Tens of thousands of students will have new air conditioning systems installed in their classrooms and libraries, with the NSW Government today announcing the first schools to benefit from the Cooler Classrooms Fund.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes today announced more than 900 schools would be the first to receive funding under the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government’s record $500 million program – the largest investment of its kind in NSW history.

“We’re thrilled to be delivering on our commitment to provide healthy learning environments in which our students and teachers can thrive, no matter the weather,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“From Tumbarumba to Mullumbimby, Bathurst South to Cecil Hills, students and teachers around NSW will benefit from new air conditioning in their school.

“Delivering air-conditioning to more schools than ever before is only possible due to the strong economic management of the Liberals & Nationals Government.”

Schools in areas like Penrith, Camden, and Dubbo – that have an average maximum January temperature of 30 degrees or more – will now automatically receive air conditioning in their classrooms and libraries, while all other schools can apply for funding under the Cooler Classrooms Fund on a needs basis. Previously only schools with an average maximum January temperature of 33 degrees or more were air conditioned.

The first round of applications took place throughout Term 3 this year. A second round will open in the new year.

Mr Stokes said, unlike Labor’s plans, the NSW Liberals & Nationals’ Cooler Classrooms program was both economically and environmentally sustainable.

“We’re installing solar panels and ‘smart systems’ alongside the air conditioning units, so schools can offset their additional energy use and efficiently heat and cool their schools,” he said.

In addition to the hundreds of schools benefiting under the Cooler Classrooms program, air conditioning will be delivered in all new and upgraded schools under the Government’s record $6 billion school building program over the next four years.

“Every one of our 170 new and upgraded schools, including more than 2000 new classrooms, will also receive the new sustainable air conditioning systems,” Mr Stokes said.

Schools that will have their classrooms and libraries air-conditioned under round 1 are attached, including:


  • Mullumbimby High School
  • Batemans Bay High School
  • Moss Vale Public School
  • Albion Park High School
  • Tomaree Public School
  • Glenroy Public School
  • South Wagga Public School
  • Kelso Public School
  • Narrabri High School
  • Anson Street School


  • Randwick Public School
  • Picnic Point High School
  • Engadine West Public School
  • Hurstville South Public School
  • Cecil Hills High School
  • Parramatta East Public School
  • Mount Druitt Public School
  • Blaxland High School
  • Canterbury Girls High School
  • Georges River College: Penshurst Girls and Oatley Senior Campus

School principals are encouraged to apply to the second round of the Fund, which will open on Day 1 of Term 1 next year. More information can be found at


In an Australian-first innovation, customers catching a train on the Opal network can now choose to tap on and off with their credit or debit card, in a new way to pay for their fare.

Following a successful trial on light rail and ferries, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance announced that from today contactless transport payments will be available to customers across the entire Sydney Trains network and on any NSW Train Link Opal service.

“Integrating contactless transport payments into the Opal ticketing system is about choice and convenience, giving customers another option for accessing public transport and the ability to pay as you go without ever having to wait in a queue at the station,” Mr Constance said.

Fares purchased with credit cards will be the same cost as the standard Opal distance-based fare, which is a win for regular commuters, especially those who have simply forgotten their Opal card but want to get straight on a train.

“Contactless payments will also make purchasing higher one-off fares a thing of the past for occasional train customers and visitors to NSW,” Mr Constance said.

Mobile wallets on smartphones, tablets and wearable devices linked to an American Express, Mastercard or Visa card, can also be used to tap on at train station Opal readers.

Mr Constance reaffrimed the introduction of contactless payments is not in any way about replacing the Opal card, which remains the foundation of digital payments.

“Opal is not going anywhere and is still the most affordable way to pay for your fares, this is the NSW Government providing greater flexibility and convenience.”

Opal, which is used to complete almost 14 million trips a week, will continue to be the product that provides frequent users the most savings, as well as serving students, concession holders and senior Opal Gold card holders.

Contactless customers will also be entitled to daily, weekly and Sunday travel caps but the weekly travel discount, concessions and the transfer discount will still only be available through Opal.

The contactless transport payment trial will continue to run through 2018 with the expansion to the bus network earmarked for mid-2019. Transport for NSW is also working with EFTPOS to consider how they can be included in the trial.

For more information about the contactless transport payments visit


Households could save hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by quickly changing their electricity deals through Service NSW’s free Energy Switch, in what will be a major shakeup for electricity retailers.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian joined Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello today at Penrith Service NSW to announce that Energy Switch was now available at all Service NSW Centres and online.

“Energy Switch is a game changer and is more than just another government comparison website,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“For the first time for an Australian government, customers can switch providers in minutes with the click of a mouse or a chat with Service NSW.

“With summer just around the corner, Energy Switch has come at the right time to help households save when their energy is highest.

“We know many families and individuals are facing cost of living pressures and this new measure could help them save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year.”

During the NSW Government’s pilot of the program across five Service NSW centres, the average saving for people who switched was more than $550 per household while one customer saved more than $1600 on their energy bills.

Mr Dominello said: “Service NSW will do the heavy lifting for the customer by checking their energy usage, searching the market for available plans and if savings can be found, then we will make the switch for them.

“Energy Switch works by using a customer’s latest electricity e-bill to scan every retailer in NSW and gives customers the cheapest three electricity plans available. It also displays other features of each plan such as solar compatibility. If a switch is requested, Service NSW will inform the energy provider.”

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said measures such as today’s announcement are only possible due to the NSW Liberals & Nationals’ strong financial management.

“Energy Switch will allow people to regularly review their plan and will encourage greater competition in the market which ultimately benefits customers through cheaper prices,” Mr Perrottet said.

Minister for Energy Don Harwin said: “This is a big win for families facing bill shock and could provide them with much needed hip pocket relief.”

Research carried out by Service NSW found 70 per cent of NSW households pay too much for electricity, particularly customers who haven’t switched for more than 12 months.

Energy Switch is one a raft of NSW Government initiatives helping to ease cost of living pressure for households. Others include cheaper Green Slips and refunds, Active Kids vouchers, Free Rego and the FuelCheck app.

Energy Switch can be accessed in-person across all Service NSW customer centres and online through


Imagination to underpin 90th birthday season

Newcastle’s iconic Civic Theatre will celebrate its 90th birthday year with a season of live performances designed to spark imagination and with even more benefits for subscribers, including free parking at Civic West car park and discounts.

Season 2019 offers a thrilling mixture of dance, drama, comedy, physical theatre, puppetry and storytelling. Old favourites such as Bell Shakespeare and the Sydney and Melbourne Comedy Festivals are back, complemented by exciting new works from local and major Australian performing arts companies.

ELIXIR-070-2-Edit_web.jpgAbove, Elixir: Katie Noonan & Leunig in Gratitude and Grief​

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Newcastle is fortunate to be home to such a magnificent historic theatre offering a diverse and compelling program of high quality productions.

“Civic Theatre welcomes more than 130,000 people every year to shows from all over Australia, and world-wide. Over its lifetime – from its early days as a cinema to the hub of live performance it is today – this beautiful theatre has entertained and inspired generations of Novocastrians and visitors.

“The tradition continues in Season 2019 with some of the great names in Australian culture, including Katie Noonan and Michael Leunig in Gratitude and Grief, and Jonathan Biggins bringing Paul Keating to life in his one-man show The Gospel According to Paul. Add children’s shows, original local productions, dance and Shakespearean drama and you have a season fitting for our 90-year-old dame.”

Season 2019 not only has a diverse range of quality live performances, but also offers some fantastic benefits for subscribers.

“This year we are offering subscribers free parking in the Civic West Parking Station thanks to the generous support of Hunter Parking and Storage,” said the City’s Civic Services Manager Delia O’Hara.

“This means subscribers can easily plan their trip with the parking station only a short walk from the theatre.

“Subscribers also receive discounted tickets when they buy four or more shows, plus discounted drinks, flexible payment options and bonus Subscriber events. With 14 outstanding productions, there are lots of great reasons to subscribe in 2019.”

Interested in enjoying great savings and benefits as a Season 2019 Subscriber? Visit or phone Civic Ticketek on 02 4929 1977.

At left, Jonathan Biggins as Paul Keating in The Gospel According to Paul

Civic Theatre Season 2019

Productions and Dates


Thur 7 Mar, 8pm           The Gospel According to Paul            Soft Tread Enterprises
Fri 15 Mar, 8pm             Elixir: Katie Noonan & Leunig             The Harbour Agency
Fri 22 Mar, 8pm             I Want to Know What Love Is             Critical Stages/Good Room
10-13 April                    Howie the Rookie                                Redline Productions
Thur 23 May, 7.30pm    Sydney Symphony Orchestra             Sydney Symphony Orchestra
29 May-1 Jun               Goori Dooki                                          Ngarrama
7-9 June                       Melbourne Int Comedy Fest R/s          MICFR
25-26 June                   Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts        shake & stir theatre co
31 Jul -2 Aug                The Twits                                              Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
27-28 Aug                     Possum Magic                                     Monkey Baa Theatre Company
Fri 13 Sept                    Peepshow                                            CIRCA
Thur 3 Oct                    Much Ado About Nothing                     Bell Shakespeare
Sat 5 Oct                      Sydney Comedy Festival Showcase    Sydney Comedy Festival
15-23 Nov                    Salvador Dali                                         Stray Dogs Theatre Co
                                     Hallucinogenic Toreador

Student-programmed MARS Rovers take over ‘Civic Precinct’ in miniME challenge

Nearly 550 primary school children from 18 schools across the region competed in the miniME Challenge at The Forum today, taking part in a STEM competition involving robotics and coding.

Part of a Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter, City of Newcastle and Obelisk Systems partnership, the Challenge is the culmination of Phase One of the miniME Program, which saw the expansion of STEM activities, including robotics and coding programs, into 18 primary schools in Newcastle. Another 17 schools are expected to participate in Phase Two.


Each school received two StarLAB Sensor + Mars Rover Bundles*, a tailored curriculum as well as support to enable teacher delivery of the cutting-edge STEM and coding platform as part of the project.

Today, students put their coding skills into action on a purpose-built track modelled on Newcastle’s Civic Precinct. The Challenge activity saw teams manoeuvre their rovers through the maze-like course while undertaking science experiments to collect environmental impact data.

RDA Hunter’s Director of Regional Development Trevor John said the partnership between RDA Hunter, City of Newcastle, Obelisk Systems and local primary schools had delivered a range of skills to students while introducing them to important issues, such as environmental protection.

“The City’s support has directly enabled hundreds of Hunter students to access equipment and activities that will teach them all-important STEM skills,” he said. “This will inspire them to pursue further STEM study in preparation for their careers and begin to understand environmental issues that will affect their future.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the miniME school engagement program was about inspiring careers and creating jobs at home in Newcastle.

“Our vision is for Newcastle to be a smart, liveable and sustainable global city. This program is helping to instil these values in the next generation as students learn how technology can be used to address issues such as protecting our environment,” said the Lord Mayor.

“This program offers young people hands-on, interactive learning and will equip them for future careers that will originate out of a city of innovation.”

Founder of Obelisk Systems Lewis Quill said the company was excited to bring the StarLAB STEM platform to Newcastle primary school students.

“Phase One of miniME has been an exciting project for us to work on,” he said. “Combining our coding platforms with science experiments and data collection applications has improved student engagement in our programs and enabled students to utilise the Rovers to contribute to real-world solutions. It’s gratifying to see our technology making a real impact on students learning.”

Participating schools in 2018/19 include: Newcastle East Public School, Newcastle Grammar School – Park Campus, New Lambton Public School, St Joseph’s Primary School Merewether, Hamilton North Public School, Islington Public School, Waratah Public School, St Philips Christian College – Junior School, Waratah West Public School, Mayfield East Public School, Hunter Christian School, Mayfield West Public School, Tighes Hill Public School, Wallsend Public School, Plattsburg Public School, Heaton Public School, Glendore Public School, Minmi Public School. Additional schools will be added during 2019/2020.

Expressions of Interest are now being accepted for an additional 17 Newcastle-based schools to participate in Phase Two which will run from February to June 2019.

The miniME program is supported by City of Newcastle as part of its Smart City initiatives, which has received $5 million in grant funding from the Australian Government through its Smart Cities and Suburbs program.  The miniME program was developed by Obelisk Systems and RDA Hunter to contribute to the Smart Mobility and Smart Environment objectives of Newcastle’s Smart City strategy.

* The StarLab Coding platform is a complete solution for teaching coding and STEM subjects in the classroom, which can be programmed by students using Scratch and Python.

* The Mars Rover expansion adds robotics to the StarLAB coding platform. It allows students to build their own Rover, drive it, collect data and get their experiments moving.


A Shorten Labor Government will end the Liberals’ war on science, restore trust in scientists and put science back at the centre of government, by resetting the relationship between government and Australia’s science and research community.

For the past five years, science and scientists have been denigrated or ignored, and funding has been cut, because the government refuses to listen to the experts on climate change, energy policy, and growing inequality in Australia.

Labor’s mission is to develop a relationship with our scientists and researchers based on trust, respect and mutual obligation, for the benefit of the Australian people.

Labor understands that scientific research and development is fundamental to Australia’s future. It’s fundamental to Australia’s capacity for innovation, for economic growth and productivity and for the creation of new jobs. It’s fundamental to the food we farm and eat, to the cities we live in, our energy future and security, the way we communicate, the health of our loved ones, and our national security.

If elected, a Shorten Labor Government will develop a charter with the Australian science and research community to establish the reciprocal roles, responsibilities and expectations of government and researchers.

As part of this charter Labor will:

  • affirm our fundamental respect for academic freedom;
  • review and strengthen the National Science and Research priorities; and
  • establish a Prime Ministers Science and Innovation Council, responsible for identifying our national priorities in science and research.

A Shorten Labor Government is committed to reversing the decline in Australia’s research and development performance that has taken place in the past five years.

Labor is the only party committed to lifting Australian spending on Research and Development from 1.8 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent. We are committed to restoring our international competiveness.

And to restore the integrity of the Australian Research Council, we will legislate a requirement that Ministers must table an explanation in Parliament within 15 sitting days of rejecting any recommendation of funding by the Chief Executive Officer.

A Shorten Labor Government will also establish, for the first time in 20 years, a once in a generation, root-and-branch inquiry into strengthening our research capabilities across the whole of government.

Australia needs a new direction for science and research that brings scientists together instead of dividing their efforts.

The review’s terms of reference will build on the experience of similar reviews undertaken by Canada and the UK.

Leading scientists in Australia have committed themselves to being part of the review, which will be led by the former Chief Scientist and former vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian Chubb AC. Other members of the review panel include:

  • Professor Christobel Saunders AO FRCS FRACS FAAHMS
  • Professor Emma Johnston AO FRSN
  • Professor Andrew Holmes AC FRS FAA FTSE
  • Professor Karen Hussey
  • Mr Phil Clark AM
  • Professor Glyn Davis AC FASSA FIIPA

Additional members will be announced in due course.

Only Labor is committed to a stronger partnership between science and government, and to fostering a better relationship of deeper respect and greater co-operation. Australia’s future depends on it.

Greens will protect LGBTQ+ teachers and staff by amending Labor’s bill that only includes students

The Australian Greens will move amendments to Labor’s bill to ensure discrimination against LGBTQ+ teachers and staff, as well as students, is removed.

“Labor and the Morrison government must support the Greens amendments to include teachers and staff,” said Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson.

“It’s clear from the title of Labor’s bill that it will only end discrimination against students and that religious schools would still be able to fire LGBTQ+ teachers and other staff, just for being who they are.”

“Labor needs to join the Greens in protecting teachers now. Not next year, not after the next election. No ifs, no buts, no more delays. We need to pass these reforms now.”

“We can’t afford any further delay before removing discrimination. Schools should be discrimination-free zones for all people, regardless of whether they are are a student or a staff member.”

Senate Votes in Favour of Australian Greens Motion for Strong Gun Control

Australian Greens Spokesperson for Gun Control and Senator for NSW, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has welcomed the Senate voting for her motion reaffirming support for the National Firearms Agreement and rejecting tactics of the gun lobby to weaken our gun laws. The Greens motion was supported by Labor, Senator Hinch, Senator Storer and Centre Alliance and opposed by the Government.

Senator Faruqi said:

“Passing this motion is a welcome sign that the Parliament will not give in to the gun lobby which seeks to water down our successful gun control laws in order to sell more guns.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the Government vote against this motion.

“The gun lobby’s attempts to replicate NRA tactics in Australia are reprehensible and must be rejected.

“The NRA is a blight on the American democracy. The Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia – SIFA – is bankrolled by gun industry heavyweights such as Beretta.

“The gun lobby is becoming increasingly active in election campaigns with a clear strategy to weaken gun laws. SIFA contributed $220,000 to a political campaign in Queensland last year, and at least $165,000 to a political campaign in Victoria this year.

“This shouldn’t just alarm us, this should terrify us all – we have to make sure our gun laws are never be watered down” she concluded.

The Motion:

That the Senate:

1) Notes that

a) There have been more than 50 breaches of the National Firearm Agreement across Australian states and territories since it was implemented in 1996

b) Corporate members of the gun lobby group Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) include suppliers and manufacturers of weapons such as NIOA, Raytrade, Outdoor Sporting Agencies, Winchester and Beretta who stand to benefit from relaxed gun laws

c) Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) becoming increasingly active in election campaigns with a clear strategy to weaken gun laws. The gun lobby group contributed $220,000 to a political campaign in Queensland last year and is contributing at least $165,000 to a political campaign in Victoria this year.

2) Calls on the Federal Government to ensure that the National Firearm Agreement is complied with in all Australian states and territories.

3) Calls on the Federal Government to resist moves to weaken Australia’s gun control laws.

Minister Tehan’s New Research National Interest Test Farcical and Dangerous

Australian Greens Education Spokesperson and Senator for NSW, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has called the Liberal/National Government’s new research national interest test farcical.

Senator Faruqi said:

“The National Interest Test proposed by Minister Tehan is straight out of ‘Yes Minister’. This farcical proposal is the typical Liberal tactic of inventing a problem then trying to solve it.

“The Australian Research Council already requires researchers to demonstrate the benefits and impacts of their research.  If the Minister had spent even five minutes talking to the research community he would know that.

“Narrow political agendas of the Government of the day determining long term research priorities is a dangerous road to go down.

“The Minister makes a baseless claim that a ‘national research test’ will give confidence in research but the reality is that the research community has no confidence in a Minister that plays such silly games.

“The Liberals need to get out of the way and let researchers get on with the job of solving problems. I have a bill in the parliament to remove the Ministers veto altogether, which would be the best outcome to safeguard the independence of research,” she concluded.

Two men charged over large-scale copper wire theft – Hunter Region

Police have charged two men following investigations into large-scale copper wire theft from the Hunter Region during the past month.

Between 14 November and 27 November 2018, land owned by the Hunter Water Corporation in Tomago, has been accessed by 4WD vehicles and approximately 940kg of copper wire removed from the ground.

The matter was reported to police at Port Stephens – Hunter Police District and an investigation was commenced.

About 1am yesterday (Monday 26 November 2018), police will allege two vehicles entered the enclosed lands and were allegedly preparing to remove the wiring.

Officers, who were conducting an operation at the location, arrested one of the men. The 47-year-old man was taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station where he was charged with larceny >$15,000 (x3) and trespass (x3).

He was given conditional bail and will appear in Raymond Terrace Local Court on 17 December 2018.

Following further inquiries, a 38-year-old man was arrested at his home in Anna Bay. He was taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station where he was charged with larceny >$15,000 (x2), trespass (x2) and goods in custody.

He was given conditional bail and will also appear in Raymond Terrace Local Court on 17 December 2018.