Radical solutions to poverty were put forward at a public conversation titled “Pushed to the Margins” held at the Newcastle City Hall on October 21. The ABC’s Lateline co-presenter Emma Alberici hosted the forum and seemed to be taken aback by economist Professor Bill Mitchell’s simple solutions to poverty. Asked by Alberici, “What causes unemployment?”, Mitchell responded: “Lack of jobs”. Mitchell went on to advocate a “job guarantee”, where the government funds job creation through a massive programme of productive public works.
Ten months after trains ceased running into Newcastle station, the New South Wales parliament has passed a controversial bill to close the line at Wickham and rip up the rail line in the CBD. The NSW Greens, who opposed the legislation along with Labor, the Christian Democrats and the Animal Justice Party, labelled the outcome a “betrayal” of the Hunter community and accused the government of selling out to “developer spivs”.
The New South Wales government's nominally independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has approved a fourth coal loader for the port of Newcastle. Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) initially applied to build the loader in 2012 at the height of the resources boom. Since then coal prices have crashed, caused by the fact that renewable energy is now a preferred source of “new build” power plants across the globe and fewer new coal-fired power plants are being built than was forecast.
Supporters of maintaining the rail line into Newcastle are hopeful that their fight against NSW government’s plans to remove the line into the CBD will prevail. The community has fought for more than a decade against state government attempts to cut the rail into the city centre. Developers have long wanted to exploit the city centre’s prime rail line land as it has never been mined and is considered ideal for multi-story developments. Their mates in the NSW parliament have been only too keen to help out.
Public submissions to the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) over July 12 and 13 were overwhelmingly against a fourth coal terminal (T4) to be located at Kooragang Island, near Newcastle.
Newcastle based group Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy (HASA) held a successful fundraiser for the asylum seekers who have been given so-called 'residency' on Nauru. Earlier this year one of the asylum seekers had opened up a Pakistani restaurant in Nauru. HASA asked The Love Tree Cafe in Newcastle if they could host a solidarity dinner there, following the recipes of the Pakistani restaurant. To their astonishment, The Love Tree not only agreed to do it, but did so gratis. Staff volunteered their time, and the venue and food were provided free to maximise the returns.
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”.
It’s 8pm and I’m sitting in the main section of the carriage. A weathered, middle-aged man in a tracksuit and peak hat is swaying around by the doors, muttering. I watch him out of the corner of my eye as he ambles over. “How’s it going?” He slurs. “Yeah good mate.” The train soon shudders to a stop, the doors open and he springs out like some manic racehorse into the night.
The Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) held a hearing on October 29 to allow the community to express their views on Incitec’s proposal to build an ammonium nitrate production facility in Newcastle. All 18 speakers slammed the proposal as presenting an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic explosion that could threaten the lives of thousands of people in the city. Speakers ranged from explosives expert Tony Richards to the Socialist Alliance, the Greens, and several community groups from Stockton and Mayfield, as well as members of the public.
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.