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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

Williamtown Now and in the Future


Williamtown – the civilian airport and the military complex – is one of the biggest industries in the Newcastle region.

The ‘Base’ is already one of the nation’s most important military complexes, while the civil airport is critical economic and social infrastructure and a major transport hub. Both civil and military sides are growing. Despite this, there is little knowledge in the general community of just what is happening now, or of the planned major developments in the next few years.

The next public forum of the Newcastle Institute is an opportunity to learn more about the future of Williamtown, and how it will affect our region. Our two speakers will cover both ‘sides’ (civilian and military), and will take part in a panel discussion to answer questions from the public.

Ian Dick, Defence Project Director with Hunternet, has played a key role in bringing developments such as the JSF project to the Hunter.Ian will detail the current military presence including Air Combat Group, Air Surveillance Group, Defence Materiel Units and Defence Support Reform Group, as well as support contractors. The coming of the Joint Strike Fighter will bring many changes with increased infrastructure and developments on and off the Base.

David Nye, Manager Aviation Business Development for Newcastle Airport, will discuss the civilian side of the airport, especially key aspects of the imminent redevelopment of the Terminal.

These developments raise many questions. Can the civil and military airports coexist? Will (or should) Williamtown become an international airport? Is ownership by local Councils viable? What will be the future noise impacts? Should planning and zoning be in place to allow a second runway? Is the Joint Strike Fighter already obsolete?

Future developments at Williamtown will bring opportunities, growth and both good and bad impacts on our region.   The Newcastle Institute forum will be an opportunity to learn more about what is really happening, now and in our future.  


VENUE: Souths Leagues Club, Llwellyn St Merewether

DATE: Wednesday 13th August 2014

TIME: 7.00 till 8.30pm   ADMISSION: $5 Donation

Latest thinking in sustainable technologies and coal alternatives

Father of solar paint, Paul Dastoor and futurist Garry Ellem will present the latest thinking in sustainable technologies and coal alternatives at local think-tank The Newcastle Institute’s next public forum on Wednesday 9 July.

Professor Dastoor believes the greatest issue the world is facing is energy production.

“How do we solve this issue? We capture the sun’s energy through solar paint and turn our homes, cars and appliances into solar power stations,” said Professor Dastoor.

Professor Dastoor’s solar paint technology deals with carbon-based electronic materials that are soluble in a variety of liquids. This makes them able to be dissolved into solutions, which can be printed, painted or sprayed onto different surfaces whilst still being able to conduct electrical charges.

Expert panellists:

  • Professor Paul Dastoor, director of the Centre for Organic Electronics at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Professor Dastoor’s Solar Paint featured in the grand final of the 2011 season of the ‘New Inventors’.
  • Gary Ellem, Future Industries Program Manager at the Tom Farrell Institute, University of Newcastle. In this role Dr Ellem has initiated the Carbon Valley 2050 think tank which has gone on to develop the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival and the Diamonds from Coal initiative. Dr Ellem.

A public discussion, inviting audience participation to explore these themes will follow the presentations.  

This forum has not been established to drive a particular position or outcome, but to facilitate informed and constructive discussion. The Newcastle Institute aims to advance the community’s interests by developing shared understanding of these complex issues, and of the various opinions and interests involved in this controversial area.


VENUE:Souths League Club, Llewellyn Street, Merewether.

DATE: Wednesday 9thJuly 2014

TIME: 7.00 till 8.30pm  

ADMISSION: $5 Donation