Opinion: Perfect Storm for a Progressive Alternative in Newcastle

Newcastle has drawn the short straw when it comes to federal politics. Both Labor and the Coalition, for their own distinct reasons, have effectively abandoned any interest in presenting positive campaigns for the future in this electorate. This has amounted to wilful neglect of the real issues in our region, and a recurrent failure to deliver any meaningful benefits to our community.

Everyone knows the ALP takes Newcastle for granted. The Newcastle electorate is summarised in the Sussex St spreadsheets with one word: “Safe”. This ALP campaign will be no different to the last. We can expect no election time sweeteners, no new initiatives, no regional vision or courageous leadership coming from Labor. At best, we may once again see a dusting off of those embarrassing plans for an unbuildable convention centre and ‘iconic skybridge’ that resurface each election. Newcastle will miss out again, as any big ALP commitments will undoubtedly be saved for more marginal seats.

Meanwhile, Newcastle is marked on the Coalition spreadsheets with a different word: “Unwinnable”. They know that donation scandals have cost the trust of those voters who made the difficult switch to Liberal in recent elections out of sheer frustration with the idleness of the ALP. Those voters will not forget just how quickly Coalition politicians fell prey to the corrupting influence of political donations. The Liberal Party knows just how hard it will be to win that trust, and those voters, back.

Newcastle needs alternative political leadership now more than ever. Our region has been hit first and worst by the global decline of the coal price. Both of the old parties have been idle bystanders as the coal and gas companies have abandoned the region, leaving behind a legacy of youth joblessness, disrupted communities, bankrupted small businesses and enormous irreparable voids in the landscape.

We now find ourselves in a downturn without a transition strategy or even so much as a jobs’ plan, and this is an appalling failure of political leadership.

The end of the fossil fuel and pollution economy era was as predictable as it was inevitable. The Greens have campaigned for over a decade about the need for a planned transition away from fossil fuels, especially in regions like ours with a history of reliance on carbon intensive industries.

The Greens are the progressive alternative to the old parties necessary to position our region to take advantage of the shift to a clean energy future.

The transition from a pollution economy to a clean energy economy means opening new industries, innovative business models and new jobs. Our clean energy package will renew investment in our region’s world-class manufacturing and energy industries, revitalise local business and cut pollution. To get there, the Greens will enhance our capacity for innovation and training through increased funding for our research institutions, including the CSIRO, Newcastle University and Hunter TAFE. We have a jobs plan that focuses on the real work needed to retrofit our existing infrastructure, reskills our workforce for more secure, meaningful employment, and supports workers as they move across industries.

As the Greens candidate for the seat of Newcastle, I am deeply committed to the sustainability, vitality and prosperity of this region. I believe we can transition to a twenty-first century economy here, and that means more resources to invest in the welfare of our communities and environment, and guarantees an economically resilient future for our city and its future generations.

John Mackenzie is contesting the seat of Newcastle in the upcoming federal election as the candidate for the Greens.

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