Steve O'Brien

"We stand for a more democratic Council that empowers the community. Ward 1 residents are sick of being trampled underfoot by developers and corporate interests."

Steve O’Brien lives in Newcastle East. His interests include campaigning for affordable/effective public transport and retaining as much of the unique character of our suburbs, heritage shopping strips, parks and beaches as possible in the face of rampant development. Steve is a former steelworker who now works at TAFE. He is a workplace union delegate and was recently elected to the governing council of his union the Public Service Association and as a NSW Vice President of the State Public Services Federation. Steve is also a committed environmentalist who supports the need to rapidly transition from coal and other fossil fuels. He opposes the privatisation of Council and public assets and if elected to Council would always put community and peoples’ needs first.

What we stand for

We will fight for an open council and more democracy

We will fight for an open council and more democracy

Newcastle Council increasingly behaves like a corporation and is losing its connection with residents. We will work with residents’ groups to empower residents to play a more active role in council decision making.

To that end, we will fight to:

  • Ensure that council publications profile the community, not the egos of some councillors
  • End confidential briefings of councillors by developers
  • Allow resident-initiated motions to council
  • Hold regular ward meetings
  • Reduce the salaries of the CEO and the Lord Mayor
  • Designate a portion of public works funds for projects to be decided upon by community consultation and vote
  • Insist that councillors respond to residents’ phone calls and emails
  • Restore community and residents' say over development, no more tick and flick 'consultation'
  • Apply building quality standards
  • Undertake an audit and take action to ensure full disability access to all public facilities
Fair rates, no subsidies to Supercars

Fair rates, no subsidies to Supercars

Council has wasted at least $30 million on the Supercars race so far. We oppose any more council spending on this event. The next race proposed for February - March 2022 should be cancelled and the contract not renewed.

We will fight for greater state and federal government funding for local services.

We will fight for no more increases in rates. With just and equitable rates, council could be aiming for:

  • Increased rate concessions for pensioners, the unemployed, single parents, people with disability and others when dependent on welfare payments

The base rate for businesses should be higher than that of residents

Rental pressures
Affordable housing

Affordable housing

Having a secure and safe roof over one’s head is a basic human right. However, secure housing is increasingly out of reach for many. We need housing that is affordable, secure, good quality and appropriately located. As councillors we will fight to:

  • Introduce a levy on vacant apartments and houses to establish a rollover fund for public, eco-friendly, sustainable and affordable housing
  • Initiate emergency programs to house homeless people in suitable vacant dwellings and locations
  • implement rent control
  • Push for a minimum of 30% low-income rentals in all major housing developments
  • Enhance lodgers’ rights in boarding houses
  • Support the push to cap rent at 30% or less of a person’s wage
  • Support renters’ rights; there should be no forced evictions
  • Re-purpose the unused Stockton Centre for affordable public and emergency housing
Socialist Alliance at the Newtown SS4C rally
Climate emergency

Climate emergency

The City of Newcastle plans to reach zero net emissions for its operations by 2030. However, more needs to be done now to avoid climate catastrophe. Council needs to drive a further reduction in city-wide emissions (operational, business and community) of at least 75% by 2030. Council should include natural gas in its emissions calculations and acknowledge the 400 million tonnes of CO2 emissions that are generated each year by the coal exported via the Carrington, Tighes Hill and Kooragang Coal Loaders.

To that end, Council should:

  • Establish a community advisory group to involve the community in regular monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of Council’s Climate Action Plan
  • End the $30 million plus ratepayer subsidy of the fossil fuel-driven SuperCars race
  • Ensure low-lying areas are subject to flood mitigation
  • Encourage renewable energy use by all economic players
  • Convert council’s fleet to 100% electric vehicles
  • Support a push to radically increase environmental efficiency for all new buildings
  • Support establishment of energy cooperatives to provide cheaper electricity through solar panels and batteries, solar hot water systems and by retrofitting homes.
A healthier more liveable city

A healthier more liveable city

The City of Newcastle area includes many heritage buildings, parks and significant trees. It must ensure people and the environment are put before profit in decisions related to all of these.

We pledge to work to:

  • Free entry into the Council Pools, Support the heritage restororation of the Newcastle Ocean Baths and keep the pool's sandy floor
  • Initiate tree-planting programs; support efforts to grow appropriate plants on verges; preserve local greenspaces and waterways; and rehabilitate degraded environments to help cooling in hot weather. Encourage more and support existing community gardens
  • Restore youth spaces such as The Loft
  • Prevent destruction of heritage trees. Lobby Shortland Electricity to treat trees with care when lopping/pruning
  • Convert community centres into “heat relief centres” during heatwaves
  • Repurpose unused council land for urban food farming and gardens
  • Mandate an environmentally sustainable and ethical procurement policy
  • Improve recycling and reuse programs, and mandate recycling for local commercial and industrial tenants
  • Support energy and water audits to reduce unnecessary use/wastage
  • Oppose unconventional gas in New South Wales and continue to promote a Nuclear Free Newcastle
  • Encourage Council to be more proactive in progressing economic diversification and structural economic change as the region becomes less reliant on coal mining and power stations. This includes opposing the Kurri Kurri Gas plant and phasing out the dangerous Kooragang ammonium nitrate plant.
  • Plan for the eventual rehabilitation and conversion of the Carrington, Tighes Hill and Kooragang coal loaders to more sustainable uses.
  • Support Beyond Zero Emissions’ proposal for a Hunter Renewal Energy Precinct and Hunter Jobs Alliance initiatives, and leverage the NSW Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund for clean green industries
  • Redevelop the rehabilitated sections of old BHP site into a sustainability precinct with housing, parkland, cycle ways and clean technology jobs. Ensure the entire site is rehabilitated.
  • Establish more park and ride services to the city
  • Real time monitoring of air quality and waterways around Stockton, Mayfield and Throsby Creek for industrial contaminants
  • Real action on the Stockton beach erosion
  • Restore community input on all development, no more tick and flick consultation
  • Support the Regional Gallery extension as a driver of sustainable tourism and our cultural identity
  • Expand not shrink the Wickham Village in the Wickham Master Plan 
  • Ensure the strictest standards are applied to building quality
  • Undertake an audit and take action to ensure full disability access to all public facilities
Cost of living
Jobs and cost of living

Jobs and cost of living

Council is facing budgetary pressures, but it cannot succumb to a user-pays approach. To that end, we will support campaigns to:

  • Push for full funding of Council services by state and federal governments
  • Expand rate relief for pensioners
  • Maintain core Council services using Council labour.
  • Oppose the privatisation and outsourcing of council services
  • Reject the misuse of labour hire contractors and casual employees
  • Council contracts with local unionised labour
  • The cultural sector generates more jobs than SuperCars, Support the Gallery extension, community arts spaces and Keep Music Live
  • Support Council training, apprenticeships and internships for vulnerable youth, such as those leaving out of home/foster care
  • Promote the establishment of food cooperatives to distribute local produce at a low cost, particularly to those in need
  • Ensure no rate rises.
Active, accessible and integrated transport

Active, accessible and integrated transport

Only 4% of people in the Newcastle Local Government Areas use public to get to work. We will support campaigns to:

  • Reverse the privatisation of buses and trams
  • Push for better public transport not gimmicks such as driverless buses  
  • Introduce a Carrington to Wickham to the Foreshore Ferry
  • Build more safe, permanent cycle paths, complete Newcastle’s Cycle Safe Plan
  • Limit speed to 30 kilometres an hour in residential streets
  • Make Newcastle better for pedestrian and cyclists and not just cars 
Childcare and children's services
Childcare and children’s services

Childcare and children’s services

With many young families in Newcastle, Council’s support for childcare and out-of-school services remains important.

To that end, Council should:

  • Audit for such needs and repurpose unused Council facilities to meet them
  • Establish new childcare centres near green spaces
  • Expand specific programs for children.
COVID-19 emergency lockdown measures
COVID-19 emergency lock-down measures

COVID-19 emergency lock-down measures

Like everything in our lives, this election campaign has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As councils are the level of government closest to the community, they have an important role to play, especially in helping the most vulnerable.

To that end, council should actively support community health measures such as:

  • Provide support for essential services, such as supplying chemist prescriptions and food drop-offs
  • Ensure public toilets and other amenities remain open and clean
  • Support local distribution of face masks
  • Support food relief centres such as that provided by Food not Bombs