THE state government has certainly received a damning report card in recent days, with regional growth looking nothing short of abysmal.
Research by SGS Economics and Planning revealed the regional economy contracted by 0.3 per cent between 2012 and 2015 and while the central west bucked the trend, its economy only grew by 0.2 per cent against a 2.2 per cent growth in Sydney during the same period.
Prior to the Orange byelection, treasurer Gladys Berejiklian sang the praises of the 7000 jobs created since 2011 and the 15-year low unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent.
Orange’s job figures have been positive recently and business leaders believe the economy has recovered relatively well after the Electrolux closure, but the figures in places like Parkes and Lithgow aren’t so rosy.
If the growth rate is an average for the whole region, it’s not good enough.
Two of Orange’s main employers, Orange Health Service and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, are state government-funded, but it would still benefit from another regional injection, such as the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Orange, Parkes and Dubbo all expressed an interest in bringing the department and all its associated jobs to their areas.
Yet the state government is likely to spend its $14 million for the project 40 minutes from the Sydney CBD.
Orange at one stage also made an offer for the Powerhouse Museum relocation, which is expected to cost $1 billion, but it will go to Parramatta and while the state government granted money for the Orange Regional Museum’s first exhibition, the only contribution it made to its construction was the land, worth $100,000.
True, there’s $40 million being spent on the Mitchell Highway at Guanna Hill and $80 million on the Great Western Highway at Kelso, but it’s small change compared with $16.8 billion for WestConnex.
The issue has also riled the Country Women’s Association, which believes poor rural mobile phone and internet coverage is also having an impact in a world where being connected is not just a luxury, but expected.
Orange voters have already demonstrated they’re prepared to vote for a conservative minor party as a message to the state government they’re not feeling the impact of government investment.
If there’s no change in two years, the seat may well stay marginal for a little longer.