Freeing the Hunter

Was it ever not time for the Hunter Region to be its own state, to secede from NSW? Mayfield’s John Hollins calls in yesterday’s Letters columns for the Hunter to secede, and that has to be now as attractive a proposition as it’s ever been. Right from the day coal was discovered at Newcastle we in the Hunter have been destined to feed the swelling parasite that is Sydney, and the day 215 years ago when Lieutenant John Shortland stepped ashore just a few hundred metres from where I sit now and stubbed his toe on a lump of coal would have been an ideal time to secede.

In the decades since we have fed taxes and so-called dividends to Sydney, and if you picture liquid money flowing continuously through a pipeline downhill from Newcastle you won’t be far wrong.

As Sydney has become fat on the taxes of the Hunter so its gluttony has grown, and a small but stinging example of that is the user pays system introduced to the Hunter’s water supply 30 years ago, and only to the Hunter’s water supply, supposedly to encourage us to conserve water. It became user pays through the nose, and users could blame only themselves, when the fact is that water users are paying tens of millions of dollars a year to provide the largesse Sydney’s pollies need to distribute to the ever-hungry Sydney.

So, John Hollins, your call is better late than never. But it would not be the first time the people of the Hunter voted on secession. In 1967 about 70 per cent of Hunter adults voted no in a referendum to make the Hunter and New England a separate state, and just a decade ago we learnt, from none other than then Premier Bob Carr, that the Hunter vote was an act of sabotage.

Mr Carr had found in cabinet papers released under the 30-year rule that in 1967 Premier Robert Askin, who had given an election promise of a referendum on independence for the agitating New England, lumped the Hunter in with New England because he was confident the Hunter would vote against secession.

Pollies must have worried in those days about breaking election promises.

Despite the big Hunter vote against secession, the overall result was close, 54 per cent against, and so Sydney has continued to sponge on the Hunter and New England ever since. Of course the Hunter voted against seceding with New England, because we didn’t want New England sponging off us. Look, Tamworth and Armidale are fine for a day, and Moree, Narrabri and Glen Innes tolerable for a pit stop, but we don’t want now to be propping up their economies any more than we wanted to then and, indeed, any more than we want to prop up Sydney’s.

So, as Mr Hollins says, it is secession for the Hunter, although in his letter he did err by including Great Lakes, bound to be another imposition on our generosity.

Mr Hollins, who hails from Mayfield, erred again when he suggested Maitland as the capital of the state of The Hunter – or should it be simply Hunter? – because the wishes of the people of Maitland are starkly evident each weekday morning as they fill the roads leading to Newcastle. Maitland offers Newcastle labour and pumpkins, and that does not a capital make. Alternatively, he suggests that the capital rotate among the Hunter’s cities and towns, which suggests that Mr Hollins’s usefulness is limited to the idea of secession.

No, we won’t have councils, or local government as they are often misdescribed, so we’ll save in not having to feather the political nests of the tinpot czars as well.

We will, of course, have a parliament, but rather than have the population of each area determine the number of its parliamentarians I say the population should determine the number of votes held by its one parliamentarian. So, for example, Maitland would have one vote, Dungog and Gloucester would share half a vote without squabbling please, Newcastle (which will encompass Lake Macquarie when we abolish local government) six votes.

Once we’re a state we are free, of course, to encourage such places as Raymond Terrace and Cessnock and Medowie to secede from The Hunter.

Would you vote to secede from NSW? What form of government should we have? Which city or town as the capital?

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