Universal comeback

FRESH BEGINNING: Hey Universe plan to showcase a simpler and more mature sound than Adam Mark Scott’s former band Cotton Sidewalk.THE last time Adam Mark Price performed at Adamstown Uniting Church’s renown Dungeon in November 2014 his band Cotton Sidewalk bade farewell in grandiose style.
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The five-piece alternative rock band were joined by a string quartet and choir as they performed their third and final album Evil Versus People in its entirety.

On July 8 Price will return to the Brunker Road venue to launch his new band Hey Universe at the first Lo-Fi @ The Dungeon evening. Hey Universe also features Cotton Sidewalk’s original drummer Marty Paget and Price’s brother Andy on bass.

In their 2000s prime Cotton Sidewalk were among Newcastle’s top bands and they spent six years battling to crack national exposure in Melbourne.

Since returning to Newcastle three years ago Price has been frustrated by the lack of original music venues and felt compelled to curate Lo-Fi @ The Dungeon, which he hopes will become a monthly event.

Hey Universe are in the process of self-recording and producing their debut EP, due for release later this year.

“It’s not a huge leap from it, but the fact it’s a three piece make it a different sound,” Price said.“Cotton Sidewalk had lots of layers, strings, synths and choirs, but this is much more simple. The songwriting has moved on and has become more mature.”

Price has no plans to include Cotton Sidewalk songs in Hey Universe’s sets and is prepared for the battle to win over old and new fans.

“This is definitely a new beginning and that may be hard for some people,” he said. “That’s a challenge for us because when people go to a show they like to hear something they’re familiar with. For me, I love going to a gig and hearing a band for the first time.”

Joining Hey Universe at the inaugural Lo-Fi @ The Dungeon on July 8will be Looseleaf IV and Kieran Wicks, who is releasing his debut albumSticking To My Guns.

PAPER SUPPORTTHE last time Canadian garage rockersJapandroids touredAustralia inDecember Paper Thin frontman Spencer Scott was forced to sell his tickets for their Sydney show.

It was a missed opportunity that has gnawed at Scott. Fortunately, there’s no chance of that happening this time around as Paper Thin have secured the support slot for Japandroids’ first ever Newcastle show at the Small Ballroom on July 15.

The show is expected to be Paper Thin’sbiggest ever Newcastle show and their most high-profile support since they warmed the Factory Theatre stage for British folk-rock band Levellers.

Paper Thin areputting the finishing touches to their second EP, which follows their self-titled release last August.

OKINE HITS BEACHONLY the bravest surfers might be hitting the waves at the moment, but the sand will be hotter than ever this Saturday at Beach Street 6.

NEW RAP: Comedian and former Triple J host Matt Okine will perform in The Boilermakers at Beach Street 6. Picture: Annaliese Nappa

The grassroots music festival have locked in its biggest headline act to date with comedian and former Triple J presenter Matt Okine performing his first Newcastle show as The Boilermakers, his new hip-hop duo with Dinnertime Duke.

The stacked bill at the Lass O’Gowrie also includes Illawarra’s Archy Punker and Newcastle’s PALS, The Owls, Voodoo Youth, Demi Mitchell and Nicholas Connors.

BURGO FAREWELLRAAVE Tapes have a reputation for delivering one hell of a party. It’ll be no different on Friday night when the Newcastle dance rockerssend out original bassist Joel Burgess with a wild house party for his final gig.

Details for the free show with electronic act E4444e will be revealed shortly before the gig.

We’re also hearing that Raave Tapes will announce their newest member next week and that they’re heading in a more feminine direction.

ROCK SAVIOURSROCK’N’ROLL and its traditional format of guitars, bass and drums won’t ever die. That’s the opinion of Geelong retro rockers The Murlocs.

On their upcoming third album Old Locomotive, due for release on July 28, The Murlocs’ singer and lyricist Ambrose Kenny-Smith said thethe band willcontinue their revivalist sound andstance“against rock’n’roll’s extinction.”

You can join the fight for rock’n’roll when The Murlocs perform at the Small Ballroom on August 2.

A-GRADE REVIEWIT’S an album that 17 years on remains a bone of contention. Was Kid A themoment Radiohead reached their creative zenith or when the British alternative kings lost themselves in a maze of electronic ambient pretension?

That will surely be debated by music lovers on Thursday night when The Edwards reviews the 2000 masterpiece at the return of SoundBite.

DJ Perry will spin Radiohead-inspired tunes, Kid A will be played in full and its ongoing legacy discussed andexperimental musician Dexter Moore will perform live.Everything is definitely in its right place.

Delivering skills to Hunter Region

HRATA Overall Trainee of the Year winner Reece Arday with employers from Port Stephens Council.TAFE NSW is a proud platinum sponsor of the Hunter Region Apprenticeship and Traineeship Awards, which were held at NEX –Wests on Friday, June 16.
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Numerous TAFE NSW students took out HRATA Awards on the night,including Overall Trainee winner Reece Arday, who is employed by Port Stephens Council.

“A qualified carpenter by trade, Reece felt there was something he was more suited towards within his reach,” an awards spokesperson said on the night by way on introduction.

“His goal was to work in information technology.

“He showed incredible determination when he decided to make the change and undertake the traineeship.

“His leap of faith has paid off and he is thriving in his new position where he is responsible for providing support in the business environment.”

Other TAFE NSW major category winners included:

Molly Miller – NSW Excellence in Non-Traditional Trade or Vocation for A Female – Employed by AGL Macquarie

Jackson Harvey – School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year – Employed by Hunter New England Health.

Joshua Terras – NSW Excellence Top in Auto Trade Skills – Employed by Komatsu Australia

Skills are embedded in every facet of the workplace and offer many diverse and fulfilling career paths for people that choose to pursue vocational education and training.

As you look around, you can see how important skills developed through vocational education are to the prosperity of the Hunter’s economy.

Skilled workers are building roads and houses, they are running businesses, serving you at your favourite café, and supporting the technology to run smart innovative organisations.

As Australia largest training provider, TAFE NSW has a significant role in delivering skills training to support the career goals of more than 500,000 students each year.

TAFE NSW would like to wish award winners all the best for their future careers ahead. Be ambitious!

Magpies audition for finals role and beyond

STAR BILLING: Former Newcastle Jets captain Matt Thompson has been one of the Magpies’ best this season and the 34-year-old is keen to play on next year. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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MATT Thompson expects coach Michael Bolch to bring players with him to Maitland next season and he believes thatprospect will serve as extra motivation for the Magpies on Sunday.

Maitland travel to Darling Street Oval to face Bolch’s Hamilton side with a place in the top four on the line.

The Magpies sit a point behind fourth-placed Olympic with eight matches to go in aNorthern NSW National Premier League season dominated in recent weeks by movementsfor 2018.

Bolch will take over at Maitland next season, while Hamilton will welcome Peter McGuinness, who was coaching Adamstown until news of the changes broke.

The coaching merry-go-round, which includes David Tanchevski replacing Shane Pryce at Charlestown, has spiked speculation about bids behind the scenes to secure players for next year.

Thompson said Maitland would need to be at their best anyway in an important game on Sunday but thecoaching situation provided another motivation.

“Now Bolchy’s come on board, he’ll have a say on whether he wants myself and other players,” the former Socceroo said.

“Our boys will no doubt be focusing on the three points, but they’ll want to put in a good performance in front of the new coach for next year.

“Bolchy’s been around a long time so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t bring a few over.It will be the‘we don’t want those players taking my spot sort of thing’, so everyone will do their best to impress the new boss.”

Thompson, though, said there was already plenty to play for at the Magpies, whobacked up from their 1-0 FFA Cup loss to Edgeworth with a 6-1 rout of the Jets Youth last Sunday.

“I think they are a bit excited about next year but, at the same time, we’ve put ourselves in a position this year where we are better than last year and we want to get in that top four,” said Thompson, who has scored six goals and been in fine form this season.

“If we can get in there and stay there, we can give the finals a shake.

“We won on the weekend but in a few other results before that we let ourselves down. We lost contact with the top two.

“Before we lost to Adamstown, we could have gone to top spot andnow we’re fighting for fourth.

“It is that close, and it’s a massive game this Sunday. If we don’t get the points we’re playing catch-up again for that fourth spot.”

Bolch did not believe Maitland’s players would lift to make an impression on him.

“I don’t that comes into it this far out,” Bolch said.

“I think it’s just more two teams striving for a semi-final spot. It comes down to 90 minutes on Sunday and who wants it more.”

“There’s eight games left and we probably need to win five of the eight to ensure a semi-final spot, andto win the compwe’ve probably got to win all eight games.

“Maitland are a point behind us and we’ve both got a gap on Magic with a game in hand on them, so this weekend’s a vital game.”

Thompson said Maitland were close to full-strength and had Ryan Clarke nearing a return from broken ribs.Bolch said last week’s bye had kept his side freshand the return of Rhys Cooper, Andrew Swan and Tommy Spencer in recent weeks and created more competition for spots.

NSW budget 2017: Hunter misses out on big infrastructure spend

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet before handing down the budget on Tuesday. PICTURE: The Hunter has missed out on any major new spending commitments in Tuesday’s state budget, despite the government boasting of record infrastructure spending and surpluses as far as the eye can see.
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Treasurer Dominic Perrottet used his first budget speech on Tuesday to trumpet NSW as Australia’s economic powerhouse, handing down a massive $4.5 billion surplus in 2016-17 on the back of the sale of electricity network providers such as the $6.6 billion sale of Transgrid.

And despite falling revenue from Commonwealth grants and GST receipts, the government says the good times are set to continue.

The budget papers predict a $2.7 billion surplus in 2017-18, net negative debt and an average of $2 billion in surpluses across the forward estimates.

Funded largely by proceeds the sale of the state’s poles and wires and Commonwealth asset recycling payments, the government says it’s using that income to fund some $72 billion in infrastructure across the state in the next four years.

“We don’t run surpluses for the sake of it,” Mr Perrottet said in his budget speech.

“We run surpluses to make NSW the best place to live, work and to raise a family.”

But with growth at above-trend across the forward estimates, Mr Perrottet said it was the regions outside of Sydney that were the “unsung success” of the strong budget position.

And according to the budget papers the Hunter has been at the heart of that growth.

Employment in regional NSW has grown 4.9 per cent since April 2015, and the greater Hunter – including Newcastle and Lake Macquarie – has led the way, growing by 11.2 per cent or 32,000 people employed in the same period.

But despite the rosy economic picture, the Hunter has largely missed out on the government’s infrastructure gravy train.

The largest individual spend in the region was again the 2.7 kilometre Newcastle light rail project, which received another $206 million bringing the total spend on the project – and the associated revitalising Newcastle work – to $482,961.

In health, the drip-feed to the new Lower Hunter hospital in Maitland continued, with $5 million contributed to the $450 million project before an expected completion date of 2024, and another $13 million going toward the redevelopment of the Muswellbrook Hospital.

$49.8 million will be spent on Hunter road projects, including $3.7 million on planning for the Rankin Park to Jesmond section of the Newcastle inner-city bypass and $23.4 million to further progress on the joint state and federally funded Tourle Street Bridge upgrades.

In a slight boost for Lake Macquarie, the government’s committed $1.7 million to complete a strategic business case for “all stages”of the Glendale Transport Interchange, howeverthe redevelopment of the Newcastle Art Gallery missed out on any funds.

Since coming to power in 2011 the government has used privatisation – like the $1.5 billion lease of the Newcastle Port – as a base on which to fund its ambitious, and mostly Sydney-based infrastructure budget.

Mr Perrottet called “asset recycling” – the government’s term for asset sales – the “secret sauce” of its strong budgetary position.

It currently has $29.8 billion in its Restart NSW fund – made up of income from asset sales like the sale of the so-called “poles and wires” – including $12.1 billion in reserve for projects including the inner-city bypass.

But there’s a catch.

The budget papers indicate a “challenging” revenue outlook, thanks to declining receipts from the Commonwealth.

The government has again revised down its GST intake, expecting $448.7 million less in receipts than it did at last year’s budget, and that reduction will begin to bite over the next four years with some $14.7 billion falling out of the government’s revenue across the forward estimates as a result.

$1.6 billion in tax cuts including the government’s housing affordability measures will cost the budget another $330 million.

And while net debt is expected to be negative for the second consecutive year, increased infrastructure spending will see it increase to 2.7 per cent of Gross State Product by the end of the forward estimates.

But the government says it’s keeping expenditure growth below its long-term revenue, including a 2.5 per cent wage cap on public service salaries, and points to its GSP of 3.5 per cent in 2015-16, predicted to remain above trend to 2020-21, as evidence that the economy is still humming.

MORE INFORMATIONWhat’s in it for the Hunter?Stamp duty revenue, privatisations push to $12b surplusGovernment pledges $5 million for Maitland HospitalBerejiklian Government to fund Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange business case

Winners and losers in the NSW budget

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Tuesday announced his budget for 2017-18, splashing money raised through a string of privatisations on schools, hospitals and the justice system. With a big budget and an impressive $4.5 billion surplus, there’s plenty of money to go around, but there’s also a line of losers.
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WINNERSKids in sportGood news for families wanting to raise healthy, active kids but feeling restricted by big sports club fees. $207 million has been poured into the new Active Kids Rebate, which will allow eligible families to receive up to $100 per child in school each year. It is not means-tested, so whether the parents are rich or struggling to pay the bills, they can access the rebate.

HospitalsDescribed as the “mothership”, Randwick Hospital will undergo a $720 million “reconfiguration”. Another $632 million and $534 million have been directed, respectively, to the Campbelltown Hospital and Tweed Hospital redevelopments. Also, a $1 billion injection will allow hospitals across the state to cater for about 28,000 more emergency department attendances and 45,900 more acute inpatient admissions. The budget also commits an extra $20 million to bolster community-based mental health services.

School studentsMore than 120 schools will be built or upgraded, with the government topping up its investment in education infrastructure by $1.6 billion, bringing the total to $4.2 billion over four years. If all goes to plan, there will be 27 new schools, 32,000 more student places and 1500 new classrooms, easing the crisis of overcrowding. Deputy Premier John Barilaro says regional schools will receive a fair share of the “historic investment”.

First home buyersNew stamp duty concessions are expected to help 24,000 people get a foot on the property ladder. The new package includes abolishing all stamp duty for first home buyers on existing and new homes up to $650,000 and stamp duty discounts up to $800,000. Sweetening the package is a $10,000 grant for those eyeing new homes up to $600,000. The changes come into effect on July 1.

KoalasKoalas rejoice, the government’s giving an extra $800,000 to koala conservation projects. Some of the projects will try to protect koalas in the Port Stephens, Campbelltown and the Mid-Coast areas and support carers rehabilitating injured marsupials. The Treasurer said: “Any threatened Australian species is a serious issue and we want to invest in the important conservation work to help stabilise and eventually increase koala numbers across the state.”

MotoristsNearly $73 billion has been committed to unclogging roads and improving public transport, including the funding of the third stage of WestConnex, Sydney Metro City and South West and the Pacific Highway upgrade. Local roads haven’t been forgotten, with money to be spent on road upgrades around the planned airport at Badgerys Creek and Parramatta Road.

Art loversBudget funding for the Sydney Modern Project will turn the Art Gallery of NSW into a global museum of the future with new spaces for art, live performance and film along with spaces to learn, study and participate in cultural experiences. The ambitious expansion has been given the go ahead by the state government via a $244 million funding.

LOSERSForeign InvestorsForeigners looking to snap up homes in NSW will be stung by hefty surcharges. The government has doubled the foreign investor transfer duty surcharge to 8 per cent and lifted the land tax surcharge from 0.75 to 2 per cent in a bid to help locals buy their first home in a heated property market.

Investors eyeing off-the-plan homesThe concession for residential off-the-plan purchases, which allows for a delay of up to 12 months in the payment of duty, has been tweaked to benefit first home buyers. It will now be targeted to owner occupiers only.

The EnvironmentFrom environment editor Peter Hannam: Climate change, the biggest environmental challenge, is largely absent from this budget. It is silent on how the state will meet the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2050. Some $325 million, though, will be spent in 2017-18 on building resilience to environmental hazards and risks. This sum includes $40 million to manage fire threats in national parks and reserves, and $41 million to assist local councils to prepare coastal and floodplain management.

Environmental measures are mostly annual portions of multi-year programs already under way, such as $44 million earmarked for private land conservation as part of the overhaul of land-clearing laws.

Officials highlight $3.9 million for a new visitor precinct at Wattamolla in the Royal National Park and $2.56 million for Royal Coast Track upgrades as new spending of appeal to Sydneysiders.

CriminalsBad news for the baddies, good for the public. The government is investing to strengthen the justice system and keep the public safe from terrorism, with $62 million spent on curbing reoffending rates, $47 million to combat radicalisation in prison, and $15 million to improve NSW Police’s counter-terrorism capability and air support.

Independent Commission Against CorruptionThe government has slightly cut funding. While the some of the other agencies in its cluster, such as IPART and Audit Office will receive slightly more money, ICAC will receive a little less than what was budgeted in 2016-17.

Train commuters with disabilitiesThousands of commuters with a disability, as well as the elderly and parents with prams, are cut off from the public transport system because more than 100 stations are not accessible. The government will slash $200 million in 2017-18, but the Greens claim this isn’t enough if it’s aiming to make all stations in NSW fully accessible. Greens transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, has called for the government to commit to a program to achieve this by 2022.

Public Servants

No matter how hard NSW’s public servants work, and despite them delivering a surplus, they’re unlikely to see a significant pay rise. The government has maintained its wages of policy of capping growth by 2.5 per cent per year. The Treasurer said: “We have to maintain discipline … it is a difficult conversation.”

Anti-Coal Campaigners

From environment editor Peter Hannam: NSW’s addiction to coal royalties has increased in the past year – and in the budget’s forward estimates – thanks largely to events beyond the state’s borders. Royalties, mostly from thermal coal burnt in power stations, will deliver $1.558 billion to the budget in the current year, up $301 million against what had been expected. China’s domestic coal production limits contributed to “substantial coal price rises” during the December half of 2016, and these had a “a significant influence on future prices”.

That price jump will lifts expected royalties for the four years to 2019-20 by $839 million than forecast a year ago. Queensland’s budget posted a similar boost, citing Cyclone Debbie’s positive boost to prices because of supply disruption. Judging where commodity markets will land, though, is a risky business. NSW’s state budget relies on thermal coal prices rising from $US70 a tonne in 2016-17 to $US75 in the coming year. These will then ease to $US64 by 2020-21, according to estimates sourced from the federal government and private brokers.