Newcastle Institute

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Smart Creative City

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As part of the Hunter Innovation Festival, the Newcastle Institute is partnering with Newcastle Now to present a public forum looking at the possible future of Newcastle as a Smart/Creative City.

The forum will be held on Tuesday 14 July in the Friendship Room at Panthers Newcastle; commencing at 6pm

Speakers include:

Michael Neilson – Newcastle Now

Nathaniel Bavinton – Newcastle Council

Phillip McIntyre – Newcastle University

Justine Ulph – Social Entrepreneur

Budgets, Bulldust and Bastardry

Our June event sees Ross Gittins return to speak at the Newcastle Institute.

One of Australia’s most eminent economic journalists, Ross Gittins, will be speaking at the next public forum hosted by local think-tank, the Newcastle Institute.

Ross Gittins is renowned for his clarity of vision and his ability to see through the fog and spin that leave others confused.   Few can match his ability to explain the complexities and contradictions of the modern economy that affect our daily lives.

Now he looks back on a career of over forty years and reflects on what he has seen of economics, politics, the media and the lessons of life.

He started as a cadet journalist covering the financial roller coaster ridden by the Whitlam government. Since then he has covered forty budgets and sixteen elections. He has watched eight prime ministers wrestle with boom and recession, debts and deficits. No government and no treasurer has escaped his analysis.

As an ‘old school’ journo with printers’ ink in his veins, he also dissects the newspaper game, remembers the great editors and journalists who have sharpened our minds and his, and lays down some hard facts about a hard future for the media.

The title of his new book – ‘Budgets, Bulldust and Bastardry’ is a small taste of the humour and dry wit that Ross Gittins uses to inform and entertain.

The Newcastle Institute is delighted to welcome Ross back to his home town.


VENUE: Banquet Room, Newcastle City Hall,

DATE: Wednesday 10th June 2015

TIME: 6.00 till 7.30pm   ADMISSION: $5 Donation

The Railway Stalemate – Is There Another Way?

Many people concerned with the future of Newcastle found the last election frustrating. The future development of transport in Newcastle – particularly the future of the rail line between Hamilton and Newcastle terminus – was supposed to be a major policy fight between the two major parties. But despite years of debate, neither side produced a policy that attracted wide support.

The Liberal Party proposed removing and selling the existing rail line, and promised the future development of a light rail down the middle of Hunter Street. Many loyal Liberal Party members found this policy difficult to support, but kept silent and did not speak against it in the interests of the party.

Similarly, the Labor Party proposed keeping the existing heavy rail, but opening extra level crossings to remove some of its adverse effects. Again, many party members did not agree with this idea, but kept silent due to party loyalties.

After the election, the Liberal Government does not have control of the Upper House, and will not be able to sell or develop the existing rail line. It is a political stalemate, with party supporters entrenched in positions that many don’t agree with. The end result is a failure to achieve any decent public transport system for Newcastle.

Is there another way? The next public forum of the Newcastle Institute will find out.

Professor Jim Jose, Newcastle Uni Political Scientist, will examine the political reality after election. He will followed by Ed Duc, Architect, and Howard Dick, Economist, from the Hunter Independent Public Transport Group. They will discuss possible alternative models for future public transport in Newcastle that could be better than either of the entrenched and unsatisfactory proposals suggested by the two major parties at the election. A forum discussion including Allan Squires, of Hunter Transport for Business Development, will then explore these ideas further.

Without community leadership, the rail issue will remain as a political stalemate preventing the development of a modern transport network for all of Newcastle. The next public Newcastle Institute Forum will be an opportunity for thinking citizens to push the political war machines out of the trenches, and look at more constructive, innovative solutions.


VENUE: Banquet Room, Newcastle City Hall

DATE: Wednesday 13th May 2015

TIME: 6.00 till 7.30pm

ADMISSION: $5 Donation

First event for 2015 – NSW Election Forum

In the lead-up to the NSW State Election, the Newcastle Institute, will again be conducting a public forum featuring candidates from the major parties contesting the election. These high-quality events have become a respected tradition in Newcastle in the last decade.

LCnswIn a change from previous events by the Newcastle Institute, this time the focus will be on the Upper House – the Legislative Council.

The Upper House is elected by everyone in the State, and allows the big and small parties to compete for the 21 seats on offer, just like the Senate in Federal Elections. Less than 4% of the total vote is enough to get a seat. In the Upper House Every Vote Counts – even in ‘safe’ Lower House seats.

This event will emphasise to all the parties that the Hunter cannot be ignored. This is a region of influence, importance, and innovation in public politics.

The five active parties in the Legislative Council have agreed to participate. The Liberal/National; Labor; Greens; Christian Democrats; and Shooters & Fishers Parties will each choose their representative.

Each party representative will give a short policy speech, and then be questioned by a panel, and by each other. The panel will include journalists from the Newcastle Herald and ABC Newcastle, and a younger member of the community. As with previous events, Dr Bernie Curran shall be Master of Ceremonies.

Political meetings in Australia have become stage-managed and scripted – and boring. The Newcastle Institute’s events now unusual in Australian politics. This meeting will bring together politicians from across the spectrum in a genuine face-to-face contest. We see this as demonstrating yet again that Newcastle is a city of innovation in many facets of public life.

The Event is open to any member of the general public, subject only to requirements for appropriate behaviour during the meeting. As a totally voluntary group, we ask for a $5 donation to assist us to fund our events; venue hire etc.

We look forward to seeing you at Souths from 6pm on Wednesday 18th March, 2015


Click the icon above to add a comment or ask a question.

Ideas for spending lots of money

People who were able to attend our September event would have heard about some of the great ideas that people had for spending a billion dollars in Newcastle.

notesIf you’d like to see what some more of the ideas submitted were, and read a report of the competition you can download a copy of the report by clicking the money to the left.

Lord Mayoral Candidates’ Forum

The Newcastle Institute, in partnership with the Newcastle Herald, will be conducting a public forum for the candidates for Newcastle Lord Mayoral by-election on November 12th at South’s Leagues Club.

The broad theme will be “My vision for the future of Newcastle”.

As you may know, we recently held two similar events for the Charlestown and Newcastle State By-elections.  It’s anticipated that the format will be much the same (i.e. each candidate will get time to make a short ‘policy speech’, and will be interviewed individually, with questions individualised by an independent panel who will be guided by (but not limited to) the questions submitted through the Herald and Newcastle Institute websites (  The ultimate decision on questions to be put to the candidates remains up to the panel alone.  They have been instructed and agreed to be equally fair to all candidates.

We look forward to seeing you there.
Lord Mayoral Candidates’ Forum
6pm 12th November, 2014
Souths Leagues Club

Candidates’ Forums

The Newcastle Institute will again partner with other organisations to present two more of our well regarded Candidates’ forums which aim to give a broader insight into the policies, priorities and ideas of the various candidates for the by-elections coming up on October 25th.

The Charlestown By-Election Event will be on Wednesday 15th of October at the Charlestown Bowling Club.  

The Newcastle Event will be at Souths Leagues Club on October 16th.

Both events will open to the public at 5pm to commence at 5.30, to finish at 7pm.
The events are being hosted by the Newcastle Institute, The Hunter Business Chamber, and The Newcastle Herald and we’re happy to announce that there will also be live streaming of the event via the Herald website. 
The events will be hosted by Newcastle Institute Patron, Dr Bernie Curran, as Master of Ceremonies.

Each candidate will be invited to present a short ‘policy speech’ or ‘pitch’ in favour of their election, and then each candidate will have an individualised ‘interview’.

There will then be a chance for a final ‘summing up’ by the candidates, whose order of call will be randomised by a draw on the night. 
The Public are invited to participate by submitting questions through the Herald and Newcastle Institute websites.  

Questions will be considered by an advisory panel prior to the events.  The panel will select or formulate questions to be put to each candidate individually.  These questions will be given to the interviewer on the night. 

To see questions which have already been submitted, click the word ‘comments’ at the base of this post.



What could you do for the Hunter with a billion dollars?

The state government has said it will spend hundreds of millions on urban renewal in Newcastle. But are they spending it on the right projects?

With by-elections coming up and a state election seven months away, it’s time to give the politicians food for thought.

The Newcastle Institute, in conjunction with the Newcastle Herald, want your ideas.

spendideasWrite a 200 word ‘pitch’ describing your vision for spending a billion dollars to make the Hunter a better place to live, work and play.

Send it to the Newcastle Institute competition email address:

The best five ideas will be invited to be presented at a Newcastle Institute forum on September 10. They will also be featured in the Herald. A prize of $500 will go to the best entry.

If you’ve got great ideas, share them. Get your entry in today.
Submissions must be received by midday September 5.

For more details about the competition, please download our Newcastle Institute – Competition Guidelines