Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Newcastle result declared today

The result of the Newcastle election was formally declared today, with Tim Owen the winner.

Tim Owen and I were the only two candidates present for the occasion.

I've congratulated Tim on running a very effective campaign, and accomplishing something that is truly historic: a Liberal win in Labor heartland territory!

We'll be there to keep him on his toes.

The Newcastle campaign secured us 14.86% of the primary vote for the Legislative Assembly seat of Newcastle, and 19.67% of the local above-the-line Legislative Council vote.

The results for the seat of Newcastle are posted here.

The local Legislative Council results are here.

It was an excellent local campaign, and I'd like to thank our enormously talented and dedicated local campaign team, who put in countless hours of volunteer time to run our campaign office, produce our materials, recruit helpers to distribute leaflets and staff polling booths, and the many other things that go into running a local election campaign.

Of course, we couldn't have achieved what we did without the generous help of all the wonderful committed Greens members and supporters who helped staff the office, phone helpers, deliver leaflets, and staff the polling booths on election day.

Finally, I'd also like to express my appreciation to the 6,510 citizens of the seat of Newcastle who voted for me, and helped to give Newcastle the biggest swing to The Greens in the Hunter region. It's an excellent base on which to build for the next election cycle.

This will be the last posting on this campaign blog.

Thanks to all my readers for your interest and support throughout the campaign.

John Sutton

Monday, March 28, 2011

Greens back to record vote in Newcastle

Media Release Media Release Media Release

Newcastle Greens

27 March 2011

Greens back to record vote in Newcastle

The Greens vote in Newcastle has returned to its record level, with a swing toward them of between 3.5% and 4% in Saturday’s state election.

The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said that the Newcastle result of around 15% was what the party had aimed for, and was an excellent achievement in an election where most voters’ minds were focussed on changing the government, and on a choice between Labor and the Coalition.

“In that situation, it’s easy for The Greens to be squeezed out of contention.

“However, on the election night count, The Greens vote in Newcastle was 14.9%, up from our 2007 vote of 11.2% and only just shy of our best ever result in the seat of 15.2% in 2003.

“By the time the Newcastle vote is fully counted (including absentee and postal votes), the final tally is likely to be even closer to – and perhaps even higher than – that record result.

“We’ve maintained our position as the third force in Newcastle, and it looks like we’ve managed to comfortably outpoll Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate, whose election night vote was just 11.5%.

“Our Newcastle result is a testimony to the hard work and skills of our local campaign team, and to our hundreds of committed volunteers, who delivered leaflets and staffed booths,” Mr Sutton said.

With a likely historic Coalition win in the Labor heartland seat, Mr Sutton said that the mood for change was palpable on the ground among voters at the booths yesterday.

“The Coalition poured massive resources into the Newcastle campaign, and saturated the booths with materials and boothworkers.

“Their candidate, Tim Owen, ran a very effective, small-target, direct-engagement campaign that took full advantage of the anti-Labor groundswell,” Mr Sutton said.

“The vote for Labor in Newcastle went down, even from the level of the massive 17% swing they suffered in 2007, after their Sussex St head-office denied a local branch preselection and imposed local celebrity candidate Jodi McKay.

“Whilst the mood for change was the dominant factor, the solid Green vote and the disappointing results for Ms McKay and Mr Tate – both vocal advocates for cutting the Newcastle rail line – also indicate a significant shift toward local community support for the rail line,” Mr Sutton said.

“Beyond an early statement about preferring a light rail option, Mr Owen effectively avoided this issue during the campaign, and failed to deliver on his commitment to provide a detailed position statement on what a Coalition government would do with the rail line.

“Consequently, Mr Owen comes to this issue as a relative cleanskin, and would do well to heed the pro-rail message in this election result,” Mr Sutton said.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crunch day for Liberals on Newcastle rail line issue, say Greens

Media Release Media Release Media Release Media Release

Newcastle Greens

25 March 2011

Crunch day for Liberals on Newcastle rail line issue, say Greens

The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today called on the Liberal candidate Tim Owen to fulfil repeated commitments he made at candidate forums to release details on his position on the future of the Newcastle rail line.

“On the eve of election day, we’ve still heard nothing more from Mr Owen and the Coalition about what they propose for the future of the Newcastle rail line and about how they would improve public transport in Newcastle, despite his commitments to do so,” Mr Sutton said.

“Whenever Mr Owen was questioned about the rail line at candidate forums he repeatedly said that he and the Coalition would be making a statement on the issue ‘later in the campaign’.

“It will be a very inauspicious beginning to the expected new Coalition government for them to have broken such a clear commitment to voters on such a major local issue before voters even go to the poll tomorrow,” Mr Sutton said.

“A broken promise on this issue will simply reinforce the fears of many voters that they can’t trust what the Coalition is saying.

“Earlier this week, The Greens released their transport policy for Newcastle and Wallsend, reaffirming their commitment to keeping the Newcastle rail line, and outlining a set of other positive proposals that would get public transport in the Hunter back on track.

“Voters know that the Labor candidate, Jodi McKay, has failed to deliver on public transport, and that the key independent candidate for Newcastle, John Tate, is also on the record as supporting cuts to local rail services.

“Early in the campaign, Mr Owen said that he supported cutting the Newcastle rail line, that he favoured ‘a light rail option’ as an alternative, and that further information would follow.

“Since then – despite these repeated promises to say more – there’s been complete silence on this issue from Mr Owen.

“Mr Owen and the Coalition can’t expect to be taken seriously as a contender for the seat of Newcastle if they are not prepared to say what they intend to do about public transport in Newcastle generally, and about the Newcastle rail line in particular.

“Mr Owen now has one last opportunity to demonstrate that he’s not beholden to the big-end-of-town interests behind the city’s anti-rail push by supporting the retention of the rail line and inter-city rail services, and is committed – like The Greens – to real change to improving public transport in Newcastle,” Mr Sutton said.

Greens pedal for vote power

Media Release Media Release Media Release Media Release

Newcastle Greens

25 March 2011

Greens pedal for vote power

Bicycle to generate party’s Earth Hour tally room access

It’s Saturday night, 8.30, and the election results are rolling in at Newcastle Greens’ election night party.

But The Greens have a problem: how to do their green duty and save energy for Earth Hour just when things usually get most exciting with the election night tally?

By ingenuity, and old-fashioned pedal power, that’s how!

Local Greens members at the Newcastle election night party will pedal a bicycle-powered generator, to supply a laptop computer tuned in to the election tally room.

Wind-up radios will provide a running commentary, and old-fashioned candle power will spread a soft, calming light.

“However voters might feel about the election results, there’s no reason why this election night should be their darkest hour,” The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said.

“As usual, The Greens will handle power responsibly, and in a way that sheds light on the political process,” he said.

The bicycle and generator will be provided by Climate Action Newcastle.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sutton calls for show and tell on Newcastle campaign donations

Media Release Media Release Media Release Media Release

Newcastle Greens

24 March 2011

Sutton calls for show and tell on Newcastle campaign donations

The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, today called on other Newcastle candidates to publicly disclose donations made to their election campaigns so voters could see who was funding their campaigns before they vote.

“Many candidates hide behind the minimum legal requirements for disclosing donations, so that voters don’t know who has funded their campaigns until well after election day,” Mr Sutton said.

“In an era where candidates are able to post this information on websites almost immediately, this is unacceptable,” he said.

“The Greens support continuous disclosure of election campaign donations, and we make this information available as soon as practicable on the relevant websites,” he said.

Donations made to the local Greens campaigns for Newcastle and Wallsend can be found on the Newcastle Greens website (at: http://www.newcastlegreens.org.au/donations/). Donations to the NSW statewide campaign can be found on The Greens NSW website (at: http://nsw.greens.org.au/content/2011-state-election-continuous-disclosure-donations).

“Continuous disclosure should be a legal requirement, and should be facilitated by the NSW State Electoral Office,” Mr Sutton said.

“In the absence of such a system, Newcastle candidates should do this voluntarily.

“This is particularly important for the main independent candidate, John Tate, who has been subject to adverse findings in Newcastle council code of conduct proceedings in relation to his handling of political donations,” Mr Sutton said.

Mr Sutton said that an article by prominent journalists Wendy Bacon and Nicole Gooch today in New Matilda (http://newmatilda.com/2011/03/24/newcastle-business-lobby-targets-labor-mp) also raised concerns about the role of local third party campaign organisations such as the Newcastle Alliance, which has spent a significant (undisclosed) amount of money effectively advocating a vote for the Liberal Party in Newcastle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Greens release local transport policy

Media Release Media Release Media Release Media Release

Newcastle Greens

23 March 2011

Greens release local transport policy

Newcastle Greens today released a local transport policy that would provide the basis for sustainable transport in the Newcastle and Wallsend electorates.

A feature of the policy is its proposal for an independent expert evaluation of implementing fare-free bus and ferry transport for all services offered by Newcastle Buses for a four-year trial period, as a key component of a strategy to shift people from cars to public transport.

The policy also proposes immediate action on:

  • · landscaping the Newcastle rail line, and installing safe, at-grade crossings.
  • · construction of the Glendale railway station and transport interchange.
  • · a western freight rail by-pass.
  • · a road and rail line along the Hunter river in the former BHP steelworks site from Mayfield to Sandgate.
  • · expanding the current Newcastle fare-free zone service.
  • · a comprehensive independent audit and review of current public bus services and infrastructure.

The policy also advocates:

  • · establishing an adequately funded Independent Regional Transport Authority to manage and operate the Hunter’s public transport system.
  • · establishing a regional transport trust fund, to fund new public transport services from an investment growth fund and other identified income streams.
  • · developing an Integrated Regional Transport Plan, based on ecological sustainability and social equity principles, with the aim of achieving a major shift from private motor vehicle use to walking, cycling and public transport.

The Greens candidate for Wallsend, Keith Parsons, said that – if implemented - the policy would be a major win for the many car-dependent and transport disadvantaged people in the Wallsend electorate.

“Wallsend is poorly served by public transport, and people are crying out for a better system and for political leadership in shifting from car-dependency to transport that is cheap and easy to use,” Mr Parsons said.

“The Wallsend electorate suffers more than most from short-sighted planning and development that has built-in car dependency, and from a lack of serious government commitment to public transport.

“Communities in the Wallsend electorate would benefit enormously from the construction of the Glendale railway station and transport interchange, from our proposed audit and review of bus services, and from the proposed four-year trial of free public transport,” Mr Parsons said.

The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said that a transport policy such as this was crucial for the future of Newcastle.

“Newcastle is now experiencing Sydney-like peak hour congestion, and nothing that either the Coalition or Labor has proposed offers any significant change for the better.

“Under Labor, local public transport services and patronage have declined, and recent initiatives have been politically driven, and poorly planned and implemented.

“The immediate initiatives we are advocating will resolve a number of key problems that are impeding the city’s future development, and our proposal for an independent examination of a four-year trial of fare-free public transport offers a new and exciting initiative that could revolutionise public transport in the Newcastle area.

“We’ve identified a variety of funding sources that could provide a sustainable financial base from which a regional transport authority could develop new services, including establishing a regional transport investment fund seeded by state and federal money that would be cheaper than the amount currently proposed for cutting the Newcastle rail line.

“Our policy would end the divisive and debilitating attempt by vested interests to cut the city’s intercity rail service to Newcastle station, and would re-legitimise the rail line as a key to the city’s sustainable revitalisation.

“This would allow us to get on with revitalising both the CBD and our public transport system, rather than falsely pitting these two objectives against each other,” Mr Sutton said.

“Other immediate measures would resolve current freight rail capacity constraints and provide much needed transport infrastructure to facilitate economic diversification in the future development of the former BHP steelworks site at Mayfield.

“Beyond these immediate projects, we desperately need to get started with an integrated regional transport plan, linked to the review of the Hunter Regional Strategy, and including consideration of a range of specific initiatives (identified in the policy) that have been proposed by local community groups and The Greens over recent years.

“An integrated transport plan would provide the framework for genuinely considering those initiatives and testing them for both their feasibility and for their relative potential contribution to achieving the plan’s agreed public policy objectives,” Mr Sutton said.


Transport Policy for Newcastle and Wallsend

Newcastle Greens

March 2011


Newcastle’s transport system is currently dominated by roads and private motor vehicle use. Peak hour traffic congestion is now common. Public transport services and patronage have declined, and government transport targets are not being met. Key destinations, such as the John Hunter Hospital, the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus, and large suburban commercial centres are poorly served by public transport. Local vested interests are still advocating cutting rail infrastructure and services, and are holding up the city’s capacity to access federal infrastructure and revitalisation funding. Fears are held that a future government might privatise either part or all of Newcastle’s public bus and ferry services. Regional freight infrastructure and services are dominated by roads and trucks, and infrastructure capacity constraints in freight rail services (which are dominated by coal) constrict both the development of new passenger rail services, and the region’s economic diversification.

Decisions about the Hunter’s transport services and infrastructure are made in Sydney, and are frequently poorly thought through. Funding for improvements to public transport has been severely limited. Cycling is only just beginning to be taken seriously as a transport policy option.

The result of all this is a transport system that has a large carbon footprint, and creates and perpetuates transport disadvantage.

The provision of better transport services and infrastructure requires significant changes to the professional and political mindsets and urban design approaches that have created the current unsustainable and inequitable system. As a recent Independent Transport Inquiry has recommended, the region needs to develop its own transport plan, and run its own transport services.

A specific public policy objective of any future transport plan must be to facilitate a significant shift from the current focus on road building and the current reliance on private motor vehicle use (especially cars and trucks) to more sustainable transport modes, such as walking, cycling and public transport, and the implementation of plans must be accompanied by sufficient funding, and much higher relative budget priority, for infrastructure to support these more sustainable transport modes. The following policy will help bring about such a transition.

1) Independent Regional Transport Authority and Regional Transport Trust:

Action: Establish an independent regional transport authority responsible for operating regional bus, rail and ferry passenger services, and for playing a key role in planning and developing new public transport infrastructure and services in the region.

This authority would be funded to carry out its responsibilities by:

a) a recurrent annual state government allocation that is at least equivalent to present levels of expenditure (both real and relative) on current regional transport services (this should be sufficient to cover the operational costs of current services, and would be adjusted to absorb any future cost increases for these services)

b) dividends from an investment fund of at least $100million from state and federal seed funding (these could be from the same sources that would have provided the funding to cut the Newcastle rail line, which would be unnecessary under this policy)

c) contributions for public transport made through local developer levies (via amending the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to allow councils to levy this from s.94 and s.94A contributions),

d) grants sourced by the Authority from federal funding programs aimed at improving public transport and infrastructure, operating under the relevant procedural requirements for such grants,

e) ensuring current transport-related revenue streams derived from the Hunter stay in the Hunter (e.g., the current public transport levy paid on motor vehicle licences),

f) new funding opportunities presented by carbon pricing systems, such as future carbon pollution levies, and emissions trading and off-sets, and

g) other new funding sources that might be identified (e.g., local public transport levies), arising from the development of an Integrated Regional Transport Plan.

Any funding beyond the allocation for current services (i.e., the first dot point in the list above) would be managed and allocated by a Regional Transport Trust, in accordance with the priorities identified in the Integrated Regional Transport Plan.

Establishing the regional authority should occur in conjunction with removing the power of the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to propose motorway and cycle projects in NSW, and vesting responsibility for coordinating state transport planning in a single agency.

The board of the new regional authority would be selected on a non-political basis from a public call for expressions of interest from people with relevant experience or expertise, including in transport, planning, environmental, social equity, management and economic policy areas, and would be advised by a community advisory committee comprising a representative range of regional stakeholders. The board would report to the Minister for Transport via the Minister for the Hunter.

2) Immediate Actions:

An Integrated Regional Transport Plan must be developed to identify priorities for new transport infrastructure and services in the Hunter. This should begin as an urgent priority, but is outlined in a separate section below. However, certain specific transport related initiatives should begin immediately, due either to their advanced state of planning, or their inherent importance or urgency in terms of regional needs.

These are:

a) retention of intercity rail services to Newcastle station, together with landscaping of the rail line and the re-installation of safe, controlled level crossings at appropriate points along the line to increase connectivity between the city and the harbour. This must recognise and incorporate the Newcastle rail line as an important asset in the city’s revitalisation (e.g., in conjunction with a university CBD campus).

b) construction of the Glendale railway station and transport interchange.

c) a western freight rail by-pass to reduce the impact of freight rail haulage (particularly coal) on urban areas and relieve choke points on passenger rail services. A feasibility and comparative cost-benefit study should be conducted into the various options for this by-pass proposed by the Hunter Environment Lobby, Save Our Rail and the Hunter Business Chamber. The by-pass should be developed in association with a local intermodal freight transfer hub.

d) construction of a road and rail line beside the Hunter river from the former BHP steelworks site at Mayfield to Sandgate, for all freight traffic generated by future developments on that site (including the proposed container terminal), to resolve transport issues associated with the future development of the site.

e) A cost/benefit comparative assessment of removing the existing time restrictions on the current Newcastle fare-free zone service [currently 7.30am - 6pm] and extending its coverage to:

i) all services to Beaumont St along Maitland Rd, Parry St and Tudor St, and all services to The Junction along Darby St and Union St.

ii) the entire Route 201, which services areas between Hamilton, Merewether, Bar Beach, The Hill and the CBD to Marketown.

This assessment should also include a feasibility study of making existing passenger rail services from Hamilton to Newcastle fare-free, and using existing rail operational movements between these stations as a free all-stops service.

f) conduct a comprehensive independent audit of current public bus services and infrastructure with a view to:

· removing operational inefficiencies and increasing efficiencies (e.g., reduce dead running by more efficient bus rotation scheduling and depot sharing (as in Sydney); and review inefficient lay-overs and associated movements (e.g., Jesmond).

· identifying capacity constraints in bus infrastructure, and cost-efficient opportunities to improve such infrastructure.

· eliminating inefficient “built peninsulas” (same road in and out of an area) and providing more efficient through-routes (e.g., Glendale, Lakelands and Warabrook)

· identifying missing road links for greater route efficiency (e.g., Bilbungra Way-Indra Close connection, in Maryland)

· installing more bus jump-lanes at key intersections, including bus priority traffic lights

· review the location of bus stops to reduce situations that create bus-traps and difficult traffic manoeuvres for bus drivers (particularly on inside lanes near tight left turns)

· reviewing the bus fleet to determine the most appropriate mix of vehicle type (full size, midi and mini)

· identifying appropriate locations for park and ride facilities, and implement them in the order in which they would take the greatest advantage of any higher frequency services generated through the efficiencies gained from the above initiatives.

Implementation priorities arising from this audit would be determined on the basis of the combination of measures that would provide the greatest efficiency savings for staff redeployment at no additional cost.

3) Integrated Regional Transport Plan:

Action: Develop, through wide community consultation, an Integrated Transport Plan for the Hunter (in conjunction with the review of the Hunter Regional Strategy) that would include:

a) clear and transparent public policy objectives based on ecological sustainability and social equity principles,

b) ambitious but achievable specific targets for improving cycling and public transport mode shares, including consideration of:

i) an overall public transport mode-share target for the Newcastle LGA of 15% by 2016

ii) specific public transport mode-share targets for particular destinations or areas within the Newcastle LGA, including:

· the Newcastle CBD (recommend 30% PT mode-share by 2016)

· the University, Callaghan (recommend 25% PT mode-share by 2016)

· the John Hunter Hospital (recommend 20% PT mode-share by 2016)

c) use of a range of market, regulatory and design approaches to reduce private motor vehicle use and increase use of public transport, and cycling and walking.

d) requirements for any development proposals on identified locations along the rail line to incorporate grade-separated rail crossings in their design, either as part of the current development (where a development straddles the line) or in the future.

e) consideration of specific proposals and initiatives, including:

1. independently evaluating proposals contained in credible community-initiated transport plans, such Save Our Rail’s rail overpass and Westrans proposal, and Hunter Transport for Business Development’s shared (Option A) light-rail proposal.

2. initiating fifteen minute clockface service frequencies for local rail and bus services.

3. introducing intermodal ticketing (if/where ticketing would still apply).

4. developing a new railway station at Kotara to service the Kotara commercial area.

5. electrification of local non-electrified rail lines, to eventually phase out fossil fuel use for rail concurrently with increased renewable energy generation.

6. measures to improve safety and security at railway stations.

7. upgrading infrastructure and vehicles to facilitate access for people with a disability.

8. identifying priority locations for park-and-ride and kiss-and-ride sites that integrate effectively with public transport services.

9. investigating the feasibility of allowing courtesy and community buses to be used for suburban passenger services, to operate localised passenger loops and act as feeders to high-frequency bus routes, and identify any legal, industrial, and OH&S changes necessary to allow this to happen.

10. automating signalling at level crossings and synchronising traffic light phasing with signals at rail level crossings (e.g., Stewart Avenue).

11. strategically locating bus only lanes, B lights, and traffic signal pre-emption.

12. installing free-of-charge bicycle racks on buses, and other initiatives to improve modal integration between cycling and public transport.

13. ensuring that funding for cycleways is at least 5% of roads funding.

14. reducing speed limits to 40km in low volume residential streets and around transport nodes, to provide greater safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

15. installing cycle-only lanes for accessing employment centres experiencing peak-hour traffic congestion.

16. expanding and better coordinating car-share schemes.

17. creating peak hour transit lanes for multiple-occupancy vehicles (cars and buses).

18. extending the harbour ferry to other harbour locations, such as Carrington, Honeysuckle and Wickham, subject to independent and expert viability and cost/benefit analysis.

19. providing more funding for upgrading footpaths, and improving traffic light phasing to favour pedestrians.

20. reviewing and reforming planning controls and perverse incentives that encourage increased private motor vehicle use and discourage walking, cycling and public transport.

4) Four Year Trial of Fare-free Buses and Ferries:

Action: Undertake independent expert evaluation of implementing fare-free bus and ferry transport for all services offered by Newcastle Buses (or by any equivalent new agency) for a four-year trial period, as a key strategy for achieving public transport mode-share targets, in conjunction with other initiatives that improve services and retain or expand jobs.

Research and experience in Newcastle and elsewhere (e.g., Hasselt) suggest that eliminating fares for public transport can significantly increase patronage. In Newcastle, making buses fare-free would make a significant contribution to achieving the current state government target for peak-hour journey-to-work trips (20% by 2016) in the Newcastle CBD, and – in conjunction with other measures identified in this policy - to achieving the more specific targets we suggest.

Preliminary indications are that the cost of collecting fares may be close to the total annual farebox revenue for Newcastle buses, though neither Newcastle Buses nor the Department of Transport were able to provide any figures for the costs of fare collection.

Any fare-free pilot scheme must be on the basis of no net job losses, and any staff savings must be transferred to the jobs required to fill current service gaps or new services, funded according to the sources identified above.

Newcastle Greens March 2011