The Daily Telegraph has turned its regular championing of the needs of western Sydney into a formal, mammoth campaign. Over 57 days, the paper will run regular stories on the western suburbs and the need for more investment, at least if this week if anything to go by. It’s aided by a raft of commercial partners, such as the National Australia Bank, NRMA Road Services, Harvey Norman and Crown Resorts …
In the release announcing the campaign, Tele editor Paul Whittaker said western Sydney was short-changed when it comes to funding, infrastructure spending and transport, medical services and hospitals:
“If it isn’t good enough for Western Sydney, it isn’t good enough for NSW and it isn’t good enough for Australia.”
But long-time western Sydney resident and former Labor leader Mark Latham is sceptical, telling Crikey the point of it is, ultimately, to sell more papers. Western Sydney is, after all, Tele heartland, as News Corp NSW director Brett Clegg put it. More than a quarter of NSW’s entire News Corp circulation is sold to the region.
Latham questions how much some of the campaign’s backers actually know about western Sydney. “I think I saw James’ [Packer] yacht zooming down the Nepean River last week,” he joked. “But seriously, for the people who own these corporations and work for the Tele, their Fair Go for the West stops at Annandale [5 kilometres from the CBD].”
Last year News Corp consolidated most of its Sydney staff into its Holt Street headquarters and was expected to sell an office in Parramatta, according to The Australian. Its financial share services division is still based in Parramatta, but most of its journalists have been moved to Holt Street, which, according to an internal email, “provides employees with easy access to public transport links and all the amenities of Surry Hills including restaurants, bars, cafes, parks and theatres”.
Over the years, News Corp has fought persistent rumours that it’s considering moving the Daily Tele’s office to Parramatta in the heart of the west, although it did gain development permission to expand one of its Parramatta sites in 2011 (a company spokesman told Mumbrella the company had decided against the “nascent plans” for a Parramatta media centre). Crikey hears, but was unable to confirm, that Whittaker may have had something to do with this — apparently he fought “tooth and nail” to stop the Tele being moved out West.
If the Tele isn’t based in western Sydney, are any of the corporate sponsors who lent their weight to the campaign?
Crown Resorts chairman James Packer is building a $2 billion casino resort in Barangaroo for the region’s high rollers, but he hasn’t forgotten about western Sydney, the Tele assures us. He’s “setting up a $10 million hotel, business and food academy in Penrith” that will train young people to work at Barangaroo. Crikey hopes they’re willing to move, or at least put up with long commutes.
NRMA chief executive Tony Stuart says in an opinion piece that his company moved much of its operations to North Strathfield at the foot of the M4 motorway in the inner west more than a decade ago. He says the head offices of government departments should also move west, “because if calling western Sydney home is good enough for the NRMA … it’s good enough for the Director-General of Treasury, Transport, Planning or the Department of Premier and Cabinet”. NRMA’s head office, mind you, is at York Street in the CBD, we presume for the same reason the head offices of government departments are in the CBD.
NAB’s headquarters are in Melbourne, but Harvey Norman at least does have some cred on this. It’s headquarters are in Homebush West.
The west, Sydney’s demographic centre in many ways, is in dire need of more investment. But maybe the call by publishers and corporates to pay it more heed would carry more weight if more of them practiced what they preached.