Our future must be our choice

Post No. 10 'Our future must be our choice' was published on 31 August, 2021.

The last month has been tough for so many of us. The worry, the fear, it’s made us all look again at what matters most. What we care about and the things we hold close. So here’s a question: how much does the New South Wales government care about you? This is a government that the Hunter didn’t vote for, making decisions that have cost us so much over the last month alone.

Out of a state of 8 million, governed by a metropolis of over 6 million, how much thought do you think the Hunter, with 600 thousand residents, gets when a decision is being made? Not much, especially considering not a single MP from the largest party in government represents us.

In this Delta outbreak, Newcastle and the Hunter has counted itself lucky when we’ve warranted a mention in the daily NSW press conference. This situation is a joke considering we are the second largest urban area in this state. We are not treated as an equal. We have been starved of information relevant to our needs because we simply don’t exist to them.

Sydney’s negligence on limiting movement out of Greater Sydney and into regional NSW has caused this outbreak. We are ruled by a government we didn’t vote for, and we’re in this crisis because of that. Even now, the state government still refuses to ban workers from Greater Sydney travelling to the Hunter despite another outbreak of COVID being sparked at the Costco Boolaroo store just last week. Local hero Dr David Durrheim has pleaded for the movement of workers up and down the M1 to end in order to protect the Hunter from further outbreaks. Sydney refusing to follow Hunter New England Health’s request shows that the capital’s economy matters more to them than our health.

The recent outbreak of COVID in the Hunter occurred not even a week after the decision to redirect Hunter vaccine supplies to Sydney. While I understand the need to get more people vaccinated in Sydney given the extent of the outbreak there, it’s shameful that vaccines were taken from the Hunter given our proximity to Sydney. I think it goes without saying that this wouldn’t have happened if the Hunter had a voice when this decision was being made.

The Hunter copped another slap in the face when the Premier announced people who needed to isolate and thus lost work while waiting for test results would receive a payment to make up for the lost income. Despite test wait times being a ridiculous 7-10 days for so many people during the initial weeks of the Hunter lockdown, the test-and-isolate payment was made only available to people in Sydney. People in the Hunter were forced to miss work and vaccination appointments but the state government doesn’t care about us. What a disgrace.

These situations are nothing new for the Hunter. Newcastle and the Hunter Valley have been taken for granted by Sydney for too long. We have been neglected for decades and our region’s future is uncertain because of that. This state has been built to serve Sydney and Sydney alone. It’s time that we said loud and clear, enough is enough.

Think about your mother and your father, your brother and your sister, your grandma and grandpa. How can we get governments that care about them? How can we get governments that we can trust to work tirelessly for the Hunter day after day after day? There is only one way. The governments that care most about the Hunter Valley will be Hunter governments of whatever party elected by the people of the Hunter, with all the powers needed to help us recuperate, restore and regenerate after this pandemic.

These powers will only come with statehood, and I think this crisis has made it clear that it is time to exercise our right to self-determination and put our future into our own hands. It’s time to take the first steps towards a new state that actually cares about us.

A State of Hunter Valley would be a viable fully-fledged state. We are the largest regional economy in the country, contributing over $35 billion to the NSW economy and ranking above Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in terms of economic output.

With a Hunter Valley State, we will shape our own destiny. Decisions on our future will be made right here, not in Sydney. The Hunter’s future must be the Hunter’s choice, and nobody else’s.