Socialist candidate slams Newcastle rail cuts

Steve O'Brien signs a petition to keep Newcastle's rail.

Steve O'Brien, Socialist Alliance candidate for the byelection in the NSW state seat of Newcastle, slammed the NSW government’s decision to close the heavy rail line to Newcastle at Broadmeadow, cutting the city centre from rail traffic from December 26.

"This move is wrong and completely unacceptable for the people of Newcastle," O'Brien said.

O'Brien was speaking at the campaign launch at the Rail Sheds, Newcastle East Foreshore Park, on October 12. The by-election will be held on October 25.

He said: "This byelection is the ideal opportunity for the electors of Newcastle to make the ultimate protest vote — against the corrupt Coalition state government, and against its corrupt Labor predecessors. A vote for Socialist Alliance is a vote for real social change, and community mobilisation on the issues that affect their lives.

"ICAC [the Independent Commission Against Corruption] has exposed a corrupt culture of money politics in Newcastle.

"While the corporate rich get richer, we face the closure of our rail line, the sale of Stockton Hospital, higher education fees, the electricity power sell-off and the privatisation of Newcastle Port. We need to reclaim this city, our democracy and stop the sell-offs.”

Tony O'Beirne, Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) and Green Ban organiser in Sydney and Newcastle during the 1970s, also spoke at the campaign launch. Referring to the Socialist Alliance’s slogan for the by-election, “Community need, not developer greed”, O'Beirne said: "Nothing much has changed since 40 years ago. Big business greed will continue while capitalism survives.

"The BLF was successful because we took action together with the people on key issues. With the backing of the Newcastle Labour Council, we managed to save the Rail Sheds previously.

"Now, we need to call on the Labour Council again to re-establish a Green Ban on the East End of Newcastle, under threat of re-development once more. These developers only operate for profit and plunder."

O'Brien, a long-time community activist and unionist, has lived in Newcastle for 30 years. He was a steelworker, and now works at the local TAFE.

His election statement says: "Vote [1] Socialist Alliance if you want to build a movement for social change that benefits ordinary people, the environment and your community.

"We are committed to helping build a political alternative that puts people and planet before profit. Our future and our children's future depend on it!"

The SA "Newcastle Not 4 Sale" campaign highlights the demands:

"Save the rail line into Newcastle. Integrate public transport.

"No more coal loaders. Cover the coal wagons. Start the transition from coal to locally-produced renewables (solar, wind, rail carriages).

"Invest in TAFE: teach people the skills they need at a minimal cost.

"Fund housing and services for women and children under threat.

"End the corrupt culture of money politics. Develop participatory democracy and decision-making.

"Establish honest and open environmental planning and development approvals."

[For more information on the campaign, visit Steve's blog or like Steve4Newcastle on Facebook.]

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