One of the great barbecue stoppers in Western Sydney backyards is the conversation about how long it takes to get to work.
It was no surprise when a study from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics confirmed that western Sydney, stretching from north to south, was Australia's undoubted capital of the long commute.
When most Australians have arrived home from work, we are more likely to still be stuck in transit.
The escape route is to do everything we can to create more local jobs, particularly creative and scientific "knowledge jobs", that don't require a trip into the Sydney CBD every day.
These high paying, smart jobs are traditionally pulled into the inner core of a metropolis but western Sydney 's health and education precincts can provide an opposing polar force, making a dent in the region's 300,000-job deficit and giving frustrated commuters an exit from the traffic jam or long journey home on public transport.
Liverpool is a strong candidate to lead the effort. The city centre has record population growth, the good bones of a proper grid, a major hospital, the Ingham medical research institute, TAFE and a growing cabal of universities.
The gateway city to Sydney's south-west has one of Australia's oldest town centres but it needs to be made over if we are to transform Liverpool into a health, education, research and innovation hub.
The local council is already doing that, pushing to repair the great Macquarie grid of streets and connect the city with the Georges River.
People are responding and it seems every week a new busload of residents moves in.
Liverpool Hospital is the largest in the state and is the only major hospital in Sydney that is in the centre of a city. It is only a few hundred metres from the Liverpool CBD.
The planned major expansion of the hospital complex, and the addition of a private hospital, will encourage collaboration and sharing of cutting-edge technologies, and help attract more businesses and jobs to the precinct.
Using the strong cancer services the hospital already offers, the precinct has the ability to be transformed into a Centre of Excellence for Cancer and Translational Research and Health Technology.
Sites owned by the Department of Education and TAFE and nearby university campuses can add the educational element to turn Liverpool into a "knowledge job" hub.
Leading medical, research and educational organisations have already come together to work towards this bold vision for Liverpool. The upcoming state budget gives the government the chance to join in the effort - and change the conversation at the dinner table.
This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald
, 28 February, 2018.