Friday, 18 August 2017

Work at Newcastle Port back in Local Hands


It's a victory for local workers this week, with local engineering company Varley Group securing a contract to unload wind turbine cargo at Newcastle Port.

The change comes after a shipping company who previously used Singaporean workers on 457 visas to do the job, caved from community pressure.

Maritime workers held a protest at Newcastle Port earlier this month in protest of foreign workers taking their jobs.

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon says this turnaround is a terrific win for Newcastle locals.

Workers protesting at Newcastle Port [Image: Maritime Executive]
Both for our local workforce, certainly for Varley Group...and also just stopping what was one of the most exploitive moves ever trying to replace a local workforce with a foreign workforce that was to the best of our knowledge, not receiving the right wages or conditions for the job."

She says the Unions were a key factor in keeping the work local.

"The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union and the Maritime Union of Australia have done a great job in bringing community workers together to ensure that this outrageous attempt to deploy a fly-in crew from Singapore to do the work that men and women in Newcastle have been doing for generations - it's great to see they've been able to garner enough community support and pressure to stop that practice in Newcastle."

According to the MP, when companies give these contracts to foreign workers, it's often a case of exploitation for the sake of profit.

"They're paying those overseas workers lower wages and not paying attention to their level of skills," she said.

"It's just a classic case of a company trying to cut corners on safety and further suppress wages and conditions in order to make a bigger profit at the end of the day."

Despite the victory, Sharon Claydon still believes we need to be on our guard to help protect Australian jobs.

Don't Be A Tosser, Apply For The Litter Grant


Parliamentary Secretary for the Huner Scot MacDonald is encouraging Hunter waste group to apply for a share of 1-point-25 million dollars to fund litter prevention projects.

The Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, Central Coast, Maitland, Cessnock City Councils are all members of the Hunter Waste Group.

The NSW Governments Litter Regional Implementation program offers funding to 14 waste groups to support member councils to work to tackle litter problems in their community.

Waste groups are eligible to apply for the funding to implement the anti-littering project, on behalf of their council members.

Scot MacDonald says the funding aims to reduce the amount of litter in the community.

"The aim of the government is to reduce the litter across the state by 40 percent by 2020. Strongly urging them to apply for some of this funding to address hot spots on litter, in particular, we are looking for along the major arterial roads, take away containers getting up around 40 percent of our litter, but certainly targeting road side litter".

Scot MacDonald says the constant littering is very bad for the environment.

"I'm not sure what goes through peoples minds when they wind down the window and throw out that take away container. Look all you've got to do is put it in the bin at home. Have a bit of respect for your own backyard and respect for the environment. 

"Of course a lot of this litter takes many many years if not decades longer to decompose and break down".

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald

Independents slam Labor's Special Rate Rise plan for Maitland


Independent Mayoral candidate for Maitland Philip Penfold has slammed Labor's plan to drop the Special Rate Variation if she's elected into the top job.

Mayoral candidate Loretta Baker has promised to put forward a proposal which will see household rates drop by around $100 a year, but there are fears that could lead to job cuts and a huge loss in funding accumulating to around $10 million dollars over the next council term.

Philip Penfold said it's easy to come and say it now to get some community support, but in the end the plan simply isn't going to work.

"It's very easy to come out and make political statements about rate cuts but show us your calculations, show us who is going to lose their job, show us which roads are not going to be repaired so you can justify why you have a reversal of your decision you moved two months ago."

The decision the mayoral candidate has reportedly flipped on was moved two months ago as the adoption of the Statement of Rating Structure which was stated as:

Council adopt the Statement of Rating Structure, as identified in the Operational Plan 2017/18 (which includes a general rate increase of 7.25%);

Philip Penfold believes if Loretta Baker's plan goes through there will have to be job cuts and a loss of funds to projects because council won't be able to afford it.

"For a lot of the council's expenses they are state government expenses the cost of the street, the cost of the waste levy the Labor party introduced. So it's expensive for council and its expensive for the community and it's important for a council to balance out the wishes and needs of the community and what those costs will be," said Philip Penfold.

"All Councillors I'm sure are open to adjustments in rates but any candidate needs to put forward what is their proposed cut then, if you're going to cut the income please explain where this $10 million dollar shortfall is going to come from and how you are going to account for it."

Mayoral Candidate Phillip Penfold and his team Image Philip Penfold Twitter

The Empty City


Census data has revealed almost 20 percent of homes in Newcastle's East are vacant, equating to around 1000 empty homes.

The shocking number is almost double the state average at 10 percent, and the census data showed there was almost 100,000 vacant properties across NSW and Victoria.

The vacant hot-spot was in the Newcastle postcode of 2300, which includes suburbs like Cooks hill and Bar Beach.

Following these figures, there are calls for the NSW state government to follow both the Federal and Victorian governments and introduce a tax for vacant properties.

However, that idea has been criticised by members of the housing industry, saying it has the potential to dry up the supply and increase house prices and rental costs in Newcastle.

Craig Jennion
Executive Director of the Housing Industry Association in the Hunter, Craig Jennion says not only is he against a tax against vacant properties, but the figures gathered in the census can not be taken as completely accurate.

"The way they gather information about whether a home is vacant or not cannot be counted as reliable", he said. "On the day they collect information, if you're not home for any reason including holiday or just out for lunch, the property is counted as vacant".

"Any additional taxes would slow down on supply which is something we don't need in the Hunter", he said.

"Our housing affordability in the Hunter has been a strong point and I would hate to see that change".

Fire at former Newcastle Post Office


A rubbish fire has caused damage to the former Newcastle Post Office building overnight.

Fire crews were called to the building just before 10pm to find the fire on the 1st floor.

It was contained and under control within an hour but police are investigating with suggestions it could have been deliberately lit.

Thankfully the building didn't suffer any major structural damage.

Newcastle Post Office this morning Image Liz Farquhar Twitter

Transparency at Newcastle City Council to be ramped up


Despite Newcastle City Council copping criticism for not being transparent, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes sees transparency as the cornerstone of any council.

In a bid to restore any lost confidence in civic governance, the Lord Mayor beside her fellow Labor team and the Greens will present an Open and Transparent Governance Strategy at next week's council meeting.

The strategy will see the diaries of the Lord Mayor, Chief Executive and senior managers published in the same way NSW ministerial diaries are published, so the public can see just what the council gets up to. They also plan to create a stand alone communications and engagement unit at council to improve the options for citizen involvement.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes believes transparency is pivotal to a successful council.

"An open and transparent governance strategy for the internal operations of council is something that we have been working with the greens on - Labor and Greens together - to make sure that more of the operations of council are acceptable to the public which I think is the right thing to do and great for the city moving forward."

Nuatali Nelmes says the strategy will go on public display so everyone can have their say.

"Everyone will have a chance to have their say in Newcastle on whether or not they would like to add additional measures into that strategy or just comment either way on how they feel about it."

More road closures in Newcastle's CBD


It could be a short-term headache for Newcastle drivers with part of Stewart Avenue closed for light rail preparation works this weekend.

The road between Hunter Street and Honeysuckle Drive will be closed from 7pm tonight until 5am on Monday.

There will be closures again the following weekend - Friday 25th to Monday 28th August - between the same times.

There will be diversions in place via Parry Street, Hunter Street and Albert Street at Wickham.

It doesn't stop there, there'll be single lane closures from 7pm Friday 1st September to 5am Monday 4th September - weather permitting.

It's all a part of the $500 million the NSW Government is investing through the Revitalising Newcastle program.