The Great Sleeper

In “State up for Grabs” (Sunday Age 16/7) Farrah Tomazin canvasses the idea of the Victorian Greens holding the balance of power after the next State election in 2018. She suggests that Brunswick, Richmond and Northcote could fall to the Greens as a result of a number of issues. Unfortunately she does not canvass the elephant in Labor’s inner city seats – public housing. Under the Housing Minister, Martin Foley, the Labor government has embarked on a policy of privatising public housing by stealth.

The Andrews led Labor government seems to have forgotten the only reason it is in power in their own right is because of public tenants’ support in inner city Melbourne. Albert Park (Martin Foley’s seat), Essendon, Williamstown and even Frankston could be lost because of their unequivocal support for public private partnerships that result in older public housing estates being given to private developers on the understanding that 20% of new units built will be allocated to public housing. What they conveniently forget to tell public tenants is public tenants do not have the right of return and will have to reapply to return to the same estate and that the management of these new estates will be transferred to social and community housing groups. The Andrews led Labor government has thrown its full support for social and community housing groups earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to bankroll the expansion of these groups to the detriment of public housing.

Social and community housing is not, as the Labor government would like Victorians to think, synonymous with public housing. Whether not for profit or profit driven, they are private organisations that set their own rules as far as what tenants they will house and what they will charge them. Public housing provides secure housing for people, especially people who rely on low wages or social security benefits to survive because rents are fixed at 25% of their weekly income. The Greens won Melbourne and Prahran at the last State election as a result of doorknocking public tenants. Martin Foley held his seat of Albert Park by promising public housing tenants they would oppose the Victorian Liberal party’s plans to hand over 12,000 public housing titles to the private sector.

The Victorian Greens are the only political party in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council who are willing to defend public housing and work towards extending public housing stocks despite pressure from the social and community housing sector to step away from supporting public housing. It is political suicide for Daniel Andrews to let Martin Foley continue to run down the public housing sector, transfer management of public housing to social and community housing groups while providing government guarantees and public money to the social and community sector and alienating rusted on public housing tenants from voting for the Labor Party.

Dr. Joseph Toscano / Convenor Defend And Extend Public Housing July 24

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