NSW Election Candidates Forum

Newcastle City Hall March 9th, 7pm

The March 2011 NSW state election is shaping to be one of the most significant in recent years, for NSW and for Newcastle.  The challenges facing Newcastle in transport, urban renewal and expansion, health care, education, law and order and social infrastructure are considerable with the level of community debate reflecting the diversity of views.

The New Institute is hosting a forum for the major candidates in the seat of Newcastle, in the City Hall on the evening of Wednesday March 9th, at 7pm. The broad theme will be “A vision for the future of Newcastle in the context of the Hunter Region and the State of NSW”.

Candidates Jodi McKay, John Tate, Tim Owen and John Sutton have agreed to participate.  The format of the evening will be a moderated discussion between the candidates and a panel representing a diversity of viewpoints in the community. The panel includes business, industrial, political/academic, social and youth perspectives.

Prior to the 2007 state elections the Institute hosted a very well-attended public meeting in Newcastle City Hall with the five major candidates for Newcastle. (It was a complex election for that seat.)  Afterwards all agreed that we had achieved our commitment to be equally fair (or unfair) to all candidates. The event received extensive media coverage in Newcastle and on television on ABC Stateline.

The forum will be scrupulously managed to be fair to all participants, in a manner broadly analogous to the televised leaders debates prior to Federal Elections.  The event is open to any member of the general public, subject only to requirements for appropriate behaviour during the meeting.  A donation of five dollars will be requested.

The event will be chaired by Professor Trevor Waring, Chancellor of the University of Newcastle.  The format will be one in which each candidate will be asked to give a short presentation of their policies/perspectives.  There will then be questions from a panel to the speakers; and the speakers will have a short wrap-up at the end.  As in 2007, a careful system of randomisation will be used to ensure no candidate will be unduly favoured by the timing and order of the questions etc.

Past experience has shown that an ‘open mike’ at events such as these is counterproductive, as particular individuals tend to take control of discussion without consideration for all.  For this reason there will not be questions from the floor.  As an alternative, the public will be invited to participate, however, by submitting questions through the New Institute website for consideration by the panel when formulating their questions.

The 2007 event attracted considerable interest and attendance.  Apart from local interest, it was filmed by the ABC and featured on NSW ‘Stateline’.  As a community-based ‘Town Hall’ meeting it is unusual in the recent tradition of Australian politics.  This event will gain prestige for the city, demonstrating yet again that Newcastle is a city of innovation in many facets of public life.  It will act to increase public participation in civic affairs.  Finally, we believe it will increase the status, prestige, and influence of political representatives elected from Newcastle.

The New Institute is a public policy forum or ‘think-tank’ established in 2004, based in Newcastle.  It is broadly modelled on the similar Institutes in other major cities. The major activity is public forums/discussions held on a monthly basis, on a range of topics.  The organising committee includes members across the political spectrum including ALP and Liberal party members, and Independents and  Greens supporters, but all committed to our values & principles of organisation (in particular, “That the Institute will not take a position on any issue”).   The Institute is self-supporting.  Further details are available on our website www.newinstitute.org.au

In six years of activity the New Institute has gained respect across the spectrum of different groups in the community as being committed to fairness and genuine respectful debate.  This event will build further on this reputation.

Contacts:

Robyn Considine  0409834023

Ross Kerridge  0401522875

Krysia Walker 0428601692

On behalf of the New Institute Management Committee

The Seat of Newcastle
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