Monthly Archives: March 2019

OpinionCitizen juries a way to avoid fruitless debate

In recent years Novocastrians have witnessed hard-fought debates over the art gallery redevelopment, CBD building heights, the rail line truncation, the Newcastle Bowling Club redevelopment in King Edward Park, and Supercars.
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ANOTHER MECHANISM: Citizen juries are a means to engage Novocastrians in decisions crucial to the future of their city, the author says.

In each case, debate has been rancorous and has left bitterness and distrust. This may not be a problem for victorious proponents of projects. But many other Novocastrians feel that consultation and decision-making on these issues have been top-down and peremptory.

We must find more satisfactory ways of engaging Novocastrians in decisions vital to the future of their city. Citizen juries offer one such means.

A citizen jury is a group of randomly selected people who consider an issue affecting their community and provide a response to decision-makers who have agreed in advance to provide a formal, public response.The issue the jury considers is phrased as a clear and neutral question (e.g. What services should we deliver in our city, and how should we pay for them?)

The jury meets for at least 40 hours over six months. So that they can consider the issue in depth, jury members are given detailed information representative of different opinions.An experienced facilitator helps the jury work through the issue and make recommendations. Because they have had time to consider all sides of an issue, jury decisions are often unanimous. At worst, the facilitator works towards a majority decision of 80 per cent, with minority opinion being recorded in the jury’s final report.

Citizen juries have dealt with difficult local government issues in places including Marrickville, Canada Bay and Melbourne. They have also been helpful with contentious national and state issues such as urban planning and energy generation in NSW and recycling nuclear fuel in SA.

Citizen juries are one of many mechanisms being used around the world to improve existing democratic processes. Others include audit commissions, citizens’ assemblies, consensus conferences, participatory budgeting, web-based think tanks, and regional parliaments. Such mechanisms augment, rather than supplant, elected politicians.

We are fortunate in in having an independent organisation committed to the citizen jury process. The New Democracy Foundation is largely funded by commissioned projects, with any income shortfall being underwritten by the Belgiorno-Nettis Family Foundation.

Since 2007 the NDF has completed 20 citizen jury projects. Outcomes of these projects include improved local council transparency and accountability, better planning and pricing of water and sewage services, and more effective treatment of obesity.

In any decision affecting a large number of people, not everyone will be satisfied. One measure of the effectiveness of a citizen’s jury is whether the wider public look back on the process and thinks, “That was fair enough.”

We need ways of re-engaging citizens in discussion about issues that affect their lives. Deliberative processes like citizen juries are not a magic bullet. But they have been shown to contribute to better decision-making. They are certainly worth trying in Newcastle, where we often seem to be stuck in fruitless debate.

Griff Foley was formerly associate professor in adult education at the University of Technology, Sydney. He has no connection with the New Democracy Foundation.

Hunter police bolstered after arrival of BearCat armoured vehicle

Perps on notice as cops get a BearCat BIG AND BOLD: The BearCat will be used by police to defuse hostile situations in the Hunter. These could include siege situations, raids and armed stand-offs.
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LESSON: A policeman gives a talk to domestic violence advocates in front of the BearCat armoured vehicle at Belmont police station on Tuesday. Pictures: Simone De Peak

MACHINE: A policeman inside the BearCat armoured vehicle. Picture: Simone De Peak

STRIKING: The BearCat will be based in Newcastle and used by tactical police. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookIT’S big, black, blast-proof and can withstand a barrage of bullets.

Tactical police in the Hunter are set to benefit after the arrival of an eight-tonne BearCat armoured personnel carrier, which will be used to help defuse hostile situations across the region.

The machine, which had been previously based in Sydney, will have permanent presence in Newcastle.

It will be used by the Hunter State Protection Support Groupin serious situations including raids, armed stand-offs and sieges.

Its use has to be approved by the police hierarchy.

BearCat is short for Ballistically Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck.

On Tuesday, domestic violence advocates got a taste of the impressive machine during theCommunity Awareness in Policing Program at Belmont station.

The participants also experienced a talk on forensics, weaponry and the role of water police.

Denise Stocker, of Community Activities Lake Macquarie, said it was “eye-opening” to see the various aspects of a police officer’s job.

“There’s so many different elements to it. It’s about getting a better understanding,” she said.

Eight killed as truck slams into pedestrians in downtown New York City terror attack

The damaged Home Depot truck came to rest in the bike lane in New York City. Photo: APA man in a pickup truck killed eight people when he drove onto the West Side bike path in lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon — and then shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he got out of the car with fake guns, police sources said.
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Thesuspected terror attackhappened around 3:15pm, when a man in a flatbed pickup truck from Home Depot veered onto the bike path at West St, a few blocks north of Chambers St, police said.

The suspect, who was shot by police, then plowed his car into up to 23 people on the path, killing eight and injuring more than a dozen others, according to cops.

He continued driving south and hit another car, then got out and displayed “imitation firearms,” police said.

The man then shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” according to police sources.

Witnesses described a scene of terror, as people fled for safety.

“Jesus! A car just ran over 2 people and then crashed into a school bus. I see two dead bodies and citibikes on the floor destroyed,” a Twitter user wrote.

Some people were being treated for injuries near a mangled school bus. Photo: AP

“What happened was there was a car crash… he came out of one of the cars. He had two guns,” a 14-year-old Stuyvesant HS student said.

“We thought it was a Halloween thing. He started running around the highway. There was another guy in a green shirt that was chasing him around.”

“I heard four to six gunshots — everybody starts running,” she added.

Video of the scene shows at least two people lying limp on the street. Photos show a smashed-up Home Depot rental truck and two mangled Citi Bikes.

Counter-terror police were searching the truck for explosives.

“Oh my god I just heard gun shots and ran with my dog. Downtown. F–k,”Josh Groban tweeted.

Police shut down the FDR Drive south of 34th Street to rush victims to Bellevue Hospital.

New York Post

Busy John Butler proud to be on Byron Bay Bluesfest program

King of the blues: John Butler at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle. Picture: Max Mason-HubersWhen you’re on the inside looking out, the numbers don’t tell the story.
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Byron Bay’s legendary Bluesfest drew 105,000 attendees in 2017, hosting 85 bands with a total of 670 artists who gave 185performances across the Easter weekend.

For John Butler, arguably ’s most successful blues and roots talent, making the line-up for the 2018 will mark his 13thappearance at the festival.

“It feels good, it’s kind of surprising,” he says. “I’m stoked.”

New sensation: Tash Sultana.

The festival, hailed as one of the best music events in the world both by music fans and musicians, holds a special place in Butler’s mind, for good reason.

As he told Tim Elliott in Good Weekend magazine in 2009, here’s how his first Bluesfest appearance in 2000 went down:

“We had just released Pickapart, which was our first song to get played on Triple J. But when we played atBluesfestthere were only about 50 people in the audience. For the second show, I tried to stay positive. I told my wife: ‘This next show is going to be the bomb!’ But the crowd wasn’t huge for that either.

“But then, just when we were peaking, it absolutely pissed with rainand3000 people ran into our tent.Andthe show just went berserk. It was like a suffocated fire – you lift the lidandit explodes. It was a total flashpoint gig, a lot of people talked about itandwithin the year we had a huge fan base on the eastern seaboard.”

Music Legend: Robert Plant.

If you’ve seen a Butler concert, you know it’s all about the relationship between and the crowd.

“It’s an amazing festival,” he says. “You are fortunate to have great moments of connection. The fans are ready to have something take place, be part of it, make it happen.”

The timing for Butler to hit the festival could not be better. He’s been working on a new album for a few months now, and playing selected gigs (including opening for Midnight Oil shows at Hanging Rock and Sydney in November).

Early next year, he willdoing some touring with his band, playing some outdoor shows. “We will come right off the back of that into Bluesfest,” he says.

“It’s the best way. All hot and heavy.”

Like the fans on the ground, Butler is excited to be in the company of the mass of great musicians who play Bluesfest. But he doesn’t get overwhelmed by the energy of the moment.

He owned a property in the Byron hinterlands, but sold it a whileago and now happily calls Margaret River in Western home.

“I Love Byron,” he says of the festival. “Icatch up with my friends from all around the country and the planet.

“At the same time, Iam a bit militant in my objective, and my objective is to smash it. My objective is to put on the best show possible. I am tunnel vision. If that means not catching up with anybody until after Iplay, that’s fine.”

We discuss a few of the stars coming to 2018 Bluesfest:

Tash Sultana: “I love her. I haven’t met her. I love what she does. I dig what she has to offer.”

Robert Plant: “I met him years ago, opening for him in Switzerland. He’s the real deal. He loves music, he loves performing.”

This week Bluesfest announced another 16 acts -including Jackson Browne, Jason Isbell, Gomez, Michael Franti, Youssou N’Dour, Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers, Benjamin Booker, Canned Heat, Walter Trout and the Original Blues Brothers Band.

Previoulsyannounced acts included Lionel Richie, Jose Gonzalez, Gov’t Mule, Eric Gales, Bobby Rush, Joe Louis Walker, Chic featuring Nile Rogers and First Aid Kit.

Tickets for Bluesfest 2018 start at $159 for one day. A five-day pass (withoutcamping) is $595. More here.

[email protected]: Strong start to November in store

The information of stocks that lost in prices are displayed on an electronic board inside the n Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, , on Friday, July 24, 2015. The n dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg MARKETS. 7 JUNE 2011. AFR PIC BY PETER BRAIG. STOCK EXCHANGE, SYDNEY, STOCKS. GENERIC PIC. ASX. STOCKMARKET. MARKET.
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Stock information is displayed on an electronic board inside the n Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, , on Friday, July 24, 2015. The n dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the ASX 200 all-time high of 6851, where over the coming 341 days panic, confusion and a complete buyers strike saw the index lose 54.5% of its market cap.

Thankfully, after some $34 trillion in various stimulus programs from G10 governments, central banks and other entities have helped corner market participants to buy everything remotely resembling yield, as well as companies creating decent levels of cash flow, which have provided them the flexibility to return this cash to shareholders. A huge carrot for investors.

With both investment and high yield credit performing beautifully, companies could issue more and more debt over the years, altering their capital structure and ultimately buying back their own shares on issue, which for the large part created artificial earnings growth and supported equity markets. Companies are still buying back stock, but importantly that phenomenon has now partially shifted to one where we also seeing genuine organic earnings growth, assisted by the fact that global growth is running close to 4%.

1. Stocking up: While we are now in a situation where US and European institutional funds hold one of the lowest cash balances ever (they are all-in on this rally), perhaps it’s no surprise to see that the biggest buyers of stocks have been the companies themselves, while in Japan and Europe we can say the central banks have also been a major player. What the next ten years will look like we have no idea, but it has been a crazy ride and one where central banks have had to literally make things up as they are going along! While inflation is still not where they would ideally like it to be and there are now many financial risks bubbling away in the background that need careful management, these central banks would be pleased with where we are now specifically in asset prices, employment and real growth.

2. ASX: With the ASX 200 having recouped 84% of the losses from the lows on 10 March 2009, it is fitting then that we are expecting a rally in today’s open, with SPI futures trading +24 points at 5912. Our call then for the ASX 200 sits at 5932 and again we focus on the year-to-date highs of 5956, although if we look into the various leads one questions where we are going to gain the inspiration to find 24 additional points from. Certainly, we have seen modest gains in the various US equity markets, as they close out what was a highly productive October, with outperformance (at a sector level) from tech, energy, and staples. Keep in mind that the S&P 500 has now closed higher every month of this year, except March where the index fell a mere 0.04%, so this paints a clear picture. We have also seen good performance in US high yield credit overnight, which will naturally enthuse equity traders.

3. US data: On the data side, we have seen a strong Chicago manufacturing print (at 66.2), which bodes well for tonight’s (01:00 aest) nationwide ISM manufacturing report, although the consensus is that this index grows at a slightly slower pace. We have also seen solid expansion in US house prices, while the consumer confidence index (October) printed 125.9 and the strongest levels since December 2000. There has been a limited reaction to the data in US fixed income, however, with small buying in the five-year Treasury and no move in the longer end of town, with the US ten-year anchored at 2.37%. In the interest rate market (fed fund future), there has been small selling across the curve, and ultimately we are left with an 83% chance of a December hike, although few are seeing opportunity in trading this meeting now and preferring to express a view in the implied moves through to end-2018 and 2019.

4. Aussie dollar: With little change in these markets, it’s no surprise then to see the USD index unchanged on the day, with a mixed performance in G10. Looking into the moves, the greenback has found sellers easy to come by against the GBP, while USD/JPY has rallied 60 pips or so. AUD/USD traded up a touch to $0.7693, into early European trade, but was sold through the US trade hitting a session low of $0.7640.

5. What’s on: Aussie data due isn’t likely to influence too greatly today and it’s all about the FOMC meeting here (tomorrows at 05:00 aest) and once that is out of the way Donald Trump should announce the new Fed chair appointment, with Jerome Powell the now clear front-runner.

6. Facebook, Apple on tap: The Fed meeting is a small consideration for Aussie and Asia-based traders for the open, as is the fact that over the next two days we get Facebook and Apple and if we get good numbers here then tech should drag US equities higher and could be the very reason why the ASX 200 trades to a new year high. That said, once this week of US earnings is out of the way one still questions where the next upside catalyst is going to come from, with good earnings now firmly in the price.

7. Commodities: US and Brent crude prices are 0.5% higher, which should support, while in the bulks spot iron ore closed -0.4% at $58.52, while iron ore futures have seen more positive flow closing +0.9%. BHP’s ADR suggests the stock should open +0.9% higher.

8. Market watch:

SPI futures up 24 points or 0.4% to 5912

AUD -0.4% to 76.55 US cents

On Wall St: Dow +0.1%, S&P 500 +0.1%, Nasdaq +0.4%

In New York, BHP +0.5% Rio +1.3%

In Europe: Stoxx 50 +0.3%, FTSE +0.1%, CAC +0.2%, DAX +0.1%

Spot gold -0.4% to $US1270.87 an ounce

Brent crude +0.7% to $US61.35 a barrel

US oil +0.7% to $US54.54 a barrel

Iron ore slips 23 US cents to $US58.52 a tonne

Dalian iron ore +0.9% to 430 yuan

Steam coal +0.5% to $US99.90, Met coal -4.6% to $US173.50

LME aluminium -0.1% to $US2160 a tonne

LME copper -0.4% to $US6839 a tonne

10-year bond yield: US 2.37%, Germany 0.36%, 2.67%

This column was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG