People Before Profit: 2021 City of Newcastle Council elections

Newcastle City Council elections 2021 socialist candidates
Darcy Lemmich, Steve O'Brien and Samantha Ashby

Steve O’Brien, Samantha Ashby and Darcy Lemmich are standing as Ward 1 councillors on December 4.

Policy platform

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, half a million dollars is too much. 
  • 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

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

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
  • We endorse the Hunter Community Alliance (HCA) proposals on Housing/Homelessness
    • a safe car sleeping zone, and commit the use of council resources to be used to identify suitable property for a safe car sleeping zone in the LGA.
    • Council to work with local experts and the HCA on protocols and ongoing training for council staff engaging with people experiencing homelessness and publish the protocols publicly.
    • Commit council resources to help local homelessness service providers implement a trial of locker systems for people experiencing homelessness.
    • Commit to ensure that the Council's data collection and reporting captures the work of charitable and private sector homelessness services not reporting to the government currently.
    • Push the council towards significant Affordable Housing benchmarks and an Affordable Housing Contributions Scheme, including setting a target for the percentage of Uplift Value to go to Affordable Housing within twelve months.

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.
  • The continued clearing of peri-urban native vegetation is not ecologically sustainable, Save the Link Road.
  • We endorse the Hunter Community Alliance (HCA) proposals on the climate emergency
    • Commit Council to taking all possible steps to significantly reduce - by at least 50% by December 2030 - the city-wide emissions for the LGA, and by 100% by December 2035.
    • Council to fund and publish a pathway document relating to this target that identifies issues and options, sets clear targets to be achieved by implementing specific steps.
    • Fund and implement measures to progress economic diversification and structural economic change as fossil fuel industries become less reliable within the LGA and more broadly across the Hunter.
    • Commit budget and staff to work on equipping the LGA for more frequent and intense heat waves, together with developing LGA wide plans to address and mitigate the impact of rising sea levels.
    • Establish a community reference group for consulting with, and reporting to twice yearly, on ALL climate action plan initiatives, including contributions to Royalties for Renewal and Hunter Joint Organisation.

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
  • We support the Friends of Newcastle Ocean Baths Inc's campaign in Save the Baths from defacto privatisation and commercialisation into another licenced venue. 
    • Retain the open-air change rooms. Reinstate the women's change facility in the now-empty northern enclosure. Upgrade and expand the change rooms so as to meet contemporary expectations for safety and inclusivity.
    • Reverse the decision to concrete the rock flooring of the pool before works start on Stage 1 in March 2022. Retain the sand covered rock bottom.
    • Renovate the current kiosk without extending its footprint and restore the caretaker residence with future use decided via effective, genuine and ongoing consultative processes.
    • Urgent nomination of the Baths to the State Heritage Register so as to as ensure the Baths are properly conserved and attract state grants.

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

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

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 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

Download our election flyer

See the NovoNews Q&A with Steve O'Brien.

We need your financial support!

We don't have any corporate donors, so our people-powered campaign needs your support. If you make a donation to the account below please send us an email with your name to let us know you have made a deposit so we can receipt you as per the NSW Electoral Commission guidelines.

Socialist Alliance Newcastle 
BSB: 062-815 
Account: 1060 7279

Authorised by N. Leka, 472 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW 2300

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