria has really, really dumb crims.
NSW has an astonishing 875 National Parks and reserves. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is, and the people can largely thank this government.
A spokesman for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service told The Punch that this government, since 1995, has added 520 parks and reserves to the National Parks system, and has expanded numerous others, adding around 3 million hectares to the system.
In general environmental terms, we NSW folk have it pretty lucky, I reckon. From Australia’s highest mountain and most extensive snowfields, to outback desert, to subtropical rainforest in the Byron Bay hinterland, this is the one state in the land that really has it all. We’ve got the best beaches too, for my money.
Don’t think it inappropriate to drift off on a tangent about the wonderful natural attributes of NSW. Point is, there is plenty that’s still OK about this state, in both the natural and human realm. But the backlash against our useless polticians has been so strong, It’s almost as if we’ve been brainwashed into believing that absolutely everything in NSW is stuffed. Which it isn’t.
The government’s stuffed, though. No arguments there. Stuffed and totally cooked. But maybe their mess won’t be so hard for old Barry to clean up.
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