Melbourne City Council vs The Poor and Homeless

Posted on 07 April 2017

Public housing rally at Victorian Parliament April 2017

“On Tuesday 7 February 2017, Council endorsed proposed amendments to our Activities Local Law 2009, including a broader definition of ‘camping’.”
Activities Local Law 2009

(This amendment would give the police greater powers to remove the homeless from Melbourne CBD. It is a fineable offense that can result in jail time)

“Unless in accordance with a permit, a person must not leave any item unattended in a public place. If any item is left unattended in contravention of this Local Law, an authorised officer may confiscate and impound the item in accordance with this clause. Any item confiscated and impounded under clause 2.12.2 will be returned to its owner on payment of any fee or charge prescribed by the Council for its release. If the owner of the item has not paid any fee or charge required for its release, the Council may sell, destroy or give away the item. Before exercising the power conferred by clause 2.12.4, the Council must take reasonable steps to notify the owner of the item that the item has been impounded and may be sold, destroyed or given away unless the specified fee or charge is paid within 14 days.”
Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017

The world does not have enough paid jobs to go around.

Manufacturing is largely being done by robots: check any remaining car factories. We no longer have as many bank and supermarket clerks with ATMs and self-checkouts. Malls are suffering from online sales. As media becomes more concentrated because people are visiting only a few online news sites, we have fewer journalists being paid for their skills. When self-driving cars come in we will see people losing taxi and truck driving positions. Governments are shedding many of our assets and services by either selling them off to corporations or relinquishing them to volunteer nonprofits.

The ranks of the underemployed are swelling, as are the ranks of those who are living in poverty. The middle class is collapsing. Are you really surprised in the last two years that Melbourne CBD has experienced a 74% increase in people sleeping rough on its streets?

So you the Melbourne Town Council plan to fine people for cluttering your streets, people who don’t have enough to pay for accommodation and have had to choose food over shelter. They can’t pay and so will be liable for three days of jail time: three days of lodging and food at taxpayer’s expense. At least it’s a roof overhead, but who wants to sleep in a jail simply for being poor?

And what’s the next tactic? You have chosen to confiscate these people’s belongings the instant they have to leave for the toilet—belongings such as blankets, water, legitimate medications. This was done recently to people sleeping rough at Flinders Street Station. You now propose they can then only retrieve these necessities for survival if they pay a several hundred dollar fine they can’t afford.

Now they have less than nothing and can’t possibly beg for enough to get by. That’s a recipe for crime if I’ve ever heard it. But the question is: whose crime is it? Who takes blankets from the homeless? Who takes medication from those who are sick or in pain? Who lacks so much humanity that they believe these are reasonable things to do?

Yet again Melbourne Council is proposing to contravene its country’s human rights agreements. Article seventeen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

This sounds like the Melbourne City Council has taken a leaf from the Federal Government’s refugee policies: make the situation in Melbourne CBD so hostile to the poor that they are forced into surrounding suburbs. What does the state government think of such contentious law-making?

You the privileged are losing the buffer between yourselves and the poor. The top ten percent have been protected by a majority middle class, but so long as we are all slipping into hardship, you are becoming more and more seriously outnumbered. How long can you create and mistreat more poor before the world starts crumbling around you and you have no supporters?

Choose compassion now.

In peace,

Katherine


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