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Social cleansing – coming to a suburb near you

The recent annual general meeting of the Hands Off Glebe group invited Millers Point resident Barney Gardner to put a human face on the state government decision to sell 293 Millers Point public housing properties to private developers.

Mr Gardner said: “If it can happen at Millers Point it can happen anywhere.”

The well-attended meeting of both public housing tenants and private homeowners gave its enthusiastic support for the campaign by Millers Point residents to fight the government decision.

Glebe group spokesperson, Denis Doherty, said the Millers Point campaign reminded him of the Cowper Street re-development which he says was nothing more than social cleansing.

“Whole suburbs are at risk,” says Mr Doherty. “The Millers Point decision has set a precedent. Anywhere the government can get a good price is now under threat.

“They won’t just evict people one by one,” he says. “Millers Point has shown public housing tenants could be evicted suburb by suburb. It has been coming for a long time. Waterloo and Surry Hills could be next.

“Housing prices are out of control and without a public housing option to keep inner-city rentals down, private developers will be able to charge what they want. Public housing tenants and people on lower incomes create the diversity, village atmosphere and arts communities that attract rich people to these inner suburbs in the first place.”

Putting a somewhat novel twist on inner-city social problems, Mr Doherty says putting all the rich people together could lead to more shootings and street brawls.

Barney Gardner has lived at Millers Point all his life and claims it is Australia’s oldest suburb. He says the campaign to save public housing at Millers Point has been disrupted to some extent by the recent changes to the Premier and Minister for Family and Community Services, although there is no indication the government is about to back off.

“A lot of support has come from surrounding suburbs who fear they could be next.”

He wants everyone in the inner city to voice their concern about what is happening at Millers Point by writing letters and emailing their local, state and federal politicians. 

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