New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance should note the observation by Victor Hugo, the French novelist, that the worst thing a minister can do is have policies that upset people so much that they protest publicly and loudly about them.

Any one of the 1000 people who attended a rally at Belmont on February 19 could have told their own horror story of bus privatisation.

Speaking on behalf of many, several community members exposed the lie that privatised bus services make it easier for people to get around.

New mother Kimberley Anderson described how she and her three-month-old baby, on the way to a medical appointment, waited in the rain for a bus that never showed.

For another parent, Bec Cassidy, the new timetable and service cuts meant she had to change her daughter’s primary school.

Socialists polled well in the Newcastle council elections on September 9. Steve O’Brien, Samantha Ashby and Gayle Dedman won 891 votes (4.13%) in Ward 1.

Their vote was more than 4% in five of the 13 booths, with the highest being in Newcastle East at 7.5%. O’Brien also won 2.10%, or 1909 votes, for Lord Mayor.

The “Community need not developer greed” platform resonated in a context where Labor boasted it would help developers, ignoring the impact on communities.

Newcastle’s bus drivers have been repeatedly underpaid since the city’s public transport system was privatised on July 1.

About 70 workers have been underpaid between $200 and $600 since then.

The NSW government awarded Keolis Downer a 10-year contract to operate Newcastle’s public transport system of buses, ferries and the new light rail last year.

It was the first time in Australia that one company was awarded a contract to operate a city’s entire transport system.

In the 1960s, Joy Cummings, a Labor Party activist, locked onto a row of Moreton Bay figs in Islington Park, Newcastle. The majestic trees, which had been earmarked for the chainsaw to widen the road, were saved and still stand today. Cummings went on to be elected to Newcastle Council and in 1974 became Australia’s first female Lord Mayor.

Students of Sustainability (SoS) is an annual student conference organised by the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN).

This year’s SoS conference was held in Newcastle on Awabakal and Worimi land at the Hunter TAFE campus from June 30 to July 5. Conference attendees camped on the campus oval for four days of workshops and plenary sessions, stunts and actions, film screenings, field trips, guerrilla gardening, an anti-fashion show, an open mic night and a dance party.

Speakers at Newcastle’s refugee week rally on June 24, including Rafi, a detainee on Manus Island who spoke via telephone, called for activists to keep up the pressure on the government’s inhumane refuge policies.

Gleny Rae, Go back to where you came from; Fr Rod Bower, Gosford Anglicans; Dr Kate Murton, Doctors for Refugees; Keira Dott, Students Against Detention; Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition; Rafi, from Manus Island via telephone; Councillor Therese Dole, Newcastle City Council and others spoke about maintaining the rage. 

The V8 supercars race due to run through Newcastle streets in November places “private profit over the common good and social justice” according to the Newcastle East Residents Group (NERG).

In a recent leaflet NERG points out that residents continue to be sidelined by Newcastle City Council, Destinations NSW (a government tourism body) and Supercars Australia Pty Ltd.

The race deal was worked out in a private briefing and closed council meetings without community involvement last year.

Assistant secretary of the Newcastle East Residents Group (NERG) Karen Read addressed Newcastle Trades Hall (Hunter Workers) recently about the supercars race scheduled to run through Newcastle’s historic East end in November.

Read fielded questions about residents needing to be credentialled to enter their own homes, the needs of the elderly, contacts with other groups such as Save Albert Park and the lengthy period of construction and dismantling of race infrastructure.

The V8 Supercars race through Newcastle East will leave behind a trail of destruction even before the checkered flag goes down next November.

Former Liberal leader Mike Baird and Labor Party mayor Nuatali Helms announced that the race would be held in Newcastle late last year following not very transparent negotiations.

The apparent secrecy has continued and residents are still asking how they are supposed to live with high speed racing just outside their front doors.

More than 300 people demanded answers to these questions at a rally on March 5.


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