Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
There is little reason to discourage anger at Jodi McKay. McKay's top promise to voters in going into the 2007 election was improved public transport, a promise which she has addressed only with window-dressing. McKay told public transport campaigners not to focus on increased investment in buses, but rather to support yet another re-arrangement of the timetabling, which would somehow lift patronage, help the bus system make money from fares and create a stronger argument for more investment. Fares contribute only 17% of Newcastle Buses' revenue and would not help the bus system make profit, unless either patronage or fares multiplied by a factor of six. However, lifting patronage would require substantial increases in service, and multiplying fares to over $20 an hour would be grossly unfair and unrealistic. In fact, the cost of collecting fares on Newcastle buses (including machine maintenance, tickets, time delays and enforcement) is more than the revenue that fares create, and the system would actually be cheaper if fares were abolished (as well as creating savings in the health and roads budget, and creating environmental benefits). McKay demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding both of public transport, which is not a profit venture but a public service, and NSW politics, by ignoring the political forces at play.
McKay's chief contribution to public transport in Newcastle has been to pressure the Government to cut the heavy rail line to Newcastle, rather than increase accessibility across the rail line through level crossings. In doing this, she has been fully backed by the Hunter Development Corporation, the local business lobby and the big developers. In community forums attended by hundreds of residents, McKay would occasionally show up with a corporate representative from HDC and slip up by saying "we" when referring to the Hunter Development Corporation, and "you" when talking to her constituents. Tragically, the Government now seems committed to cutting the heavy rail line even without corporate pressure from GPT. How did this happen?
Several years ago, public opposition to cutting the heavy rail line was so strong that the Government was forced to back down on its stated anti-rail policy. Since then, public opinion has essentially reversed to the point that residents are getting up in arms to try to get the government to cut the rail line. Given the social and environmental benefits of rail over other forms of public transport, as well as the underinvestment in public transport in Newcastle over decades (as well as growing concerns about climate change), grassroots campaigning to cut the rail line seems hard to understand. There is in some quarters an assumption that the "Fix Our City" campaign is about more than just cutting the rail line, that it's just one essential part of a broader strategy to develop the centre of the city. The assumption is false - Fix Our City's campaign centres around just three demands, including cutting the rail line, expanding the University into the city (which is happening in any case) and creating a new justice precinct for the city centre (which is also happening in any case).
The reality is that Fix Our City is not a grassroots campaign, but a populist campaign run by elite business interests and backed by Newcastle's powerful tabloid, the Newcastle Herald. The Herald is owned by the multi-billion dollar Fairfax media empire, which shares an almost complete stranglehold of the Australian newspaper market with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Cross-media ownership laws introduced by John Howard have allowed Fairfax to acquire other media as well, such as radio.
As Newcastle's only mass-produced newspaper (apart from "free" newspapers, some of which are also owned by Fairfax), the Herald shows an astonishing lack of investigative journalism (apart from a handful of standout journalists, such as Greg Ray) and diversity of views. Fairfax uses the Newcastle Herald essentially as a manifesto, often devoting its front page to particular business-interest causes that the Herald wants to pursue, often aggressively campaigning against community organisations not just through its editorial pages, but also through its news articles (sometimes devoting four or five pages to one particular cause), and through the censorship of letters to the editor and its online blog. Comments that run contrary to the Herald's position are less likely to be published, and comments critical of the Herald are barred altogether, to an extent that Pravda would have been proud of. Former journalists from the Herald have spoken about meetings where the editor-in-chief would sit down with senior journalists and determine the Herald's line on political issues.
When government, business and media interests align against community-led campaigns, it can be extraordinarily disheartening. However, the rise of the blogosphere, including your very own Gerald, is likely to loosen to some extent the ideological control that media empires like Fairfax exert.
As far as the pull-out of GPT is concerned, Newcastle residents have options. They can either continue to whinge and complain about what the government should do, as if an anonymous piece of paper in a ballot box once every few years meant that the government worked in the interests of the people, they can continue to believe that big developers creating megamalls would create net jobs, growth and community benefits (an argument that has been debunked time and time again by decades of economic studies and social research), or it can decide to do something different.
It's time for Newcastle to come together and decide what we want to do with the centre of the city, how we want to create the space that we live in. Once we've created our vision and have engaged the community to work on the project we can get down to doing it instead of waiting for the government to act. (sort of like what Renew Newcastle is doing, but with even more public participation). Once we stop complaining about politicians and start ignoring them, anything becomes possible!
Friday, July 16, 2010
Once again, Cr Tate just doesn't get it (Herald, 16/7).
When the Laman Street fig trees are eventually removed in an orderly and staggered fashion, they
should be replaced by Hill's Figs, planted in accordance with modern arboriculture practice and Council's policy for replacing trees (with a similar species).
I'm not surprised by his out of touch idea to create kitsch statuary from the tree bases. I well recall him once declaring that Kooragang was Newcastle's Kakadu wilderness (while supporting heavy industry
However, there may be novelty tourist value in, after eventually replacing the 2 figs at the Darby Street entrance with nearby specimens, creating statues of Tate and Jody McKay from the bases. They could be facing each other with their tongues pointing out and we could call the artwork "Newcastle Politics: Tweedledum and Tweedledee".
Perhaps even Tweedledum and Tweedledummer", leaving the community to decide which is which.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Over recent years, we've been witness to a number of sex scandals that have either brought down or come close to bringing down a number of politicians. From the recent scandal about former NSW Transport Minister David Campbell's visit to a gay sex club to Kevin Rudd's visit to the New York strip club Scores, to Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky or Portland mayor Sam Adams' relationship with a junior male staffer, the mass media's obsession with politician's sex lives often seems to take issues like war, poverty or climate change completely off the public agenda.
Let me say outright that I do not necessarily support any of these politicians, and I think that embarrassing politicians is a fantastic social pastime. But the parading of politician's private lives before the cameras is insulting to the public, distracting, perverse and can easily degenerate into moral crusading and at its worst, outright queerphobia.
There doesn't seem to be any good solution to this problem. Writing letters to newspapers or blogs doesn't stop scandals reaching the front pages, restraint from the media is unlikely (given that sex sells), avoiding the question tends to fuel more speculation, and regulating what the media can publish is an infringement on free speech.
So the only good solution I can come up with is this: politicians should lie about their sex lives, and repeatedly. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not just saying that politicians should deny allegations of raunchy episodes under the covers when asked about it. I'm going a lot further than that - politicians should make lying about their sex lives a personal mission. Embarrassing the tabloid editors should be the goal.
Barnaby Joyce should put out a press release every second Tuesday laying out in sordid detail the story of a new orgy he had had the previous Friday night. Lee Rhiannon should claim to have made out with Pamela Anderson. Penny Wong should come out as straight. Julie Bishop should claim to have three husbands. Wayne Swan should reveal his late-night visits to see Blossie, the Ringtail Possum at Taronga Zoo. Steven Fielding should claim that he never had sex before his committed relationship of 24 years. Every politician should try to outdo each other with more fantastic tales of romps and flings until the mass media finally gives up trying to satisfy our "right to know".
And let's not limit this to politicians. Media personalities, sportspeople, religious figures and workers at corner stores should be allowed to get in on the fun as well. Perhaps all the members of the Rotary should claim to be in a group relationship and publicise swingers nights.
Of course there are some cases where relationships are non-consensual, abusive or involve corruption, and this should never be tolerated. Sex and gender are political subjects, and should continue to be. Politicians shouldn't lie or deceive the public, except where their sex lives are concerned. But if you are sick of hearing about what the Member for Gernagery gets up to at night and would rather find out what she thinks about new coal-fired power stations or the state of the country's hospitals, join in the fun and suggest it to your local pollie today.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Proposal to launch revised Refugee Welcome City Declaration
Address to Lake Macquarie City Council
Council Meeting Monday 8 March 2010 at 7.00 pm
126–138 Main Road, Speers Point, (02 4921 0333)
I ask for your interest and support re the following brief for public access application (currently being processed):
"Reaffirming LMCC Declaration (2002) of Lake Macquarie as a Refugee Welcome City
1. We are seeing the divisive refugee race-card being played again- each major party vying to be meaner than the other, this is against a back-ground of media fuelled racism. We had a flurry of this in 2004. It subsided as civic & political groups took action- eg Refugee Welcome Town, rallies & public meetings.
Recent attacks on international students here means our communities are at risk of falling prey to racism. No council wants that. Understanding the issues surrounding refugees is important in preparing for them. If the community is starting to self-organise itself towards this, then its only sensible for council to be aware of and facilitate it.
2. Changes to the LGA councils’ charter require them to show community leadership, actively promote the principles of multiculturalism, social justice and engage in long-term strategic planning. Recalling and reflecting on the significance of refugees to Australia, and reaffirming the Refugee Welcome Town Declaration of LMCC in 2002 is a valid application of the charter.
The Newcastle No War Collective is a group of people from across the social, political and economic spectrum, who meet occasionally to plan and carry out actions such as public meetings and rallies opposed to militarism.
What do we want the council to do about it?
1. Revise the original Refugee Welcome City Declaration. Reaffirm it as a symbolic gesture and deepen our commitment to it in practice.
2. Support the proposed relaunch of the revised Refugee Welcome City initiative at the benefit dinner** to be held at the ‘Freedom from Fear’ refugee exhibition (curated by Dept Immigration & Citizenship Adult Migrant Education Program.
3. Put on the agenda for community partnership type meetings with faith groups, unions, NGOs, State & Federal members.
4. Help co-ordinate & publicize donation drives- Anglican & Catholic churches have shown interest in this, with a particular focus on the refugees on the boat at Merak (who were en route to Australia)
5. Support Ncsle U’s interest in organizing educational outreach to Tamil refugees in Christmas Island and Indonesia
6. Acknowledge that its likely we will seen an influx of refugees from the Indian sub-continent & start to liaise with community organisations to head off racism.
7. Seek to involve other councils in developing Regional approaches to refugee issues.
8. Poise itself to reap the benefits refugees bring- youth, vitality, skills- on the Merak boat there are: Air Condition repairmen, accountants, businessmen, aluminium fitters, electricians, carpenters, bakers, brick layers, plumbers, drivers, teachers, goldsmiths, graphic designers, hardware engineer, steel fitter, sales executives, land surveyor, lathe operator, welders, UN staff, painters, labourers, etc.
**Dinner details are:
Date: 6:30pm Thursday 25th March
Location: 'Freedom From Fear' Refugee photographic exhibition, TAFE Front Room Gallery Hunter St Newcastle (formal invitations will be sent out soon).
Cost: $50 /head (waived for speakers).
Speakers: one local from LMCC or NCC, Ian Rintoul and Saradha Natham (refugee advocates to give historical and contemporary picture).
Description:There will be Tamil food, Sudanese dancing & singing (as the most recent arrivals),
Dr Niko Leka
Newcastle No War Collective.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
In June last year, as Planning minister, she announced in the media, the listing of the Queen Victoria Building and Luna Park on the State Heritage Register (SHR).
Now she’s announcing it again.
The QVB was listed by the National Trust back in 1975. The SHR began in 1999. If it takes over 10 years to list two “icons”, I pity other items on the waiting list.
What difference does it make anyway?
Newcastle’s much loved former Post Office was listed on the SHR in 2000 and for a decade it’s been empty, neglected and vandalised. This State government and its heritage-heretic planning ministers have stood by and watched it rot, despite pleas for support from Novocastrians. How about some genuine heritage good news, rather than spin, Premier?
Friday, February 5, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Lord Mayor of Newcastle
I write as a citizen and ratepayer of Newcastle.
I note your continuing inability to speak or communicate directly with me.
As a citizen, a ratepayer, a voter and a fellow resident of New Lambton I respectfully ask that you advise me as to whether you personally support the General Manager's use of an exemption clause in State planning legislation that effectively prevents the people of Newcastle from having a say in their own affairs. Since I am aware that you are a busy person a simple yes or no answer signed off on by yourself by return email would suffice at this stage.
I advise that I am seeking urgent meetings with the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and Sonja Hornery, our local MP, to call for a review of the General Manager's questionable interpretation of the Act concerned. I am seeking further legal advice to clarify what appears to be a significant ambiguity in the Act. I am also concerned about the constitutional underpinnings of the Act as interpreted by the General Manager of Newcastle City Council.
I believe that any legislation that is being interpreted in such a way as to deny the people a say in public affairs needs to be urgently reviewed and amended.
You are further advised that I am investigating the correct procedures as to how this matter within Newcastle City Council can be correctly and independently investigated. As Lord Mayor I seek your advice on the latter as a matter of urgency.
I am deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in the relationship between Newcastle City Council and the sports association involved. Yesterday, I was advised by a New Lambton business owner of an approach by a soccer association attempting to sell advertising space along residential fences in Novocastrian Park. If this advice proves to be correct, is this too supposedly allowed by virtue of the exemption clause?
I am not alone in feeling that I am being discriminated against as a ratepayer and resident of New Lambton in favour of members of a soccer association who may or may not be ratepayers and residents of New Lambton.
Yesterday, I received a suggestion in New Lambton for a 'people power' style protest.
I am now working on the broadening of our initial Novocastrian media response to the State and national level.
I, and I suspect others, John, will go a long way to oppose a legislation, or the interpretation of a legislation, that appears to be unjust. That being the case, I believe you must ask yourself just how far you and your fellow councillors are prepared to go to oppose the genuine democratic outrage of citizens who have elected you.
It would seem to me as a citizen of Australia an unwise course to darken our democracy to light up a park.
I can only urge that you call for an immediate halt to the development on Novocastrian Park immediately in the interests of justice for all Novocastrians.
I await your prompt response
Paul F Walsh OAM
Medal of the Order of Australia
Newcastle Citizen of the Year 2001
The Premier's Award for Community Service
Australian Reconciliation Award
A fundraiser for the Haitian Emergency Relief Fund
6.30pm Wednesday 10th February
at the newly revamped Resistance Centre
472 Hunter St Newcastle
A night of good food, music and drinks from the resistance centre's new bar with all proceeds going to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Haiti needs our solidarity and support more than ever.
The Haiti Emergency Relief Fund is a grassroots organisation made up of labor unions, women’s groups, and human rights activists and has been directing aid to where it's most needed since its inception in 2004.
Stuart Munckton, co-editor of progressive newspaper Green Left Weekly, will be speaking about the history of exploitation that has made Haiti one of the poorest countries in the world but also its inspiring history of struggle.
Organised by the Socialist Alliance
Contact: Simon 04382975552
Monday, January 25, 2010
Parks and Playgrounds Movement warns the people of Newcastle: Beware!
The Coastal Masterplan MOU was signed by the Newcastle Council over twelve months ago but never officially adopted by full Council. The Masterplan has been hatched outside the normal transparent and open planning framework that has protected Newcastle beaches and its foreshore since statutory town planning began.
It is especially worrying when it is clear that alienation of coastal parkland is proposed.
Our coast is a scarce and priceless resource held in trust by our councillors for all the people of NSW. Newcastle Council already has a fully researched an openly adopted Coastline Study and all its parks and reserves are subject to official plans of management with open processes for change.
Why is this covert masterplan being promoted by the State at the unnecessary cost to the people of Newcastle?
Doug Lithgow President
Freeman of the City of Newcastle
Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc.
The letter above refers to a MOU between the Department of Lands, The Newcastle Council, the Surf Club industry.
The Masterplan for the Newcastle Coast will be out next month but it has been covertly prepared in accord with the MOU.
The trick is to alienate public land for special interest groups or private operators using a non statutory process that creates expectations for vested interests.
They then do the work of breaking the planning laws. That is what is left of the NSW planning laws which as we all know have been well and debauched by ponzi speculators.
You would not know that Council already has a fully researched coastline management plan 2003 and all parks and reserves are subject to official Plans of Management.
Documents can be viewed through our Blog http://parksandplaygroundsmovement.blogspot.com/
Every one should read:
Section 7.4 The output : one new coastal crown reserve covering the Newcastle coast with a new Governance model.
Section 9. Communication : Parties shall not undertake communication with public, media and others pertaining to this project.
Parks and Playgrounds Movement
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Report from Rally in support of Tamil refugees in Merak- the high point was the question that Brindha, a 9 year old girl asked, after describing how the boat was shaking so much they were afraid for their lives- hear it (one minute)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
International Day of Protest in support of Tamil refugees in Merak:
Monday Jan 18th
The situation for the 254 Tamil refugees in Merak is becoming worse, as the 100th day nears. They are being threatened with deportation by force back to SL. Since our PM asked Indonesia to detain them, Australia bears responsibility.
See report from Australian refugee advocates (including Ian Rintoul) in late December, download
Download poster for the rally
Contact: Newcastle No War Collective 0406296141