March condemns sell-off of Millers Point public housing

Issue 

Several hundred residents of inner-city Millers Point public housing and supporters marched from the Kent Street Fire Station to the Village Green in Argyle Place on March 19 to protest against the ongoing sell-off of their homes by the state government.

Unions, including the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), were well represented in the march.

Marchers chanted, "Millers Point, not for sale" and "Millers Point, here to stay" as they proceeded along Kent Street. Millers Point resident Patricia Corowa told the crowd that she was being threatened with eviction from her home in order to build high-rise, private apartments.

The march commemorated two years since the NSW government first announced the sale of the historic Millers Point public housing properties, and the eviction of their tenants. Over this time, according to the Tenants Union of NSW, 323 of the 398 properties earmarked for sale have been vacated, largely due to a campaign of threats and harassment by the Housing Department.

So far 58 of the properties have been sold, for a total of $150 million, with a median price of $2.4 million. The government has deferred the sale of 28 houses, which it is supposedly offering to some of the remaining tenants.

The Tenants Union estimates the whole sell-off could raise more than $800 million. The Mike Baird government claims that the funds will be used to build new public housing, but there is no indication of this actually happening.

Barney Gardner, spokesperson for the Millers Point Community Working Party, told the rally the remaining residents were determined to stand firm and reject eviction. Ken Canning, Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance candidate for the upcoming Senate election, explained that the resistance by Millers Point residents follows the original resistance by First Nations people around the Sydney area to "capitalist occupation and exploitation".

Other speakers included Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore; ALP deputy opposition leader Michael Daley; independent MP Alex Greenwich; Marrickville Greens councillor Sylvie Ellsmore; Labor social housing spokesperson Tania Mihailuk; CFMEU state secretary Brian Parker; MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer; and Hands Off Glebe spokesperson Denis Doherty.

As the publicity for the rally proclaimed: "The Millers Point community are still here and are still fighting. We celebrate the fact that we are still here in our community, despite the misinformation, intimidation and stress.

"The fight for Millers Point continues. The fighting spirit of the elderly, the frail and vulnerable, continues the struggle to save this community. We are determined to remain in, and save, our community. This community refuses to die!"

Contact mprag@bigpond.com for more information.

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