Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Bill 2017

9th August 2017

I feel compelled to speak in debate on the Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Bill 2017. I state at the outset that I will not be supporting the bill. I join those on this side of the House who have expressed concern about the principles behind the bill. I am concerned about the rhetoric that has framed much of the debate about a contest between the State Government and the City of Sydney. When we talk about the City of Sydney in this place so many fall into the trap of characterising it as the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore. I am always concerned when anybody—a Minister, anybody in the State Government or anybody in the popular media—who talks about the ability of the City of Sydney to do something refers to the Lord Mayor as though she is the chief executive and the council in toto. That is not the case. Under the Local Government Act, the Lord Mayor of Sydney has a very clearly defined role. Clover Moore has certain powers but those powers rest with her as the chair of the council. In my view, she has been doing her best to represent the position of the majority of councillors and council policies.

The City of Sydney should be applauded because it is the only council in New South Wales that dedicates itself to addressing homelessness in its local government area. I find it extraordinary that the State Government somehow considered that it was not able to address this issue and claimed it was a matter for local government. This is a very difficult area for local government. We already had legislation in force in New South Wales to address this issue, and the member for Cessnock referred to some very specific opportunities. The irony of this issue coming to a head during national Homelessness Week has also been discussed. During sitting weeks I spend a lot of time at Woolloomooloo, and I make it my business to speak to many of the homeless people in the area. From my visits to Martin Place, I have also got to know a little bit about the thinking of Lanz Priestly. I have heard him described as an activist. He is a very astute person with a lot of life experience. It would be ridiculous to deny that in many cases he is making a political statement, but that political statement is about the reality of life for way too many people in New South Wales.

While I disagree with this legislation, it is apparent that the State Government will proceed with it. However, I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the next step and to change the discussion. In my view, negotiations could have continued rather than being brought to a crushing end today by using the weight of government against such few people who are so vulnerable but so obviously visible in Martin Place. I repeat: I am very concerned about the intention of this bill. It is unnecessary and I will not be supporting it.

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