Steve O'Brien

The other night the phone rang. I picked it up and a recorded voice said something like “The NSW Premier Mike Baird isn’t going to lease the state’s electricity assets. He’s not going to sell them. He is going to create jobs. Don’t be fooled.” Indeed, I thought. This happened on the same day that the Hunter Valley’s unemployment rate topped 10% and set a 10-year record. The link between unemployment and privatisation is so obvious that Baird can’t say the “P” word. Gladys Berejiklian, Baird’s Minister for the Hunter, is also coy about the “P” word.
NSW premier Bruce Baird was confronted by 200 TAFE students, teachers and supporters when he visited Newcastle’s Hamilton TAFE campus on February 16. His visit was to inaugurate the offices of the Hunter Business Chamber, which have been relocated to Hamilton TAFE. Significantly, the old TAFE signage out the front of the campus has been replaced with a sign that reads “Australian Business Apprenticeship Centre”.
There is obviously volatility in the Australian electorate. I gained an insight into that new mood last weekend when I went doorknocking in Raymond Terrace as part of the NSW Public Service Association’s (PSA) campaign against privatisation. The PSA was not advocating a vote for any party except to ask people to put concerns about privatisation up front when they vote in the NSW elections of March 28.
The Progressive PSA (PPSA) team has won important victories in elections for the 43,000-member NSW Public Service Association (PSA). PPSA member Anne Gardiner won the top position of General Secretary, and PPSA candidates took all positions on the 45-member Central Council. A recount will be held for other executive positions following an extremely close vote.
A fierce controversy has broken out in the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) over the union’s recent pay award. The dispute occurs as the union’s 43,000 members receive voting papers for seven executive members and 45 central councillors.
While many Movement for Democratic Change activists are confident that the power sharing agreement between the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC is a step forward, there are widespread concerns about the deal.
On July 31, ALP environment spokesperson Peter Garrett and Labor leader Kevin Rudd — or at least larger-than-life puppets of them — lead a march of 150 people in Newcastle against the coal industry.
More than 500 protesters from around NSW assembled at a property near the proposed new Anvil Hill open-cut coalmine in the Upper Hunter over the June 2-3 weekend. The state government approved the mine on June 7.
NEWCASTLE — More than 30 people attended a speak-out to express solidarity with the Pine Gap Four at the Hamilton’s Clocktower on May 25. One of the Pine Gap Four, Donna Mulhearn, is a well-known peace activist in the Hunter region. She was among those arrested after successfully carrying out a “citizens’ inspection” of Pine Gap on December 9, 2005. Their trial goes to court shortly.
Turmoil continues in the Labor Party in Newcastle following the imposition by the party head office of Jody Mackay over popular local member Bryce Gaudry to contest the seat.

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