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The Forgotten People of the West

 

If you're riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

-- Old West Proverb

 

So, our Prime Minister is going to spend a few days in Rooty Hill. Has it come to this?

The Rooty Hill RSL has, for years, been lobbying to get its own postcode. I suggest 90210. As in Beverly Hills. As in the words of Dylan (Luke Perry): "May the bridges I burn light the way."

The ALP has created the problem it must now solve: The West. The ALP's heartland has been taken for granted for so long, and been treated with utter contempt for so long, a hellfire is coming. And everyone with any interest in politics knows it.

Sydney's West is almost a state of its own. It is a vast, profoundly troubled and interesting, untapped nation within a nation. Hundreds of nationalities, millions of thoughts, dreams, hopes and needs, crushed together without infrastructure or the soothing unguent of cold hard cash.

NSW politics, on both sides, has failed The West. The Liberal Party has always had a profound disinterest in The West, both politically and personally. The ALP has a political interest and an emotional interest, as far as the narrative of the left goes, but has not, as far as state politics goes, looked after that sleeping giant.

To understand NSW politics is to understand, in the words of an old Chinese chap, that "political power comes from the barrel of a gun". It is brutal, blunt and cruel. For all the ALP's faults, it has, somehow, managed to run the place. Not an easy task (as Barry O'Farrell is discovering). To run NSW is to accept corruption, but to try to keep it MANAGEABLE.

Where both sides of politics have failed, and quite spectacularly, is in preparing or planning or spending on this giant, important part of our nation. Many of our leaders have made many dollars building roads to allow The West to travel. Just pay the toll if you want to visit The East. Just pay.

Is there resentment from The West? Yes there is. You can only treat people so badly for so long. Why is the "asylum seeker" debate such a hot topic? Because it's a hot topic in Sydney's West. Who resents "asylum seekers" and "the boats" the most? Recent immigrants. It's not white people from Victoria, it's Vietnamese from Cabramatta. And it makes sense. If you were Vietnamese, and finally, everyone has stopped calling you a heroin dealer, and you've worked in a bakery for years to get your eldest child into university to become more than you, and you can’t bring your parents here on family visas, and now they're letting OTHER people in, you might get cross. You might listen to the grubby politics of the current "debate". You might even vote.

The people of The West feel unloved, alone, unappreciated and mocked. And they're right. "Westie" and "Bogan" are the new "Boong" and "Coon". The lack of respect for the residents of The West is breathtaking. They don't live in large homes, they live in "McMansions". They have no taste. They're stupid. They're gauche. They're simple. They're déclassé.

Until election time. Then they're GODS.

About the author Rhys Muldoon
Rhys Muldoon is a contributor to The Drum, as well as an actor, director and radio presenter. In 2010 he co-authored a children’s book, Jasper & Abby, with Kevin Rudd.
@rhysam