Burbgate ... Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott at odds over the north shore. Photo: Stefan Postles
In politics, people get picked on all the time.
Whether you're a real Julia, Mad Monk, faceless man, ex-treasurer, boat person or Gina Rinehart, the gloves will come off if there's a political point to be scored.
The north shore is dismissed as a land of Volvos, gum trees and private schools. That is, it may be privileged but it's in a boring way
But imagine the shock and surprise of Sydney's north shore this week when they got dragged into the national political bunfight.
What had they possibly done to deserve this?
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard – in full sell-the-budget, save-the-government mode – pounced on the north shore and showed no mercy.
Angry about Tony Abbott's refusal to back the “Schoolkids Bonus”, Ms Gillard told the Opposition Leader to “get off Sydney's north shore” where he has (some of) his electorate and “go and talk to some real families and get himself in the real world".
“It is only those who are cosseted on Sydney's north shore who could fail to realise that working families need relief,” she said – disregarding the fact that she lives in Kirribilli when in Sydney.
Predictably, Ms Gillard's “the north shore is not the real world” comments have unleashed some angry vox pops with north shorers who insist that they too have mortgages that suck and that they are just as real as the next Aussie mum and dad.
But what hasn't been discussed is how tough it can be to live on the north shore.
1. It might be “rich”, but the north shore is seen as the daggy quadrant of the Sydney compass.
The eastern suburbs have the money and the glam: the world-famous beaches, the super rich suburbs, the cafes and bars that look the most like Melbourne and the restaurants that look the most like LA. Even if people pay out the Easties, they still aspire to live among them.
The Western suburbs have that bohemian élan, with the endless rows of charming terraces, markets selling scented candles, and the fact that its got the market cornered in “cuisines of the world” (be it Portuguese, Thai, Italian, Lebanese etc). Hence, no one ever dares accuse them of being “cosseted”.
And the southern 'burbs have that great sense of community - to the point where The Shire has practically seceded from Sydney. So they don't even care what the rest of the city thinks of them.
Despite the diversity of the population and the places within it, the north shore is dismissed as a land of Volvos, gum trees and private schools. That is, it may be privileged but it's in a boring way.
There is a real reason why kids who grew up on the north shore are loath to admit that they did.
2. There is a pub deficit
For some reason, when they were handing out pubs to Sydney, the pub gods decided that they should be rationed on the north shore.
Maybe they were worried about people drink driving home in their Volvos. But it has had a serious impact on the nightlife.
Yes, there's the Greengate in Killara, the Blue Gum Hotel in Hornsby and the bright lights of North Sydney on a Thursday night. But they are the drinking hole exceptions. Not the rule.
If north shore locals are accused of drinking too many lattes it may be because they don't have the opportunity to drink anything else.
3. You need to pack a picnic for public transport
(NB: a disclaimer that the north shore is not the only part of Sydney where there are transport issues)
Why is it that it takes at least 90 minutes to reach any centre of civilisation (that's not Chatswood) via public transport from the north shore?
If you don't have wheels – or access to your parents' – you're stuffed. You just have to accept that you will spend a good third of your day waiting for a bus that won't come, trekking for kilometres between the most approximate train station (there is no St Ives station!) and home or pleading with a cab company to come and rescue you (chances are, they won't be interested if you're calling after 10pm).
4. The name is deceptive
The north shore may be north, but for a lot of residents there is not a shore in sight! Certainly, if you live at Lavender Bay or Cremorne Point, you're right on the Harbour and good for you. But what's coastal about Wahroonga? Where's the jetty in Artarmon? The only public swimming available in Pymble is at the Olympic pool.
5. The leafiness has its own problems
Living among the gum trees might be good for your sense of wellbeing but the proximity to bushland also brings hordes of roaches that scurry around the kitchen no matter how many times you've done the washing up that night; posses of possums that hang out in roof cavities, waging gang warfare, while making disturbing screechy sounds … and humongous tics that attack you just for hanging out the washing or tending to your organic parsley.
6. Royal North Shore Hospital