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Issue #1633      April 2, 2014

This is our city!

“This is our city and we will not be driven out of it!” declared Denis Doherty from Hands off Glebe to the cheers of about 150 people outside NSW Parliament House demonstrating in support of public housing on March 27.

Public servants rallied at the Perth Convention Centre to consider the government’s response to their pay claim.

Hands off Glebe, a small community group campaigning for public housing, had organised the March for Maintenance which was expanded to include the fight to save Millers Point, a historic Sydney suburb the NSW Liberal government wants to sell off to the private sector.

Defying constant rain, participants from public housing communities from Millers Point to Wollongong, including Balmain, Glebe, Camperdown, Auburn, Marrickville and other suburbs marched through streets chanting “Defend Public Housing! Save Millers Point!”

The marchers also demanded “No more demolition by neglect”, “No more eviction by neglect”, and “Stop social cleansing of public housing tenants”.

There was also a call for Housing NSW to sack Spotless, the maintenance providers which was described as another PPP (private public partnership) gone wrong.

Barney from the Millers Point Community Defence Group spoke passionately about the devastating personal and social costs of forcibly evicting people from their homes and called on the crowd to fight to defend public housing throughout New South Wales.

Public housing tenant Kelly told how the mould in her home was so bad that she and her daughter are constantly sick.

“It’s so bad, I just don’t want to go home,” she said. “I’d rather live on the streets than in that place.”

MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker from the Greens, was warmly welcomed by the demonstrators as he attacked the O’Farrell government for its greed and callousness in its planned evictions and sell off of heritage properties in Millers Point and The Rocks.

He pointed out that despite having a responsibility to assist the most vulnerable members of our community, the Liberal state government has continued the failure of the previous Labor government to adequately fund public housing.

The former Labor government left a maintenance backlog of $330 million and this continues to grow. The Liberal government has given $300 million to the poker machine industry in tax benefits but says it can’t find any additional funds for public housing.

Jamie Parker delighted the crowd by ending with the story of the Glebe Youth Service where the youth workers were suddenly evicted and the NSW government said it was too expensive to upgrade fire precautions.

Glebe residents developed a big community campaign to stop it being sold off and the government finally gave in. The GYS is functioning again, showing that determined community action can win.

ALP state leader John Robertson expressed his concern for the situation of many public housing tenants and said he wanted to hear their stories. However, there was disappointment when he said Labor would not have treated the Millers Point residents “in the same way” as the Liberals.

Many in the crowd thought this was ambiguous and wanted a clear commitment from Labor that they would rescind the decision to sell off public housing at Millers Point. Closing the rally, Denis Doherty said: “We must unite to defend and extend public housing otherwise our city will be constructed to suit the needs of the rich and powerful and we will be excluded.

“This is unacceptable. This is our city. We built it and we will keep on fighting to stay here!”

Next article – Australians speak out for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

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