Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Bill 2017

I make a very brief contribution to debate on the Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Bill 2017.

At the outset I note the remarks of the member for Cessnock that the introduction of this bill is both fundamentally flawed and indicative of an incompetent Government, Minister and Premier.

The Government has always had the power to move on groups of people from public spaces when there is a genuine reason to do so. The Government is bringing this bill either because it does not understand the existing legislation in force in New South Wales or because it wishes to catalyse public debate with the city's homeless as its target.

The only additional meaningful change that the bill will make over and above the existing powers available to the State is to remove judicial oversight.

Presently, the Government has an onus to prepare a brief and to seek Local Court approval to both move people on and to remove any goods or buildings. The bill removes that oversight, and Labor opposes this very concerning development.

One wonders why this is being done. Why is it necessary? At a time when housing affordability has become a national talking point, when the median house price in Sydney is more than $1 million and when rents are skyrocketing beyond the means of working-class people, the Government's overriding priority—the focus of its legislative agenda this week—is to re-empower itself to move on the city's homeless from Martin Place.

Our city's homeless are not an abstract concept. They are not all struggling with mental illness, though some are. They are not all experiencing a family breakdown, though some are. In fact, the risk of homelessness is very real for vast numbers of people in this State. Many thousands of working-class people are one change in circumstance away from homelessness.

For many years, as a casual teacher raising two young children on my own with a husband suffering mental illness and going in and out of hospital, I often wondered how I was going to pay my rent and where I would turn if I did not get enough work that fortnight.

Homelessness is not something that people bring on themselves; it is not something they choose or deserve. Poverty and precarious employment put a huge number of people at risk of homelessness. The Government has no answer to that risk or those problems.

In this State we are facing a housing and homelessness crisis, and the only solution within the imaginative capacity of this Liberal Government and this Premier is to give themselves new powers to move on rough sleepers.

That represents an absolute failure of leadership and humanity by Gladys Berejiklian.

The only reason we are dealing with this legislation today is because the Premier does not like walking past the poor and the vulnerable on her way to work. She has admitted that the sight of homeless people makes her uncomfortable. This is the true face of the Liberals—cold, indifferent and miserable.

The highly visible nature of the homeless at Martin Place is motivating the Government today.

We are not dealing with a bill to assist people into permanent housing with wraparound services, which Labor would support. We are not dealing with a bill to create more social housing, which Labor would support. We are not dealing with a bill to move homeless people sleeping in tents at Belmore Park with the rats or under the viaducts at Wentworth Park. We are not dealing with a bill to assist people sleeping rough in caves or in tents in the bush at this very moment in the Blue Mountains. We are dealing with a bill that has only one focus: to remove from the view of the Premier, Liberal Party members of Parliament and their staffer any evidence of the poor, the vulnerable and the homeless in this city.

It is a disgrace.

Today the Liberals have finally removed their masks.

They are not just the friendly faces of light-touch neoliberalism. They are not just the slightly confused social progressives with funny ideas about privatisation. They are, in fact, the sorts of creeps who will not look a homeless person in the eye as they walk to work.

They are out-of-touch toffs who do not want to be reminded of inequality, disadvantage and poverty on their way to work.

Today, in the middle of Homelessness Week, the Liberals and the Premier have revealed themselves to be a mean, miserable and mendacious bunch of ruling-class elites who are trying to legislate the homeless out of view.

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