Sydney’s lockdown has been “a tale of two cities”, an economic summit has heard where people in the west suffer the most and are supported the least.
Speaking at a virtual summit on Western Sydney’s economic recovery on Wednesday, Accenture CEO Andrew Charlton said the data paints a “devastating picture”.
Jobs in western Sydney have been affected twice as much as in other parts of the city, small businesses have been hit harder and disaster payments are missing many people, he said.
Job creation fell by 54 per cent in the west of the city against 29 per cent in the eastern part, while turnover for small businesses fell by 35 per cent in western Sydney, but ticked up marginally in eastern Sydney.
A little more state aid went to the west, he noted, but probably not enough to compensate for “the massive impacts” in the area.
Women were particularly vulnerable, the data showed, with men 50 per cent more likely to receive state aid than women despite having the majority of job losses.
West and southwest of Sydney are also home to the majority of the city’s key workers, pointed out NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, most of whom are unable to work from home.
And yet the same regions had borne the majority of the restrictions as well as the overwhelming number of COVID cases.
“This lockdown is a tale of two cities, of Sydney divided,” he said, opening the meeting.
“We owe it to the people of western and south-western Sydney to pay their debts during the pandemic.
“We owe them a chance to jump back and get back on their feet.”
The recovery from the lockdown actually provides an opportunity to improve life in Western Sydney, said President Chris Brown of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue.
“If we do not get out of the pandemic smarter, richer, cleaner, fairer than we went in, what a way to disgrace those who suffered, though,” he said.
He called for a redistribution of infrastructure spending on projects in the area to increase employment and boost the local economy.
Social housing projects could do the same, said NSW Council Executive Director of Social Services Joanna Quilty.
“One of the key issues here is overcrowding, our most pervasive but hidden form of homelessness,” she said.
“The NSW government can turn the situation around and stimulate the economy at the same time.”
An investment of $ 1.8 billion, for example – a fraction of the stamp duty from the state’s private housing boom – would provide 5,000 social housing units and support 18,000 construction jobs, she said.
The summit convened when Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced the curfew in hotspot areas – predominantly in the city’s west and southwest – would be dropped during setbacks.
Also on Wednesday, Liverpool Mayor Wendy Waller and Liverpool Council CEO Dr Eddie Jackson met with NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to discuss the delivery of a post-pandemic. economic package.
The Council’s Urban Economy team contacted 1492 businesses in the Liverpool Local Government Area and found that as many as one in five businesses (21.6 per cent) are currently closed but intend to reopen.
Mayor Waller said many small business owners have anecdotally passed on the difficulties they have faced and are waiting for state financial support.
“It was a difficult conversation with the NSW treasurer given how much South West and Western Sydney have suffered during this time,” said Mayor Waller.
“However, the conversation was also positive and practical, as we changed the dial from problem to solution.
“We each brought ideas to the table to create additional investment opportunities to help recovery in those regions that are vital to the state economy. We are one of the fastest growing regions and the food bowl for Greater Sydney. Without a strong business center in Southwest and West, it’s everyone’s loss.
“This meeting was an opportunity to change the narrative and convey to the NSW Treasurer how resilient this region is and that we would emerge from the pandemic that was determined to continue with it and open to business.”
The Council plans to provide Perrottet with several strategic documents and master plans to potentially help shape a future economic recovery package.
“I, along with the rest of the council, look forward to continuing the conversation with the NSW Treasurer as we work together to find a solution for the Southwest,” said Mayor Waller.
Recently, Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone wrote to Prime Minister Berejiklian, requesting a more “targeted” financial business support package for business and greater financial assistance to Fairfield residents.
“Our area has had the toughest restrictions in Australian history, which has meant that the economic consequences and hardships have been greatest in our region and our community,” he said.