Australia: New totalitarian law forces end to Sydney tent city protest

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Aug 18 22:43:51 BST 2017

Australia: New totalitarian law forces end to Sydney tent city protest

By Virginia Browne and Richard Phillips  17 August 2017

About 60 homeless people involved in a 
long-running tent city protest in central 
Sydney’s Martin Place were forced to leave the 
area last Friday morning, two days after the 
Liberal-National state government in New South 
Wales (NSW) imposed repressive new laws giving 
police explicit powers to arrest and fine the homeless.

The protest, which began last December, sought to 
pressure the state government and the Sydney city 
council to boost crisis accommodation for the 
increasing numbers of homeless in the city. Known 
as the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space, the 
protest encampment was located outside the 
Reserve Bank of Australia and close to the state parliament.
Homeless protest in Martin Place

The state government responded with draconian 
legislation­the Sydney Public Reserves (Public 
Safety) Act­which it pushed through the 
parliament in just 24 hours last week, rejecting 
minor amendments from Labor and the Greens.

This measure will not just force the homeless out 
of Sydney’s central business district and city 
tourist locations but punish and potentially jail 
them. Its provisions extend far beyond the 
homeless, to cover any protest or other activity in a public reserve.

Not only can people be evicted, their tents and 
other possessions can be seized. They can be 
fined up to $5,500 for failing to comply, 
obstructing police or committing any other 
offence prescribed by regulations under the Act.

The legislation hands sweeping powers to a police 
officer to give a direction to anyone, or any 
group of people, if the officer believes that the 
people’s presence “interferes with the reasonable 
enjoyment of the rights” of any “section of the 
public” in a public reserve. It applies to Martin 
Place, or any other Sydney public reserve proclaimed by the state government.

Such directions can include an order to leave the 
reserve and not return for a specified period, 
but there is no limit on the type of direction 
that the police can issue. The only exemptions 
are for “authorised public assemblies” or 
gatherings related to an “industrial dispute.”

This is the third anti-protest legislation 
imposed by the NSW state government during the 
past 18 months. Last year, 
laws were introduced that can be used to shut 
down political protests and punish dissent. Two 
other Australian states also brought forward laws 
protests or any other activities that are alleged 
to disrupt business operations.

The latest legislation was preceded by a 
hysterical campaign involving the state government and the media.

On August 4, NSW Family and Community Services 
Minister Pru Goward declared: “I don’t care what 
it takes, we will move these people on.” NSW 
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller added: “They will 
be gone at some stage
 but this won’t be the last 
time we will have a problem with the mixed 
homeless group with a taste for protest activity.”

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a so-called 
independent backed by the Labor Party and the 
Greens, had said she would oppose government 
attempts to expel the protesters and claimed to 
have organised a deal for the homeless. Moore’s 
promise was empty posturing­the “deal” did not 
involve any accommodation­and the state 
government pushed through its legislation.

Sydney City Council had previously intervened to 
dismantle tents and remove the belongings of 
homeless people camping or staying overnight in 
Martin Place, 
Park and other inner-city areas.

In June 2016, council workers and police evicted 
homeless people who had been camping for six 
months outside the former Westpac building in 
Martin Place. The homeless were presented with a 
letter signed by director of city operations, 
David Riordan, deeming the camp a “public nuisance.”

The assault on Sydney’s homeless occurred during 
“National Homeless Week.” The annual publicity 
event generally involves corporate executives and 
celebrities spending a night sleeping rough, 
which does nothing to stem the rising numbers of 
homeless and acute housing affordability crisis.
A section of the tent city protest

Across Australia, homeless shelters and crisis 
accommodation centres are at capacity and turning 
people away. Homelessness Australia chairwoman 
Jenny Smith said: “We have 280,000 [homeless 
people] who have been seen by our services last 
year, which is an increase by 43,000 on the previous year.”

Sydney, where property prices and rents have 
soared, particularly over the past six years, is 
ranked the least affordable city for housing and 
accommodation in Australia and one of the most 
unaffordable cities in the world.

Homelessness Australia in 2013, estimated that 
NSW had over 29,000 homeless people, the highest 
of any Australian state or territory. According 
to the latest official City of Sydney street 
count, in February there were 433 homeless people 
and 489 people in crisis or temporary 
accommodation centres in central Sydney alone. 
This was a 28 percent increase since 2011.

While criminalising homelessness, the NSW 
government, like its Liberal-National and Labor 
counterparts around Australia, is continuing to 
systematically run down and sell off public 
housing. Inner-city public housing estates, 
particularly those with harbour views or at other 
prime locations, are providing windfall profits for state governments.

A short distance from Martin Place, the 
government is forcing public housing tenants out 
of the Sirius apartment block and selling the 
building. Scores of affordable rental homes and 
apartments are also being privatised at nearby Millers Point.

There are 60,000 people on the waiting list for 
public housing in NSW and almost 200,000 
nationally. Only a handful of these people will 
ever secure the accommodation they seek. At the 
same time, financial speculation in Australia’s 
housing property bubble has produced hundreds of 
thousands of 
homes and apartments across the country.

Organisers of the Martin Place tent city claimed 
the protest would “shine a light” on homelessness 
and pressure the state government to increase the 
number of crisis accommodation places. Confronted 
with the new laws, protest leaders directed the 
participants to pull down their tents and vacate 
Martin Place. According to protest organisers, at 
least 20 percent of those from the tent city are 
still “sleeping rough” in other inner-city streets.

WSWS reporters spoke with tent residents and 
volunteers last Friday before the protest was 
shut down. They explained that any accommodation 
offered by charities was only short-term­usually 
no more than a couple of nights in a hotel.

Nigel lived in the Martin Place tent city for 
about six months. He previously worked in 
advertising but went through a divorce in Hong 
Kong, resulting in his deportation to Australia. 
He had to leave his 10-year-old son in Hong Kong. 
A downward spiral of depression and isolation 
began when he returned to Australia.

“Living here has taken me out of isolation, made 
me interact with people and given me confidence. 
Lanz [Priestly, the protest organiser] has got me 
working in the kitchen and around the community 
When we have to move we’ve got to stick 
together. We have to keep this community together 
and move together somewhere else.”

Stu, originally from Auckland in New Zealand, 
joined the Martin Place protest when it began last December.

“I’m here because I want to show people in Sydney 
how bad the homeless situation is and to be in 
solidarity with other homeless people. I came to 
Australia in 1979 and worked as a French polisher 
and in other jobs. I set up a small business in 
Canberra importing fireworks but the government 
changed the law and my business collapsed.

“There were court cases and appeals. All the 
money I had went on that and my life went 
downhill. I was jailed for 15 months for driving 
without a licence. I couldn’t get any work and 
I’ve now got heart problems and I’m on a disability.

“I’ve been homeless now for seven years. I’ve 
been helped by various charities but it’s only 
temporary. They can’t seem to be able to do much 
for us. The tents and sleeping bags we have here 
have been donated but apart from that the people 
here don’t have anything. It’s homeless week and 
there’s all this publicity. We have CEOs doing 
sleep outs every year but this doesn’t change anything.

“I don’t agree with the state government or 
Sydney council. They talk on the media about how 
they’re concerned about homelessness, but what do 
they do? Politicians are only interested in 
looking after the rich. They can push us out of 
Martin Place or pass laws banning what we’re 
doing but this isn’t going to help us find 
accommodation and we’ll just have to go somewhere 
else. They want to cover up the problem.”

The author also recommends:

Melbourne homeless speak out against police harassment
[18 January 2017]

Melbourne homeless continue city protest
[6 June 2016]
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So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish participation in Bormann 
companies that when Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv 
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the Jewish and German 
communities of Buenos Aires. Jewish leaders informed the Israeli 
authorities in no uncertain terms that this must never happen again 
because a repetition would permanently rupture relations with the 
Germans of Latin America, as well as with the Bormann organization, 
and cut off the flow of Jewish money to Israel. It never happened 
again, and the pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of 
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an Argentinian safe haven, 
protected by the most efficient German infrastructure in history as 
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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