IN an upstairs room at Hamilton TAFE campus, 100 or so guests of the Hunter Business Chamber waited for Premier Mike Baird.
They had entered from the rear car park, away from a gathering group of about 150 protesters at the Parry Street entrance.
Mr Baird could have taken this route as well, and the protesters would have been none the wiser.
But he didn’t.
His car pulled up just short of the gathering, and he stepped out onto the footpath and into a gauntlet of chanting, placard-waving opposition.
With a beefy security detail keeping a wary eye on his progress, Mr Baird strode through the crowd and into the TAFE building.
Half a minute later, he was gone, up the stairs to officially open the business chamber’s new headquarters in the historic 19th-century Great Northern brewery building it was renting from the TAFE.
Outside, TAFE staff upset at the government’s ‘‘Smart and Skilled’’ training programs were wondering why the chamber was taking over space that they said had once been classrooms.
Upstairs, Mr Baird thanked his chamber hosts and said leadership took ‘‘vision’’.
‘‘You’ll hear some voices out there that are putting a particular point of view,’’ Mr Baird said.
‘‘And that’s what democracy is about. Constructive views. But I also know that I hear from other voices, voices like those represented in this chamber, where there are 1800 businesses.’’
Mr Baird said the rail truncation debate had gone on for decades and he was confident his government had made the right decision.
He said Newcastle was a cocoon and it was time to ‘‘release the butterfly’’.
By MATT CARR
PROTESTERS have joined Hunter Labor candidates and union officials in a protest against Premier Mike Baird outside Newcastle West TAFE on Tuesday.
The protest, which includes opponents to the rail truncation and cuts to TAFE, was scheduled to coincide with Mr Baird's arrival close to 1.45pm.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the NSW Not for Sale campaign launch was scheduled for the Hunter because the state government had neglected the region.
"Newcastle and the Hunter are heading for an unemployment crisis under Mike Baird,” Mr Lennon said.
“Unemployment in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie is 8.3 per cent -- across the rest of the Hunter it’s 7.9 per cent and it’s vital that the State government starts investing in more jobs instead of selling off the farm.”
The launch coincides with NSW Premier Mike Baird visiting the Hunter.
The ad campaign is jointly funded by Unions NSW, Electrical Trades Union, Health Services Union , NSW Teachers Federation, and the United Services Union.