Defend the Redfern Block, abolish the RWA


The reason for the existence of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority (RWA) can be summed up in just two words: corporate greed.

Greedy developers have long been eyeing Redfern, a Sydney suburb one train stop away from the CBD with city skyline views, sandwiched between rapidly gentrifying inner-city suburbs. Standing in the way of billions of dollars of corporate profit is the Redfern community, and at the heart of it the historic Indigenous community, the Redfern Block.

The NSW Labor government has been trying to disappear this community for years and the RWA, set up under the infamous part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Infrastructure and Other Planning Reform) Act 2005, is its final solution.

Under this law, NSW planning minister Frank Sartor can assume "development authority" for any development he deems "state significant", bypass local councils and regulations and just do it.

And there can be no doubt about what Sartor aims to do. Just a year after dramatic TV footage of the "Redfern riot" bounced around the world, Sartor walked into the offices of the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), which owns the Block, and bluntly said he didn't want any Aboriginal housing there.

A shocked director of the AHC, Peter Walker, told the media: "I believe … the government, for whom Mr Sartor represents, are wanting no, to be blunt, no black faces on the Block. That's the position pushed by some property developers."

This is corporate greed-driven racism in its most naked form. The Socialist Alliance totally opposes the formation of the RWA, the purposes for which it was formed and the structures and processes established for its operation. We call for the abolition of the RWA and the repeal of the legislation that forms and empowers the RWA.

The RWA is just one example of the trend by all state governments to remove major development projects from regulation and scrutiny by local government and other regulatory authorities charged with protecting community and environmental interests. This has been a device to advance the privatisation and profits-first agenda against the interest of the community and the environment — as the experience of the first two years of the operation of RWA confirm.

Sartor has not delivered on promises of community consultation, and the RWA plans that have been announced reveal that this is another private-public partnership (PPP) scam like the notorious Cross City Tunnel and the airport rail link.

PPPs mean public subsidies for private corporations undertaking infrastructure developments that go against the interests of the community and the environment. The NSW Labor government has set up nearly $15 billion worth of these PPP scams, and already the public has seen some of their terrible costs, including:

•$800 million in taxpayers' funds squandered on the airport rail link — a project we were promised would cost taxpayers nothing;

•$25 million already paid to the builder of the Lane Cove Tunnel for the government's tardiness in narrowing Epping Road to push drivers into that tunnel; and

•the still-to-be-discovered public financial cost of the bankrupt Cross City Tunnel.

But this is probably just the tip of the iceberg because many of these cosy deals between state governments and their private "partners" remain hidden on the pretext that it is commercial-in-confidence.

The Socialist Alliance believes that all development projects, big or small, should be fully subject to public scrutiny, democratic control and regulation in the interest of the community and the environment. All major development projects should be under the control of the public and their governing boards should be elected by the community; accountable to the public; and subject to recall by the electorate; and provision should be made for major issues to be submitted to community-initiated referenda.

Therefore, Socialist Alliance calls for direct community participation (through direct democracy, not just "consultation") in the development, finalisation, implementation and ongoing evaluation of any plan for Redfern-Waterloo. We are committed to fighting for a future for the area in which the most marginalised have decent housing, and not just those who can afford to live in a gentrified inner-city.

We would support a plan to assist the Redfern community develop cooperatives and other enterprises under their control. Such a plan should also include quality public housing.

The Socialist Alliance wants to see the number of public housing units sharply increased and public housing extended beyond "welfare housing" to more broadly available public housing that steadily replaces the private housing market that is increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible for most of the population.

The Socialist Alliance opposes the current government position of reducing the proportion of the population in public housing in Redfern-Weterloo by doubling the local population while maintaining the same number of public tenants. We totally oppose public private partnership redevelopment of existing public housing.

The Socialist Alliance opposes the sales of parts of North Eveleigh and the former Rachel Foster Hospital site to fund the redevelopment of the area.

The notion that it necessary to privatise public assets to preserve other public utilities is dead wrong. It is a refrain the NSW state Labor government repeats ad nauseum, and it is driven by the close relationship between the state government and its developer mates (the NSW Labor Party and the Coalition have received over $7.7 million dollars between them in donations from developers over the last three years).

The Socialist Alliance repledges its support and solidarity with the Redfern Block Aboriginal community and the broader Redfern-Waterloo community and stands alongside these communities in their fight to determine a future that is in the interests of the community and the environment, not that of the developers.

[Pip Hinman is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Marrickville, which includes the Redfern Block, in the March 24 elections. A fuller statement of the Socialist Alliance position on the RWA can be read at: . Other Socialist Alliance policy statements for the NSW elections can be accessed at .]

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