I rise today to bring to the House my grievances about the treatment of my community in south-west Sydney. I am angry, I am disappointed, I am sad, yet not surprised about what has happened in the last several months, and I think that is what makes the situation so much worse. I grew up in my community. I live in the house where I spent my childhood. I know what it's like to have to fight for basic things that elsewhere in Sydney are on the doorstep.
In the seventies, Whitlam talked about the need for—and had to fight for—sewerage, high schools and universities. So why, 50 years later, is there still such a gap? To the west of the latte line we will host more than half a million more people in the next 30 years and a world-class airport. Our economy is the third largest in Australia, but we still have to fight for what needs to be done for our community so it does not continue to be treated as second rate or worse. We spend hours on overcrowded trains that regularly run late. We put up with a second-rate NBN that most of the time doesn't make half of the speeds promised and that blows up when there's a thunderstorm. Seriously, in 2021, how can this vital technology be so bad?
I know that governments point to the plans they have to provide infrastructure, but the people of Austral and Kemps Creek and other suburbs within the aerotropolis zone know that those plans can change on a whim. They know that the value of their land can become worthless overnight, and the New South Wales government will then say it will take them 20 years or longer to acquire it. I note the plans have changed again for residents living in this zone after the community's effort to have proper consultation and discussions. That was a fight that took several years and caused heartache and stress that was really unnecessary.
And what about the M12? This federally funded and state funded road has been in the planning for the best part of 12 years. It was supposed to support the construction traffic for the airport. The traffic is currently being forced onto roads that were last fit for purpose a century ago, when the area was still farming land. Planning is not of any use if it stays on a whiteboard. To the north of the airport the western train line is significantly over capacity, yet the plan is to build a metro to the airport connecting that line, that doesn't have a stop at Western Sydney University, to bring passengers to the airport. I can't in my wildest dreams understand how that will work, mixing workers with luggage. We also need a link to the south of the airport that joins Kingsford Smith and the suburbs of Werriwa and Macarthur, to support the promised jobs that will come from industry that is planned to be built around the airport.
Now the spread of COVID-19 in Australia has exposed further divides and inequities in Sydney. When the state Liberal government decided to lock down LGAs of concern because they'd lost control of the virus, which came from the eastern suburbs, the first press conference said that only emergency services personnel would be able to leave—police, ambulances, nurses and doctors. However, less than 12 hours later, at midnight that night, the government had to revise that list and add 20 more categories of work. Our government did not realise that my community are aged-care workers, plumbers, electricians, supermarket and postal employees. They work in factories and carry and process meat. Basically, they keep the whole of Sydney and beyond running.
There have long been fundamental differences between regions in Sydney, and the pandemic has brought them into stark focus. With the world facing a once-in-a-century crisis, the divide has been clear for all to see. For the last 18 months, my constituents complied with every health order, but we have been constantly singled out. We know it's not our region that caused the local outbreaks, but the mixed messages and unclear instructions from both state and federal levels of government did little to help. This is merely another failure to understand that Greater Sydney should be one region where we all live together and everyone deserves their fair share.
I've said many times that south-western Sydney has been treated by governments with a troubling lack of concern. The expectation as we open up is that there will be more cases of COVID-19. Delta is affecting more children under 12, and there is yet to be a vaccine approved for their age group. I fear opening up will disproportionately affect my community. Sadly, one in five who have died caught the virus in Sydney hospitals, and many of those were local hospitals in my area. To add to the worry, we have an overworked and underfunded health system. The health professionals are doing a superhuman job, but they have their limits. How long will they and the system be able to hold together? Three hospitals in Western Sydney had to turn away patients for days on end as well as suspend elective surgery.
What's troubling is that health services in south-west Sydney were bound to suffer from overcapacity and overworked professionals. Underinvestment in health in south-west Sydney is nothing new, as the New South Wales upper house inquiry already proved last year. The inquiry showed that south-west Sydney is well under-resourced when compared to other health districts across greater metropolitan Sydney. We have the highest emergency department presentations in any local health district and the lowest number of specialists. We have the second most populous local health and the lowest annualised budget. We also have the highest growth rate and the highest birth rate, but the lowest number of GPs per population. Adding to that, between 2012 and 2018, the total annualised expenses budget per resident for the health district was one of the lowest in Sydney. All the while, the delta variant is causing huge problems in my community.
There have been too many deaths, with over 500 since June, an average of four per day. A neighbour's father died after catching COVID in Liverpool Hospital, and tomorrow a funeral will be held for Mr Stephen Cheatham, a life member of Prestons Hornets Cricket Club. As a life member of the club, Chubbles mentored many young cricketers, including my sons, and I know him well. He was described by one of my sons as a great bloke who would give you the shirt off his back, and yet he succumbed to COVID. It is an indescribable loss to his family, all that knew him and our community. There are so many like him who have not been able to survive COVID, and I send my condolences to all in my community who are grieving.
During the pandemic it was the community, not the government, that held us together. It was volunteers and essential workers. It was the principles of my local schools and community groups, such as the Hindu Benevolent Fund, Turbans 4 Australia, Western Sydney MRC and the Marist Sydney Old Pupils Association who were working to provide free grocery hampers for those in my community who were struggling. It was the mayors of my local councils who found solutions and gave advice to people. It wasn't the government departments, who did not check on families diagnosed with COVID and told to isolate; it was our volunteers who had to support them. I despair what our community would have done without these wonderful volunteers in our community.
We all want to see an end to the pandemic and return to some kind of normal. However, we need to do that in a way that ensures it doesn't come at the cost of further loss of our loved ones. Withdrawing support such as the COVID disaster payment too early will mean that families, individuals and small businesses just won't bounce back. And areas that were disadvantaged before COVID will have taken a larger hit from COVID-19 and the delta wave. Without support, my community will be left behind. After more than 100 days of lockdown, it is the residents of south-west Sydney who are subject to the harshest restrictions and will be the least able to make a living and keep their businesses open. Meanwhile, those in the eastern suburbs continue to enjoy the beach unhindered. We saw the new Premier of New South Wales setting a wonderful example by breaking his own government rules twice because of a photo opportunity. there has been little evidence that suggests my community was not compliant with the rules yet we were subject to curfews that the government knew wouldn't work. What my community needs now is support as we emerge from lockdown. There has to be a way to make my communities in south-west Sydney more resilient but removing supports will not help the economy snap back. The people of my community in the south-west of Sydney are strong and hardworking. We just want to be treated with the same respect and care as everybody else, with roads that are fit for purpose, with proper healthcare opportunities and with a first-class NBN. Everyone deserves their fair share but it has been too long since south-west Sydney has had ours.