Monthly Archives: May 2019

Short Takes

A FRESH produce market at Maitland is an excellent proposal and a return to the days of the earlier Maitland Markets (‘Mayor cautious about produce market’, Herald, 2/4).It is an essential facility for Maitland and for our Lower Hunter Region.For our best health, we all need fresh fruit and vegetables, we do not need supermarket produce squeezed from farmers at ridiculously low prices, picked too early to retain the semblances of ripeness, or imported from around the world.The comments by Mayor Blackmore are completely inappropriate from a region which has always produced excellent fresh produce.

David Stewart, Newcastle EastIT hashappened.I’m down the rabbit hole andwith the program.We’ll pay heaps on shiny new Defence toys so we can’t afford health andeducation improvements. We’ll bash the unionsbut reward those nice banks andbig corporations for their wealth-siphoning deals. We’ll write off millions as bad debts because people can’t afford their higher education loans, while we cut university funding andgo for fee deregulation. We’ll keep on trashing TAFE so we can play the scandal plagued vocational education sector game.I’m there. Why can’t the premiers get it?

Lorraine Yudaeff,Fern Bay.WAYNE Ridley (Short Takes, 6/4) asks “what is the government doing bringing in 12,000 Syrian refugees for humanitarian reasons?”. The short answer –the right thing.

Glen Coulton, Marmong PointWITH the hike in private health insurance going through the roof, I remember the good old days when you could claim it on your taxation. I believe it also applied to your superannuation.

Daphne Hughes, KahibahIF they build a freight bypass at Hexham maybe they could put the new Newcastle tram out there too. That way it wouldn’t be blocking the traffic and you could go from one end of town to the other almost as quick as when we had a train.

Ed Matzenik, MaitlandTHEpromise of light rail in Newcastle is a myth. The government is going to change hands twice before anything happens, withmany more dollars in consulting fees spent. All we need is someone smart enough in government to work out it would have been more cost effective to leave the heavy rail .

Alan Hicks, MayfieldWHAT’Sthe go with all this “previous government” rubbish?Don’t care what happened before, you’re in government now just sort it out.P.S. How much fun are the trams going to be in 2019? A journey to nowhere. Thanks Bairdy

Darryl Horne,Waratah​THE POLLSAre you happy to lose parking in the city for the light rail line?

Yes 30%,No 70%Would you rather shop at local markets than supermarket stores?

Yes 89%,No 11%

Fitting the light rail vision to a city’s reality

IN the words of Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance, the state government is “cracking on” with its plan to use light rail as the centrepiece of its plan to transform Newcastle’s central business district.

It’s a visionthat the Newcastle Herald has endorsed – albeitwith some reservations–since it was first announced by Mike Baird, back when he was treasurer in a Coalition government led by then-premier Barry O’Farrell.

These reservations –natural enough given the scale of the project, and the politics that have swirled around it and the city in recent years –were given short shrift on Tuesday by Mr Constance, who urged people to “stop being so negative”.

That’s fine for Mr Constance to say, and it’s a minister’s job to promote his government’s policies.But the longer the light rail has been in the planning, the greater the opportunity there has been for people to think more closelyabout its implications, and about whether the government’s prescription is the right answerfor a peninsular city witha much lower population density that is usually the case for places served bylight rail.

More information aboutthe operational side of the Newcastle system willbe available on Thursday, when the government releases itsReview of Environmental Factors. But MrConstance made it clear that this reportwould notcover a lot of associated but important information, such as how the light rail fits into the broader landscape of urban renewal. Nor has the government seen fit to release a business case for light rail, a decision that has only encouraged the doubts of those who fear the project risks becoming an expensive white elephant.

That said, it is worth remembering that light rail has been successfully introduced into various medium-sized cities around the developed world, often against substantial initial opposition. As faras the Herald can tell, this early opposition has tended to fade away, with the travelling public embracing the new mode of transport, and the cities in general enjoying the consequentialurban renewal.

Mr Constance is promising ample consultation in the months ahead, but he also made it clear that the decision to install light rail has been made once and for all, and will not be revisited. Given the cost, and what’s at stake, this is one decision the state government must absolutely get right.

ISSUE: 48,202

Laying it all on the line over light rail plan

EMBRACE IT: Transport Minister Andrew Constance talks light rail in Newcastle on Tuesday. Picture: Marina Neil.

ACCORDING to Transport Minister Andrew Constance,if you have a different opinion to the state government on light rail you’re being negative(‘Driven out’, Herald, 6/4).

If the government had accepted the bureaucrat’s report and used the heavy rail corridor, there would be surplus funds to burn to extend light rail almost everywhere.

But no, that’s being negative.

Besides, what a waste of the only land in the city area not subject to mine subsidence problems.

One day we might learn what this government has in mind for this valuable corridor.Meantime, we are asked to also embrace council mergers without access to the KPMG experts report.

Age of enlightenment and transparency indeed.

Penton Sutcliffe,CorletteMess, MinisterANDREW Constance says “we’re not spending over half a billion dollars here to build public transport that no one uses”. Nonsense.That’s exactly what they are proposing.

Getting people out of their cars requires fixing the broken Newcastle public transport system. That means many more buses, routes that are more direct and more frequent than at present, and buses that take people to railway stations. It also means an expansion of the rail network to cover more suburbs.

The light rail proposal, even if it goes ahead, is largely irrelevant because it covers only a short section of a typical commute. You can get people onto public transport with a better bus system, but if you force them off the bus for the final stretch then they will go back to cars.

The only good short-term solution is to move public transport back onto the rail corridor. That won’t be as good as restoring the heavy rail, but it would be a start.

Peter Moylan,GlendaleReclaim the corridorIT is commendable that the governmentacceptsthatlight railismore effective whenit runsin a dedicatedcorridorfree from motortraffic.

Given thatthe existing rail corridor isavailable andwould be ideal to carry light rail vehicles separate from road traffic,the government could movenow, to installthe light rail systemin the existingcorridor,without waiting until 2019.

Howeverthe government is still persistingwith Hunter and Scott streets as the ‘dedicated corridor’ for light rail.

LeakedDocument 71predicts significant increases injourney time which will deter commuters and force them into carsadding to traffic congestion and parking problems.

There will be substantial disruption to business during construction of light rail.Transport for NSW recommended that light rail in the corridor would be far superior and cost about $100 million less.

The independentexperts report failed the Hunter-Scott streets project on 7 out of 9 criteria for success.

Iftheexisting corridorisdedicated for light rail then the street trees, cycling, wider footpaths, parking and street diningcould be introduced to Hunter Street.

The problemswill only go away if the government usesthe corridor to Newcastle Station for light rail.

Only two tracks would be necessary for light rail on the corridor.There could be scope for some reasonable development beside or over the rail tracks.

In the interests of improving thesituation for more stakeholders, compromise will be necessarybut the outcomes will be better.

Alan Squire,Hunter Transport for Business DevelopmentWill we be strandedOUR town now has significantly reduced capacity to move large numbers of people via public transport in and out of the foreshore precinct and parks, our beaches, our city workplaces, our university city campus, our law courts, our theatres, our gallery and museum and other inner city venues.

I was interested to learn that the proposed Newcastle light rail sets have the capacity to move just 200 passengers per vehicle movement.

Contrast that with theeight-car NSW TrainLink V sets which have an approximate capacity of 2000 passengers, depending on configuration.Assuming a large event in the city area is being held, that’s 2000 people that could have been using heavy rail into Newcastle Station who will now have to transfer to a vehicle that can hold just 200 people.

With pretty pictures and poetry Newcastle has been conned.

Nick Rippon,NewcastleA little bit moreWHY terminate Newcastle’s light railat Pacific Park, just one block further than our former railway station?

If it was extended to Parnell Place at the end of Scott Street, people could more easily walk to Nobbys Beach especially surfers with theirboards, Fort Scratchley and the Newcastle Ocean Baths

I hope the Minister for Transport will consider this.

Suzanne Martin, NewcastleBridge brakesDOES anyone know what is happening with the second bridge being built at Tourle Street?

There weretwo mounds of dirt placed along the sides of the road, both sides of the river, before Christmas and nothing since.

It has been designated as a roadwork zone and 60kmh speed limits have been brought in from the Mayfield side of the existing bridge and halfway along Cormorant Road atKooragang.

It is slow enough as it is with the bottleneck of two lanes going into one on the bridge but restricting the speed to 60kmh only slows the traffic flow even more and no work has taken place in four months.

Brett Lee, NewcastleOwl and the pussycatIN response to the powerful owl story (Topics, 5/4) , some yearsago I had a young male cat who was always bringing home these headless possums.

I remember picking up at least fiveover a fairly short period of time.I was furious with him and was going to have him put down, but as things turned out he died of pneumonia which the vet couldn’t understand as he was a really strong and healthy cat.

So it seems that I may have wrongly blamed poor puss. RIP Gizmo.

Olwyn Edmonds, Eleebana

Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis feels backlash after joining ALP attack on council mergers

Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on a visit to Sanctuary Point Public School last week. Photo: Robert Peet Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Turnbull government MP Ann Sudmalis is under pressure from angry rank-and-file Liberals in her south coast NSW seat after she publicly supported an ALP-authored motion “condemning the Baird government for its arrogant and ill-considered [council] merger proposal”.

Just days after Liberal Party members in Western Australia rolled sitting MP Dennis Jensen, some Liberals in Gilmore have told the local newspaper, the South Coast Register, that Ms Sudmalis could be disendorsed during a vote in April.

Gilmore Liberals have reached out to senior factional bosses, complaining that Ms Sudmalis has been “increasingly problematic and ineffective” since becoming the hand-picked successor to former Gilmore MP Joanna Gash, now the mayor of Shoalhaven.

But Fairfax Media understands that Ms Sudmalis is safe from disendorsement due to the close proximity to the next election and the likelihood that influential state Liberals in that area, Gareth Ward, the Kiama MP and Transport Minister Andrew Constance are both considering a tilt for Gilmore in 2019.

The South Coast Register quoted a senior local Liberal as saying a move on Ms Sudmalis during a vote to accept her unopposed nomination was “very much a live option” but a senior party source said it would not succeed.

“Even if the federal conference was to do that, in the current circumstances she would be saved by state executive,” said a source.

Ms Sudmalis told Fairfax Media that she stood by her criticism of forced council amalgamations, which would see Kiama and Shoalhaven merged and Shell Harbour and Wollongong merged.

“People here are quite negative about the merger proposal and I have to reflect that in my job as their federal member. It has not been well received at all,” she said.

Any move on Ms Sudmalis would hinge on branches loyal to Mr Ward and NSW Speaker Shelley Hancock, who holds the state seat of South Coast, and that is unlikely to happen.

But Ms Hancock did not hold back in her assessment of Ms Sudmalis’ decision to support the anti-amalgamation motion proposed by former Labor councillor Bob Proudfoot during a weekend protest rally. The motion stated: “This public rally condemns the Baird government for its arrogant and ill-considered merger proposal, and directs Mr Baird to withdraw it forthwith. The rally also calls on local member, Shelley Hancock, and Mayor, Jo Gash, to show greater support for their communities’ desire to reject the amalgamation.”

Ms Hancock said: “She should confine herself to talking about federal issues such as cuts to health funding. She should explain why Malcolm Turnbull appears to be turning his back on public education funding.

“She should perhaps talk about funding for the new bridge over the Shoalhaven and federal funding for highway upgrade. And she could talk to the electors about her position on marriage equality.”

“There was nothing courageous about seconding a vitriolic motion condemning the Baird government. It was a trap and Ann has fallen into it.”

Ms Sudmalis said she had “chatted” to Ms Hancock since the Speaker made those comments.

“All families have discussions and you talk issues over and resolve them. The Liberal family is no different,” she said.

It is understood that the Liberal Party was polling Gilmore residents over the weekend and the ructions have not gone unnoticed by Labor.

A swing of 5.3 per cent would result in the seat changing hands and polling suggests that the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull was not as well received as in urban seats. Ms Sudmalis backed Tony Abbott in September’s spill.

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Her Money: dealing with credit card debt

Jo Pugh from Brunswick East ran up a $20,000 in credit card debt, cut them all up last year, and is now halfway through paying them off. Photo: Simon O’DwyerJo Pugh’s spiral into credit card debt began when she was a 20-year-old student.

Earning only about $200 a week, and on a youth allowance, a bank approved her for a credit card with a $7000 limit.

“I guess I wanted to have the freedom to be able to spend a little bit more freely just for the sake of being social,” Jo, now 27, says.

“I maxed that out really quickly and ended up in this pattern of paying the minimum repayment every month and then feeling like that money was mine.”

Aiming to clear the debt, Jo applied for another credit card with an interest-free balance transfer, and then another.

Finally, she took out a $7000 personal loan – and despite the fact she says she wasn’t living particularly extravagantly, her total debts had mounted to about $20,000.

Credit cards are one of those areas where the figures are always mind-boggling. Telephone numbers, even of the mobile variety, do not even begin to tell the story.

Last year, Australians whacked $24.4 billion on their credit cards, up from $21.9 billion the year before. By December, total outstanding balances on credit cards stood at $52 billion, and nearly two-thirds of it, or $32 billion, was accruing interest. Comparison website finder苏州美甲美睫培训学校 estimates that the average credit card balance at the end of last year stood at just over $3000. This suggests cardholders are paying hundreds of dollars in interest a year.

A lot of people pay off their bill each month and never pay interest charges, but sadly many do not and subject themselves to astronomical rates of interest – typically anywhere between 15 per cent and 20 per cent. Indeed in some horrendous cases, mounting credit card debts end in bankruptcy. A Fairfax article a couple of weeks ago told the story of a Melbourne couple in their early 40s, whose failure to pay an $18,000 credit card debt ended in eviction from the family home.

Adele Martin of Firefly Wealth warns her clients to rein in their spending as soon as they stop paying off their credit card balance in full each month. “As soon as you can’t repay your bill each month, you are living beyond your means,” she says.

For clients who have already accumulated debt on their plastic, Martin uses her tried and trusted two-step plan. First, she gets them to build up a buffer of at least $1000. This will be used for emergencies so that those who are trying to pay off their debts don’t start adding to them when they get hit with an unexpected repair bill.

“The buffer, or emergency fund, is so that people don’t start to build up their debt again. This can easily happen if there is nothing to fall back on and it can become a vicious cycle. Psychologically it gets too difficult and people feel like giving up,” Martin says.

The second step involves transferring the balance to an interest-free card and making a plan to pay off the debt within the interest free timeframe – usually between 12 and 18 months.

The repayment plan inevitably involves taking a knife to a client’s expenses, but the Firefly adviser says it is not a difficult task. She can usually find about $3000 of annual savings in clients’ budgets by looking at items ranging from mobile telephone bills to gym memberships.

Gym memberships that are not being used are cancelled. Clients who have Foxtel are encouraged to consider streaming services such as Netflix, which can reduce their home entertainment bill from about $120 a month to about $10. Martin suggests that clients also hunt around for better deals on energy bills and mobile phone plans, particularly if they are breaching monthly caps for calls and the like.

For clients with more serious credit card balances, more drastic action is needed, as it can be hard to find a bank that will offer an interest-free period. In some cases, clients might have to look at moving in with their parents or getting a housemate. In addition, they need to look at their earnings. It might be time to ask for a pay rise or find a way of earning additional income.

But it has to be done. Credit card debt – and the stress that can come with it – can snowball if not kept in check, as the family from Melbourne discovered.

After a trip overseas last year, Jo knew things had to change, and she cut up her cards. “I don’t know why it took me so long to do that,” she says.

Back at university, and working as a waitress, she has halved her debt in a little more than a year, and hopes to be in the black within two years.

“As soon as I get paid, I’m putting money on all of them rather than waiting until due dates.”

Jo says she hasn’t made any significant lifestyle changes, apart from working more.

“I still feel pretty overwhelmed, particularly when I think about the amount of money that has essentially been blown on interest.”

The information in this article should not be taken as financial advice. Please consider your personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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