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Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Page: 10123


Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (19:30): Australia has always been known for its egalitarian society, something that goes back to the decision of Captain Arthur Phillip to distribute food equally amongst the convicts, the soldiers and the freemen. Australia has been known as the land of a fair go, but this concept of an equal society is rapidly disappearing. It is clear that the Australia of 2017 has two tiers. There are two tiers of education, two tiers of health care, two tiers of infrastructure and two tiers of transport. These two tiers are abundantly clear when you look at Sydney, especially at the differential treatment in funding allocations for Western Sydney, including my electorate of Macarthur in south-west Sydney, in comparison to the eastern suburbs, the North Shore and the northern beaches.

Western Sydney is home to over 2.2 million Sydneysiders and is growing rapidly. The Macarthur region of south-west Sydney has a current population of close to 310,000 residents, but it's predicted that by 2036 this region, which takes in my electorate, will have a population of 600,000. This is a huge growth that will put significant pressure on our already underfunded services and our inadequate infrastructure. We hear a lot of promises from this federal government and the New South Wales Liberal government, but we see very little action. The state and federal Liberal governments are more than happy for our area to house a significant proportion of Sydney's population, but they will not provide the funding to ensure equal services are offered.

Infrastructure is a word that slips nicely off the tongue, but it's something that governments have struggled to provide in south-west Sydney for decades. I spent 40 years working in the public hospital system, and I know the pressure that is put on staff because of increasing demands and poor resources. Over the last few years we have seen rapidly increasing population in the Macarthur region, and we are now seeing developments that continue to add to the pressure on our health system at a rapid rate, yet the resources to cope are just not present. Campbelltown hospital has recently been offered by the state government a $600 million package for redevelopment over the next few years, yet Royal North Shore Hospital, in an area already well served for public and private hospitals and healthcare resources, has cost $1.2 billion to be redeveloped. How is that fair? Macarthur has a rapidly developing and enlarging population and very poor health statistics for just about all public health data, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, developmental problems, low birth weight, diabetes et cetera. We have large pockets of disadvantage and we have very poor health infrastructure, yet the amounts offered to redevelop are far below those offered in more conservative and high-income areas. The same argument is true for Nepean Hospital.

On transport, the south-west has continued to suffer from very poor public transport, including a reduction in express trains to the city and to Parramatta, poor parking at railway stations, lack of air conditioned trains and peak-hour overcrowding. The redevelopment of our roads is fragmented and piecemeal and is not adequate to cope even now. Appin Road has been the scene of many fatalities over the last 20 years, yet continued calls to make the roads safe have fallen on deaf ears. Access to the city is hampered by the poor traffic flows along the M5, and the only two-lane tunnel each way is far too small. The recent widening of The Northern Road to Penrith is already too narrow; the road should be at least six lanes, not four.

We of course really need rail infrastructure, yet we still have no commitment from the federal government about the Western Sydney Airport rail link and the state Liberal minister for transport is denying the need for an airport rail link at all. Neither the state government nor the federal government will commit even to setting aside land for the north-south rail from Campbelltown to St Marys.

Western Sydney University faces one of the largest of the proposed efficiency cuts in funding, yet we have much lower tertiary qualification rates—16 per cent in south-west Sydney compared to 24 per cent for greater Sydney—than we should have. With our rapid development we are also seeing lack of support for our native flora and fauna. We have the only disease-free koala colony in the country. Yet the government does nothing. Our public schools are very poorly resourced, and physically the buildings need to be completely redeveloped. It's quite clear that on every measure south-west Sydney has been deprived of infrastructure funding. Yet government policy has increased the disparity. Until this government understands the issues involved, we will continue to see increased inequality and poorer outcomes in health, education and the environment.