Newcastle Greens take council seat


By Jane Beckmann
and Stephen O'Brien

NEWCASTLE — The head of the Green ticket, John Sutton, appears almost certain to have won a seat in voting for the Newcastle City Council on September 14.

The Greens and progressive independent candidates are swapping preferences, and Sutton was only a few hundred primary votes short of a quota at the close of counting on Saturday night.

During the campaign, Greens and independents also combined to publish and distribute, the Newcastle Guardian, a four-page newspaper. The Guardian advocated progressive policies in local government and called for a yes vote in a concurrent referendum on returning to the ward system of local government abolished by the state Labor government in 1985.

The present city-wide franchise has made it easier for the council to be dominated by a coalition between Labor and the big-business-backed Citizens Group. Together with a reduction in the number of councillors from 21 to 12, it has also meant that nearly half of the councillors come from just two suburbs.

The Green campaign advocated community participation in local government, improved controls on waste management and pollution, revitalisation of the city, childcare, improved and ecologically sustainable transport, facilities for young people, greater provision of community services and making halls and open space available for community use.

The Greens committed themselves to establishing neighbourhood-based precinct groups to give residents an official channel for input into council decisions. Under the plan, public meetings in various neighbourhoods would elect spokespeople who would represent their concerns to the council.

The Labor ticket was marked by disunity. The Labor Lord Mayor, John MacNaughton, could only manage number two on the ticket for councillor positions against his unsuccessful rival for the lord mayoral preselection. Left-wing members of the Labor ticket distributed material which ignored right-wing Labor candidates and seemingly favoured the independents and Greens.