CONTROVERSIAL moves to change the way Newcastle council’s money is invested could be overturned next week with plans for an urgent meeting lodged by the city’s Liberal councillors.
Cr Brad Luke has confirmed that he and colleagues Lisa Tierney and David Compton had lodged a rescission motion against last week’s resolution which has created a bigger storm inside the Labor party than outside it.
The Liberal trio sent notice of a rescission motion to Labor lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and the council’s general manager Ken Gouldthorp on Monday.
Under council regulations, a meeting must be held within 14 days of such a request, with Cr Luke nominating next Tuesday as the preferred date because councillors are already expected to be at the chambers for a councillor workshop.
The move to divest was first proposed by Labor councillor Declan Clausen and was backed by his Labor colleagues and the Greens. In short, the move requires the council to divest its $270 million investment portfolio away from banks or investment funds which back ‘‘socially and environmentally irresponsible’’ projects, when all other financial aspects are equal.
While the move was more symbolic than anything else, it included a preference for banks which don’t fund greenhouse gas-emitting industry, such as the coal industry.
Peak mining union and traditional Labor ally, the CFMEU, was highly critical of the move, along with several Labor and Opposition MPs.
‘‘I note that (Labor councillor) Tim Crakanthorp was quoted in the weekend papers refusing to rule out support for a rescission motion,’’ Cr Luke said.
‘‘I also note that Joel Fitzegibbon, the most senior Labor figure in the Hunter, has also called for a rescission motion, and I note the community uproar since the decision was made. It simply should be overturned.’’
The lord mayor and general manager have three days to determine a meeting date.
Meanwhile, Newcastle City Council’s decision to shift investments away from banks that lend to the coal industry reflected the limited financial contribution of mining to the city, said the Australia Institute.
While it was ‘‘big news’’ for a city with one of the world’s major coal ports, the council had made ‘‘an investment decision which makes financial sense given the recent performance of coal companies’’, said Australia Institute economist Rod Campbell.
‘‘But perhaps more importantly, coal is not Newcastle’s biggest industry. Not even close. Australian Bureau of Statistics Census figures show that mining is one of the lowest employers of Newcastle residents,’’ Mr Campbell said.
The figures showed 1,129 of Newcastle’s 70,000-strong workforce, or 2 per cent, worked in coal mining.
The same number of people worked in arts and recreation in positions such as personal trainers and theatre directors.
‘‘Newcastle does not get much money from coal mining or export operations,’’ Mr Campbell said.
‘‘Coal royalties are paid to the state government – around 2 per cent of its revenue – while profits from mining largely go to the overseas shareholders of the mining companies.
‘‘Around 90 per cent of the Hunter’s mines are foreign owned.
‘‘The Port of Newcastle and the coal loading facilities are also largely owned by foreign investors and while they may pay some rates to the council, this is likely to be a small fraction of the council’s revenue.
‘‘While coal mining is economically important for particular regions of the Hunter such as Singleton, the City of Newcastle is well placed for a future without coal.’’