Where is the bush? That legendary heartland across the Great Divide. That mythical place the back of Bourke, of wide-brimmed Akubra hats, moleskin trousers, Driza-Bone coats and four-wheel drives.
Where is this place where mateship was born, where people are firm believers in the old Aussie principle of a fair go and where life for many is a battle against the elements: drought one day, floods the next and bushfires the day after that.
To Henry Lawson it was the parched land west of the Darling River, 'beyond the farthest government tank and past the farthest bore, beyond the break of day, and sunset and the dawn’.
To those in the country, it's the salt of the earth. A great place to live, a stable workforce and no pollution.
But to many politicians, the country is still somewhere in the never never, out there past Penrith and Liverpool, a place they usually only visit to drum up support when an election is looming.
Even then, their interest is limited to whistlestop tours to marginal seats where they spend only enough time to make a string of promises before leaving.
But, despite politicians making their election pilgrimages, the country generally is usually over-looked.
The days have long gone when the former Country Party, now the Nationals, wielded power beyond their parliamentary representation and dished up subsidies and tax breaks for local industries.
This is because elections are won and lost not in the relatively few rural seats, but in the suburban areas.
The country has also become a victim of economic rationalism, missing out on many things city people take for granted.
Government services, including the downgrading of hospitals, have been withdrawn in the smaller towns, there's a chronic shortage of doctors and banks have closed.
This is because only a quarter of people in NSW live outside Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and in the smaller centres younger people have to move because there are no jobs for them at home.
Some civic leaders believe development and initiative in regional NSW is being restricted by city bureaucrats and media cartoonists who still portray us as slow-talkers who wear big hats with corks and tweed coats, drive a ute with a cattle dog in the back and live in dusty towns.
In this electronic age, this repeated image becomes fact to many city dwellers.
In reality, country people are energetic and highly motivated but this image is holding back our ability and politicians perceive us as being inferior in some way.
That’s doing real damage to the growth and drive of country NSW. The tide is against regional development while the agenda is being controlled by city people where all the big money is being spent on things like freeways and railways.
It’s time for governments to put decentralisation back on the agenda, especially when looking at population growth.
Latest figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show NSW in 2013-14 had a resident population of 7.52 million, an increase of 109,100 people for the year.
Of these, Sydney accounted for 84,200 of them, a population increase of 1,619 people a week.
In the same time, Orange had the largest growth in country NSW with numbers up by 480 people in the year to 40,869. Bathurst had an increase of 310 people and Dubbo 250.
But, they’re pretty insignificant figures compared with Sydney’s 1,619 people a week, which is increasing the load on essential services, putting a bigger strain on public transport, causing more traffic jams and adding to pollution problems.
And our city cousins are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more for homes they could buy for a quarter the price in the country, and taking several hours to get to work when they could do it in 10 minutes.
Successive governments have made it harder for people to survive in smaller country towns by closing and squeezing public services like rail, health, roads and education.
And successive governments have also failed to provide the necessary incentives for decentralisation on a large scale.
With tomorrow’s federal election, country people have the opportunity to ask who is going to put the bush on the agenda with more capital funding for things like roads, better services and encouragement for industry and business.
All county people want is a fair go to help our communities grow.
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