Thursday, 17 March 2016

Environmental Protests to Take Place in Port of Newcastle

The Port of Newcastle will play host to the Australian outlet of an international protest on climate change, focusing on asking the world to walk away from fossil fuels.

The peaceful protest  is under the banner Break Free and is being conducted in association with Greenpeace.

Hundreds of Australians are expected to attend the event running from May 7-8, with thousands expected to attend around the world, with peaceful protests taking place in the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa.

"We are in a climate crisis right now, there's no other way to put it" said Dr Nikola Casule from Greenpeace Australia.

"February was the hottest month on record, we've had places in the Arctic that effectively had no winter.

"There are certain parts of the Arctic that were 16 degrees above normal."

It comes after Environment Minister Greg Hunt attended the Paris climate conference late last year, signing the commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

"The Turnbull Government has so far maintained the policies of the Abbott Government" said Dr Casule.

He went on to say Break Free's goal is to force elective representatives to take real action on climate change, and calling on Parliament to implement policies that can make a change.

However, Dr Casule has said reducing carbon emissions needs to include the reduction of Australia's exportation of coal.

"Australian carbon emission is only a small part of what we really need to be talking about.

"It's our exports that are our biggest contribution to global warming, and to stop that we need to keep coal in the ground."

One of Australia's largest exports is coal, with millions of dollars coming in from nations across the world, including China.

"The debate you hear in Canberra kind of misses the point if it's not talking about a reduction in the Australian coal industry" said Dr Casule.

Image courtesy of The Australian (LINK).

Friday, 11 March 2016

State Government to Debate of Port Stephens/Newcastle Merger

The State Government has set a time and date to begin debating over the legitimacy of a merger between Port Stephens and Newcastle Councils.

The debate will take place in NSW Parliament House on March 23
The debate will go ahead at 4.30pm on March 23rd after 10 000 concerned residents signed a petition shown to the Government.

It comes after months of fierce campaigning against the merger by Port Stephens Council, who were deemed Fit for the Future during an evaluation by IPART late last year.

Parliament had a similar debate surrounding two Council's in Sydney, who were also opposed to the merger.

During the debate, Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole said the decisions were based on evidence that suggested the merger was appropriate.

But Port Stephens MP Kate Washington objected to the claims, later saying "these processes had been completely thrown out the window and seen boundaries drawn, like Port Stephens and Newcastle."

Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie said yesterday that a merger between Dungog and Port Stephens would be more appropriate, but Washington says Council has done to little to late.

"They should have been having these conversations earlier on in the process.

"Out Council had its head in the sand, thinking it was all fine.  But all along, the Government has been asking all Councils to have these discussions."

But Washington is adamant the debate later this month will be an eye-opener for Premier Mike Baird.

"I know it's gonna be a fiery Parliament on the 23rd of March.

"Its just an opportunity to bring it to the Premier's doorstep, and to show him the extent to which our community is opposed to this merger."

Image courtesy of Red Rubble (LINK).

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Award Celebrates Contribution by Over 65's

Port Stephens residents are called on to nominate a senior citizen who has made their region a better place for the 2016 Seniors Local Achievement Award.

The award recognises over 65's who have made a real difference to their community through any of their chosen fields.

Port Stephens MP, Kate Washington says the awards are a great way to showcase seniors who have given back.

"There are people that contribute as part of their roles in any of the service clubs, lions clubs, rotaries" she said.

"There's just so many different ways people are contributing and strengthening our community."

People can nominate seniors by calling Washington's office on 4987 4455, or via Email at

"I'm really hopeful that people will contact me office to nominate people for this award"  Washington said.

"There's a wealth of people [who] could possibly be nominated."

Nominations close March 25th, with the winners announced as part of the 10 day-long NSW Seniors Festival, which runs from April 1-10. 

Image courtesy of the Boroondara Bulletin (LINK).

Friday, 19 February 2016

Greens Call for Talks on Drug Reform

Federal Greens Leader Richard Di Natale has hosted a roundtable discussion in Newcastle,with new ways to tackle the Ice epidemic on the table.

Di Natale will be calling on the Government to move drug addiction out of the criminal justice system and into the health network.

All types of drug use will be up for discussion, not just Ice.

He is also calling on funding for drug prevention be also diverted into the health system, to help with rehabilitation  and detox centres. 

Dr. Di Natale is hoping for "rational" conversations on drug control
"There are resources going towards police, to target individuals who have got drug addiction, rather than spending that money on treatment" said Dr. Di Natale.

A number of roundtables will be held across Australia in the weeks leading up to the national illicit drugs summit in March, with stops also expected in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.

Newcastle was one of the chosen cities because of the "live issue" illicit drugs are in the region.

The roundtable will include representatives from the health and justice departments, academics and people who have experienced drug use first hand.

Despite the call to decriminalise the use of drugs, Di Natale is still calling on the drugs themselves to be illegal.

"Drugs should continue to be illegal, particularly drugs like is.  We should continue to prosecute drug dealers, but when we're talking about the individuals who use drugs, it's much better to offer them treatment."

However, Drug Free Australia Executive Director, Jo Baxter has lamented the decision by the Greens, saying the criminal system should receive increased funding for drug related crimes.

"We could put more resources into drug courts, which is a system where by they [drug addicts] aren't treated as criminals, they are diverted into rehabs."

"Anything that would take the deterrent away, that's not a good system."

Di Natale has used Portugal as an example of how decriminalising drug use has done good things.

"In Portugal, where criminal penalties for individual drug users were removed, and all that money spent on treatment; we didn't see any increase in drug use."

"What we saw was more people come forward for treatment and a much, much more efficient use of resources."

Ms. Baxter however has argued the decriminalisation will send the wrong message to kids.

"They need to think about the compassion of the kids that are coming up and haven't tried drugs yet."

"Don't send the wrong message, don't let it become normal."

The national summit will be held in Canberra on March 2, and is expect to play host to members of the Federal Cabinet.

There, Di Natale hopes to have rational discussions about drug control.

"We're just trying to change the national conversation" he said.

Image courtesy of Business Insider Australia (LINK).

Thursday, 18 February 2016

McCormack has got Williamtown at the "top of the Priorities"

New Assistant Defence minister, Michael McCormack has given hope to Williamtown residents, as he aims to make the contamination at Williamtown RAAF base a top priority.

It comes as Defence minister, Marise Payne refuses to respond to the Senate inquiry into the base, which found conditions to be a crisis to the local community.

Minister Payne has also refused to announce when the Federal Government will respond to the report.

"Having face-to-face engagements with people who are living the reality of this contamination is vital" says Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon, who welcomed the announcement from minister McCromack.
McCormack first entered Parliament in 2010, representing the seat of Riverina, NSW

 It's been months since the initial announcement of contamination, which has seen local businesses hampered by loss of business, while fishing organisations have had little to no income since late last year.

Claydon has also advised minister McCormack to see the effects first hand, and not in Canberra.

"Have some discussion with the community group leadership ... to really find out what is the most appropriate means of communicating with as many residents and effected business as possible."

"It's not good enough to just lob up in Newcastle with a clear plan."

"He needs to hit the ground running."

McCormack was sworn in as Assistant Defence minister earlier today, along with a slew of Nationals MPs, including Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister, and Alan Tudge, who replaced Stuart Robert as Human Services minister.

Image courtesy of Alex Ellinghausen, via the Sydney Morning Herald (LINK).

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Hunter Students get a Taste of Space

Regional Development Australia's ME Program has partnered with West Wallsend High School to increase children's excitement and involvement in STEM.
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, July 21, 1969

The Quberider Workshop teaches teachers electronic and programming skills, which give students a taste of what astronauts do.

Students are encouraged to learn skills such as coding and electronic design, to physics and maths, while simulating experiments also conducted on real space missions

"This program is very much about being real world and actually being involved in programs that NASA would be involved in" said RDA Hunter's ME Program Director, Dr. Scott Sleap.

The program is said to give students the tools they need to launch into a STEM career and be competitive in the global market.

"What we have is a workforce that is going to require STEM skills in the future, and actually, in the now" said Dr. Sleap.

"If students don't develop the type of skills we're talking about in STEM, then they're going to be locked out of the workforce."

The program has seen considerable success in the Hunter, with over 30 schools now signed up to and actively involved in STEM, with up to 70 across NSW.

"The Hunter regions actually becoming one of the leaders in STEM education in NSW and even possibly Australia" said Dr. Sleap.    

Thursday, 11 February 2016

New Beds for Newcastle Private

The State Government and Department of Planning have approved an extra storey to be built on top of a new building at Newcastle Private Hospital.

It will allow for 15 new beds and an additional operating theatre, bringing the total up to 196 and 10 respectfully.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald praised the announcement, saying "these extra beds and additional health infrastructure will assist the health system to meet demand and provide timely treatment."

"The Hunter community is fortunate to have a mix of high quality private and public health providers."

The plan also included an elevated pedestrian link between the existing Kingston and Croudace Buildings.

The original plan, back in 2010 approved a six storey building on top of a three stroy parking lot, that total has now been increased to seven.