Ross Gittins starts our Autumn program

Rent-seeking, the ‘game of mates’, and the stuff-ups of economic reform

Are governments and their bureaucracies ensuring that Australia’s businesses give their customers a good deal, or are they just helping businesses live an easier, less competitive life at their customers’ expense? And what do politicians and top bureaucrats get out of it?

Don’t miss our first event for 2018 as our Autumn program commences at Souths on Wednesday 14th March.

Ross Gittins, who is also a patron of the Newcastle Institute will be speaking from 6pm and everybody is welcome.

For 2018 we have made a decision to request a contribution of $10 for attendees.  This follows many years of this being only $5 and will assist us to ensure that we can continue to deliver a program of events.

To assist our planning, you can now pre-register for our events so that you simply need to be ‘checked in’ at the door.  To register for this event, please look for the registration link on the right.

For the first time in 2018 we are also offering the opportunity to become a member of the Newcastle Institute.  Just click the ‘Join Now’ button. Once they have received notice that their membership has been approved, members are entitled to free entry at our regular events and can also use the Registration button to let us know that they’ll be coming by choosing the ‘Member’ option to register. You can, of course, still simply come along on the night.

Whichever way you choose to engage with our events, we look forward to you sharing in what looks like being a very interesting program of events in 2018.  Please help us to get the word out regarding our offerings by sharing on social media or forwarding this email to your contacts.  You can also share the event notice on Facebook.

We look forward to seeing you.  For details of the remaining events in our Autumn program, click here.

2018 Program and an opportunity for you

2018 Program

We’re excited to announce the first three months of our 2018 program knowing that there is plenty to interest everybody across all three programs.
We know that you will also enjoy the remaining months to come with plenty more great ideas to share and issues to reflect upon.

Click the program button to see our March, April and May events


So, why not take advantage of an exciting new initiative for the Newcastle Institute and be amongst the inaugural members of the Newcastle Institute. Yes, from the start of this year we’ve decided to offer memberships to the Newcastle Institute, for $50 per person with great benefits including:


  • Free entry to events – Casual attendees at our events would know that for many years we’ve been requesting a $5 donation per person to assist us with our costs in presenting events.  At our December planning meeting, we decided to increase the requested amount to $10. So, becoming a member can make sound economic sense!
  • Access to a developing section of our online site which will enable access to a Members’ area of the site
  • Opportunities to be part of the processes for continuing to grow the Newcastle Institute as a ‘quality forum for good ideas.

Use the link on the right to join the Newcastle Institute


Welcome to 2018

We hope that everybody has had an excellent holiday season and the opportunities to reflect and recharge that this can bring.

In between enjoying the same opportunities, members of our planning committee have been busy looking at putting together some very exciting initiatives for 2018 that we think you’ll like.

So that you have the chance to pencil in a date in your calendar, we’ll be continuing this year with our regular events scheduled on the second Wednesday of each month. Our first event for the year is planned for Wednesday 14 March. Look out for our speaker announcement soon.

So; keep your eye out for some exciting news about the Newcastle Institute and our program for 2018: arriving in your inbox very soon! Use the links to the right to be kept up to date.

Thanks for your past interest in our program and, we look forward to working together to ensure that the Newcastle Institute can continue to provide ‘a quality forum for good ideas.’

Our democracy is broken:- Is there a better way?

The next Public Forum hosted by The Newcastle Institute will feature the work of the newDemocracy, an independent, non-partisan foundation which works to develop alternative models of citizen-based democracy and restore trust in public decision-making.

newDemocracy was founded a decade ago by Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, prominent philanthropist and Managing Director of industrial giant Transfield Holdings. It’s easy to be critical of current politics” he says. “We need innovate in how we do democracy.”

Senior Supporters of NewDemocracy include a range of ‘wise heads’ from across the political spectrum, including former premiers Geoff Gallop (Labor) and Nick Greiner (Liberal), business leader Jennifer Westacott, prominent journalist Laura Tingle, and the late John Kaye from the Greens.

The Executive Director of newDemocracy, Iain Walker, will be visiting Newcastle to discuss the way ‘Citizen Juries’ have been convened as a way for the community to deal with difficult issues that cannot be solved through conventional democracy. “Sometimes our election-based democratic processes just can’t handle complex issues” he says. “Time after time, we find communities becoming fractured and bogged down in arguments dominated by polarised opinions.”

 NewDemocracy has promoted the use of ‘Deliberative Democracy’, based on a random sample of the community members coming together to explore the complexities of difficult decisions. This ‘citizen jury’ or ‘senate’ then advises governments on a way forward that is more acceptable to the community than a ‘winner takes all’ outcome that just fosters frustration, anger and bitterness in the community.

“We have successfully used this approach with multiple governments and government agencies, in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia” says Walker. “Ironically, we have conducted less work in our home state of NSW, and yet the need for this approach seems clear”.

Many in Newcastle would consider our history of poorly resolved divisive political issues as clear evidence of the need for a new approach.

NewDemocracy’s website ( provides information about the organisation’s work over the last fifteen years. The Public Forum on October 11th provides an opportunity for the general public to hear more, and discuss how these ideas could be applied in Newcastle.

The forum is open to anyone genuinely interested in a better future for our community.

Open to the Public – All welcome

Souths Leagues Club

Llewellyn Street, Merewether.


We request a $5.00 donation at the door to assist with our event costs.

Contact:              Speakers available to the media (Contact Ross 0401 522875)

Conversations with Campbell Newman

Local public policy think-tank, The Newcastle Institute, is hosting a ‘Conversation’ event with the Honourable Campbell Newman, former Premier of Queensland. The conversation will be facilitated by local journalist and academic Paul Scott.

This special event follows the successful July conversation with former NSW Premier, Nathan Rees.

Campell’s unique blend of career phases, from military service to corporate roles to local government, and in state politics, place him well to reflect on the current social and political landscape.

Born to parents who were both former Federal ministers, Campbell spent 13 years in the Army and reached rank of Major, before obtaining his MBA from the University of Queensland and embarking on a successful corporate career for 10 years before standing for Lord Mayor of Brisbane in 2004.

Following many accomplishments as Lord Mayor of Brisbane, he challenged for the leadership of the Queensland Liberal Party in 2011 and led the LNP to a landslide victory in the 2012 state election. After being narrowly defeated in 2015, he has since left parliament.

Campbell will speak about his time in politics, lessons learnt and implications for those interested in, or contemplating, participation in the political process. He will share insights about policy, the media and trust in the political system. He will also reflect on the causes and effects of the increasingly volatile nature of the electorate.

The Newcastle Institute spokesperson Robyn Considine said these Conversations series are providing an opportunity to gain unique political insights from those who have been at the heart of the political process.

The forum will be held at South’s Leagues Club on September 13th from 6 to 7.30pm. This forum is open to the general public. No RSVP is necessary. Entry is at the door and a $5 donation to cover costs is appreciated. Visit

Mayoral Candidates’ Forum

2017 Lord Mayoral Election Forum

6pm-8pm August 31st.

Newcastle City Wests

(formerly Panthers & The Workers Club)

Independent think-tank The Newcastle Institute, will be conducting a public forum for the coming Lord Mayoral Election on Thursday August 31st, in the lead-up to the Local Government Elections

The Institute’s high-quality forums before local, state and federal elections have become a respected tradition in Newcastle in the last decade.

There are four groups contesting the election with Councillor and Mayoral candidates. The main attention will be on the Lord Mayoral candidates, who have all agreed to participate.

The four Lord Mayoral candidates from Groups contesting the election are Nuatali Nelmes (Labor); David Compton (Liberal); Therese Doyle (Greens); and Kath Elliot (Independent Group).

This forum will be modelled on the ABC’s popular Q&A program. The moderator for the night will be journalist Paul Scott from the University’s School of Communication. As with previous events, Dr Bernie Curran shall be Master of Ceremonies.

Each candidate will be invited to give a short policy speech, and then respond to questions covering a range of topics about the future of Newcastle.

The public is invited to submit questions through the Newcastle Institute’s website. A Panel representing a range of community interests will select questions to ensure there is good balance, and to make sure the forum is fair to all the candidates.

Newcastle Institute spokesperson Robyn Considine said “Political meetings in Australia have become stage-managed and scripted – and boring. The Newcastle Institute’s events are 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.

The Newcastle Institute requests a $5 donation on entry to assist us with venue hire costs.

If you’d like to submit a question for the forum then click below

Questions will be accepted up until 5pm on 29 August, 2017

Conversation Number One

Conversation with Nathan Rees

The Newcastle Institute, is hosting a ‘Conversation’ with the Honourable Nathan Rees, former Premier of NSW. This July event is part one of a two part series featuring conversations with politicians.

The second in this series, in September, will feature the Honourable Campbell Newman, former premier of Queensland.

Despite being from opposite sides of the political fence they share reputations of being courageous and standing up for what they viewed was right for their states. Both were young men when premiers of their respective states and both had short terms in office.

In an era when trust in the political process is seen to be under stress, this conversations series provides a unique opportunity for insight into the political processes and lessons learned from the time in office of each of our guests.

Nathan Rees was the 41st Premier of NSW between 2008 and 2009 and a member of the NSW parliament representing Toongabbie for Labor from 2007 to 2015. He replaced Morris Iemma as Premier and in late 2009, was replaced as leader of the Labor Party by Kristina Keneally. In his attempts to clean up the Labor party, he stood up to Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi, a position which ultimately cost him his role as Premier.

His post political career has seen him in roles as the chief executive of the Public Education Foundation, and more recently as Deputy Leader of the Finance Sector Union,

Nathan Rees will speak about his time in politics, lessons learnt and implications those interested in participating in the political process. He will share insights about policy, the media and trust in the political system. In a time when Newcastle is changing dramatically he will provide insight into lessons for Newcastle and its leaders to ensure a productive and sustainable future.

The Newcastle Institute spokesperson Robyn Considine said the Conversations Series will provide an opportunity to gain unique political insight from two well regarded politicians. The Honourable Nathan Rees will share these insights next week at the important first event of the series.

The forum will be held at South’s Leagues Club on July 19 from 6 to 7.30pm.

This forum is open to the general public.

No RSVP is necessary.

Entry is at the door and a $5 donation to cover costs is appreciated.

Navigating the Truth in the Post-Truth Era

Post-truths, alternative facts, fake news. These terms are thrown about in the traditional and social media, by politicians and by people wanting to discredit statements they disagree with. The post truth era is described as when objective facts and scientific evidence are less influential than a narrative and appeals to emotion and personal beliefs. In a democratic society with freedom of speech at its core, how do we distinguish facts from fiction and navigate the truth in this post-truth era?

The next public forum hosted by local think-tank the Newcastle Institute – to be held at 6pm on June 14th at South’s Leagues Club – will focus on the challenges of navigating truth in the post-truth era.

These questions will be answered, and followed by a vibrant discussion with a diverse multi-disciplinary panel of experts. The panel will be made up of a health scientist, a political scientist, a communications expert and a philosopher. The panel discussion will be facilitated by Mr Brad Webb, an experienced local senior executive.

The expert panel will be presented with a number of scenarios relating to: the Australian economy and in particular debt and deficit; managing the threat of terrorism; and decisions in health care. The panel will    not be required to comment on the facts but on how we navigate truth when confronted with a range of often conflicting statements. They will be challenged to explore how we as citizens validate statements made by media and politicians. Importantly the impact of alternative truths on trust and on the future of democracy will be explored.

This interactive evening will provide an opportunity for participation and exchange of ideas on one of the most significant challenges facing our democracy for many years.

What?     Public Forum:- Navigating the Truth in the Post-Truth Era

When?    6.00 – 7.30pm, Wednesday 14th June 2017

Where?  Souths Leagues Club, Merewether

Who?  Open to the general public. Admission $5 donation

What are the solutions to the electricity supply crisis?

Recent events in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria have shown that dramatic changes are needed if we are going to have a secure, reliable, cheap and sustainable power supply.

Intermittent renewables like wind and solar are becoming cheaper than conventional power sources like coal. But there is still the major challenge of energy storage.

New technology batteries may be one solution. What about pumped hydropower? Are there other solutions combining electricity, heating and cooling supply? Is it time to move away from the big power suppliers – will households soon go off-grid and save money?

The next public forum hosted by the Newcastle Institute will feature two leading researchers dealing with different aspects of the electricity supply challenge.

Assoc. Professor Steven Weller is from the University’s School of Electrical Engineering, where he teaches on sustainable energy. He will discuss the current problems with Australia’s National Electricity Market, and look at the technological and commercial realities of renewable technology. Could Tasmania become the ‘Battery of Australia’? He will look at the numbers.

He will be joined by Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, from the Newcastle Institute of Energy Research. The Professor leads a team of researchers that have developed ‘world-first’ power storage and management technologies. In two years they aim to have a fridge-sized power plant that could provide a stable and secure power supply to a household. It is an example of the promise of the high-end science and engineering being performed right here in Newcastle.

This interactive evening is a chance to move beyond the dysfunctional and politicised climate change debate, and to learn about the technological developments that promise to solve the energy supply crisis altogether.

Open to the Public – All welcome

What?     Public Forum:- Solutions to the Electricity Supply Crisis

When?    6.00 – 7.30pm, Wednesday 10th May 2017

Where?  Souths Leagues Club, Merewether

Who?      Open to the general public. Admission $5 donation