Hunter “referendum” brings victory to Labor – Media release 30/03/2015

Pru Goward told the Hunter Property Council that the 2015 election would serve as a “referendum” on Newcastle’s planning.

Insinuations of community groups as a “vocal minority” she called on the “silent majority” to have their say on the issue of the rail closure and the Government’s revitalisation model at the ballot box.

Well Ms Goward and Mr Baird, yesterday the people of the Hunter could not have spoken more clearly. They have indicated in no uncertain manner that they are not happy with the Liberal Party’s plans for Newcastle.

“Get out of Our Town,” they have said, “You have not consulted with the community and your plans do not reflect our needs.”

Tim Crakanthorp was elected to the seat of Newcastle in a by-election following Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) findings. In not only re-electing Tim Crakanthorp, his vote increasing by 4% above that of his recent by-election victory to 23.1 % above the Liberal vote, the people of Newcastle have issued a declaration:

They want train services restored to Newcastle Station, they support Labor’s transport plan which gives access to the foreshore without cutting the rail line, they don’t want development on the rail corridor.

The Liberal/ National dissatisfaction has not only been evident in Newcastle – the entire region has rejected them.

Three new Labor women MP’s will come to Parliament from Lower Hunter:

Maitland (previously represented by a respected Liberal Party MP, who has retired) has endorsed hard-working Jenny Aitchison with a 19% majority, in a three way contest involving a strong Liberal campaigner and a well-known and respected independent Maitland Councillor .

Port Stephens lost its Liberal MP through revelations in the ICAC inquiry and it was won by Kate Washington who beat off a well- known Liberal Councillor amid some controversy along the way.

Swansea also had been affected by the ICAC storm, the former MP throwing his hat in the ring as an independent. Yasmin Catley, the wife of a former Labor MP was able to defeat the former Liberal, the current woman Liberal candidate and a strong woman Greens candidate.

Other Labor wins include:

Wallsend’s MP Sonia Hornery, who has steadfastly supported her community and listened regarding its transport needs, has been returned with a greatly increased majority. Clayton Barr, also a strong voice for the needs of his electorate and for public transport has easily retained Cessnock. Charlestown, which recently elected Jodie Harrison in a by-election, following ICAC hearings, has returned her with an increased vote.

It must be acknowledged that current independent Lake Macquarie MP, Greg Piper, who is a staunch advocate for the needs of his constituents, including for a Glendale interchange and has publicly condemned waste of funding to cut a rail line, seems certain to have defeated the Labor candidate to retain his seat.

“I think there is a strong message in the Hunter election results” says Joan Dawson, President of Save Our Rail.

“The people of this region are objecting to a Liberal/National Party Government that has ridden roughshod over their needs, in particular regarding transport and planning. They are objecting to improper processes in decision-making, to developer -driven planning and to a Government that has not been transparent in making major decisions.

Documentation of decision making meetings has not been provided, even to an Upper House Inquiry and any cost/benefit analysis of the rail truncation decision has been non -existent.” Despite an Upper House Select Committee Inquiry which recommended that rail services should be restored to Newcastle Station.

Despite the thunder of protesting voices at various rallying points and public meetings, the thousands of signatures on petitions, the opinion pieces and letters in newspapers, the letters and submissions to ministers and to the Premier of NSW, the people of this region have been ignored.

Despite a Supreme Court Order that the Newcastle Rail Line could not be “closed” without an Act of Parliament, effectively it has been shut down since Boxing Day, with no trains running and every indication of a Government thumbing its nose at the law.

Well the people of the Hunter have now responded to the “referendum” on these decisions and they have resoundingly said, “NO.”

The Premier Mr Baird now has a peoples’ mandate – and it is incumbent on him to heed this mandate. It is as follows:

You, Mr Premier have a mandate to restore rail services to Newcastle and set about re-drawing plans for this city, through full consultation, that will allow access to the waterfront without cutting off the rail access from the Hunter Region, and other parts of NSW.

Joan Dawson
President Save Our Rail NSW Inc.