Let’s excise western Sydney so the rest of us have a say: @sarah_capper column

Sarah Capper

Sarah Capper

Policy, advocacy and communications officer at Victorian Women’s Trust
Sarah Capper is the policy, advocacy and communications officer at the Victorian Women’s Trust. She’s also the inaugural editor of Sheilas and a self-confessed political nerd.
Sarah Capper
- 3 months ago
Sarah Capper
Sarah Capper is the Editor of 'Sheilas'. She also manages policy, advocacy and communications at the Victorian Women’s Trust (which publishes Sheilas). She fled Queensland for Melbourne in the late 1990s to complete a journalism degree. A self-confessed political nerd, she is passionate about social justice, law reform, Virginia Woolf and her dog, Jasper.
Invasion of Western Sydney

Invasion of Western Sydney (Slightly amended from ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’)

 

By Sarah Capper

23 August 2013

During a candidates’ debate (a loose term) in the seat of Melbourne recently, an impassioned local resident rose during question time (again, loose term) and implored other local voters to send a message to Canberra – that voters in Australia’s “most progressive seat” should reject the major party policies “that have been tailored to suit the [presumably far less progressive] voters in western Sydney”.

We’ll take that as a comment. But indeed, western Sydney has been the ‘battleground’ for many past federal elections. Former prime minister John Howard ‘wooed’ the so-called “battlers” in western Sydney seats and prime ministers have continued to woo them back and forth ever since.

In this latest campaign (looser term), that is also where Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz spectacularly spoke about the Coalition’s “six-point plan” to “stop the boats”, which, when questioned for details, amounted to just “stopping the boats” (X6).

And it was this issue of asylum seekers – and Kevin Rudd’s pre-election leap-frog (as opposed to lurch) to the right of Tony Abbott – which the Melbourne resident at the candidates’ debate was referring to, in his plea for the seat to stick it up western Sydney.

For the rest of the country, it begs the question – why should politics merely cater for some marginal seats which seem to contain a disproportionate amount of disgruntled swinging voters?

And then a solution presented itself – a way that could radically restore – EGAD! – confidence in voters! A “solution” that is not preceded by the name of a random country in South-East Asia or the Pacific.

A solution that could put a swift end to dishonourable Howard-esque dog-whistle politics of fear and loathing – like when Foreign Minister Bob Carr talks about asylum seekers as “economic migrants” and it whistles to western Sydney as:

they want your jobs/money/livelihood

Wester-Sydney

This could all end. And it’s relatively simple:

Excise Western Sydney from the rest of the country.

Heck, we’ve excised Australia itself from the migration act (again, nod to western Sydney), so why not just excise western Sydney from the rest of Australia?

And why stop there? Both major parties have announced their campaign launches will take place – not in Rooty Hill (shock horror, you should feel outraged, western Sydney) – but in that other sunny battleground of Brisbane, Queensland.

As an ex-Queenslander who sought “refuge” in the southern states years ago, I say with the greatest respect that I am quite happy for Queensland to join western Sydney and be cast adrift as well.

For Stephanie Bannister’s sake, Queensland can become its own ‘One Nation’, and they can follow “haram” to their heart’s content.

Kevin Rudd can become the first Prime Minister – hell, he can become the first PRESIDENT of Queensland. He and Peter Beattie can provide endless cheesy grins (and obsessive hair flicks), and they can do it together in a shark pool on the Gold Coast. Clive Palmer, Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson (who can be dragged up from her NSW Senate candidacy (Vote. Below. The. Line) can join them.

Tony Abbott and his shadow of daughters can move from lovely leafy northern Sydney and take the “suppository of wisdom” to Penrith, where as a monarchist he can be “King” – and he can bang on all he likes about “stopping the boats” in land-locked Penrith. LAND-LOCKED.

Fellow monarchist Sophie Mirabella can join them, and Murdoch tabloid the Daily Telegraph can banish its headquarters there as well (along with Sydney’s second airport – they can have that “debate” as well).

The Liberals can put Malcolm Turnbull back into the leadership – he can wear his leather jacket on QnA and not have to pretend he actually likes Tony Abbott any more – and Tanja Plibersek or Bill Shorten or Penny Wong can appear with him (and not have to squirm their way through justifying why Rudd’s return to the top job was such a top idea) and we can actually benefit from – shock horror – a contest of policy ideas.

I for one will take back Julia Gillard to lead the Labor Party – who, with western Sydney excised, will not be so beholden to the right-wing machinations of the party (they can all move to western Sydney too) – as well as welcoming back some of the talent from the third of cabinet that left with Gillard’s departure.

Instead of the last three years of policy reform being ditched or recast because of ego, we can keep the constructive nation-building policies like Gonski, the NBN and the NDIS, and change the not-so-great and quite-wrong policies, eg, Tony Abbott’s sister can get married.

We can actually have an election campaign with a mature debate – a proper one, not a glossy-but-dull, contrived and hokey populist version (eg, last night’s “debate” – at the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Club – included this line from our possible next prime minister Tony Abbott:

Let’s not please say that I’m somehow Mr cut, cut, cut because I want to be Mr build, build, build so we have more jobs, jobs, jobs.

Seriously. This bloke is not auditioning for Play School but for the prime ministership. Yup. Gulp).

With the “Western Sydney and Queensland Solution”, we could instead have real debate about the policies of health, education, the environment and yes, asylum seekers and immigration. We could actually GROW as a country – feel more connected with our communities and genuinely engaged with, and be proud of, our political representatives, processes and institutions.

This could be the simple solution our politics has been crying out for. Instead of hearing a broken record about “stopping the boats” and “stopping the waste”, we could actually stop the slogans, stop feeding into the relentless, surface-scouring, poll-driven 24-hour news cycle, and stop the dumbing-down of real policy issues.


Sarah ( [email protected]) is the editor of feminist monthly Sheilas

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Comments


  1. Great piece Sarah! Saw the map and laughed out loud. Particularly like the collective noun – ‘a shadow of daughters’.


  2. Fantastic article, fantastic idea and terrific map


  3. As a former ‘Westie’ Mayor I enjoyed your article immensely.
    On the subject of ‘economic migrants’ more than 70,000 ‘permanent migrants’ were settled in Oz including 29,108 from India, no doubt seeking a better life (economic migrants?) and I don’t blame them for that.
    However according to a Dept of Immigration audit obtained by the ABC under FOI, some 47% of migrants from India arrived using ‘dodgy documents’. which surely makes their residency illegal. 47% of 29,108 equates to around 13,700 (around the same number who arrived by boat in the same period) so why are these ‘illegal arrivals’, treated so much better than the poor bastards who risk their lives boarding leaky deathtraps to get here.


  4. Could not agree more. Love this article. And ‘a shadow of daughters’ is inspired.


  5. I am pretty over WEstern Sydney, we get crueller and crueller to suit them. As for bringing Gillard back because she won’t be beholden to the right, dream on. She was a bloody loathsome coward, she was the one who excised the country from itself, paid for 15 and 20 years land leases in other countries to build prisons for innocent people in her infamously cruel and inhuman trading and trafficking deals.

    It was Gillard who started the permanent jailing of people based on ASIO reports that were based on nothing at all. It was Gillard who tried to flog refugees off to Malaysia for caning, who built more and more jails in Indonesia and had the AFP out there putting holes in boats and drowning people.

    It was Gillard who made the so-called intervention into the NT even worse, caused greater rates of youth suicides and so on.

    Gillard is not progressive, she is a racist reactionary of the calibre of Howard.


  6. I just have to say this:

    I am from Queensland. If there is one thing that infuriates me it is reading blogposts or comments (and the comments section of the Poll Bludger is the absolute worst for this) and seeing Queenslanders generalised as banjo playing, unintelligent bigots. At the drop of a hat.

    And yes, I know you are going to turn around and quote the output of every focus group conducted in the last decade. You are going to wave any given Courier-Mail’s front page at me. You are going to point to the landslide State election result. You are going to Katter, Palmer, Hanson and Joh me.

    And fair enough.

    But–!

    The personal retort:

    The biggest election issue for me, and it has been since I saw the criminal ignored 4 Corners story on asylum seekers, is how we treat potential refugees. I decided then and there to vote for a non-major party who is making a stand on this issue. This campaign’s race to capture Anne Frank and ship her off to somewhere unpleasant has infuriated me so much that I pre-polled at the first opportunity. I just had to take my anger out at the nearest ballot box at the first opportunity.

    We are not all nutters, you know!

    The state retort:

    Queensland has been wallpapered with Labor governments for the best part of the last two decades. It is wrongheaded to say that we have only wacko conservatives.

    It is further wrongheaded to say that we are the only one’s with wacko conservatives. Yes, Katter and Palmer are pretty f*cked up.

    But I would argue Fred Niles and Tony Abbot are up there. And neither or them are from Queensland. Or *Western* Sydney.

    Yes, I am as sick of hearing about Western Sydney and Queensland as being the determinants of the election. I am sick of hearing about how we somehow think differently from the rest of Australia.

    But I think, in this case, maybe we could shoot the messenger (media, pollsters, whoever), and maybe the message might die a natural along with it.


  7. This is great , pretty funny , shit loads better than the Debate this week . Keep it going

  8. zwetschgen says

    lets excise Federal Parliament while we’re at it


  9. For some reason my comment on the ‘permanent migrants’ from India did not contain the period involved which was 2011 – 12.
    Also Tony Abbott has come up with a brilliant idea to stop asylum seekers, buy the boats from the people smugglers. Think about it for a minute. We buy the old leaky wrecks from them, they buy new safe vessels, then, just when the poor buggers heave a sigh of relief on their arrival, Tony turns them back because it would be ‘safe’ to do so. Brilliant Tony, absolutely brilliant!


  10. Great article Sarah. Keep up the good work!!!


  11. Love this, but I insist on some credit – I’ve been saying we should excise Western Sydney for the last few weeks – you can ask my friends!! True dinks! However I only came up with the slogan (oh my god, that word) you came up with the policy – excellent! As a Melburnian I’ve been cringing at the Kow Towing to what I can only assume is the Boganville of Western Sydney – oh and QLD of course. I do like your plan for putting all the ones we don’t like in the Kingdom of Western Sydney.


  12. Of course we could let asylum seekers get visas to come here, the fact that we don’t shows that it is the refugees they don’t want.