With the addition of Australian Marriage Equality’s Alex Greenwich to “Team Clover" — led by Mayor Clover Moore — for the City of Sydney council election, it seems that the pink dollar has finally found itself a political party.
The political force of upwardly mobile, affluent lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people has only recently come into its own.
The transformation of the Mardi Gras from the triumphant political protest of 1978 into a massive and lucrative street party that encourages consumerism, and the correlating metamorphosis of the Oxford Street district from a ghetto-bastion of gay identity politics into a mass of sparkling night clubs, poker machines and escalating street violence has taken place over several years. All of this took place on Team Clover’s watch.
I pastor a church in Paddington, a short walk south from the LGBTI community’s “golden mile”. It’s one of the most affluent suburbs in Team Clover’s district. At least it was … back in 2008, when I started my church, the strip of Oxford St where it was located was dominated by boutique fashion shops and cafes — the kind of cafes where you might pay $15 for a sandwich, or $50 for dinner and a glass of wine. Affluent and trendy.
The horrible contradiction of the area is that to get from your boutique clothes to your delicious food, you might have to step over three homeless people. I can’t count the amount of times I have seen a circle of seven police officers “moving on” an intoxicated and unwell person who couldn’t find their way out of trouble.
God only knows where they eat at these prices, but I can understand why a rough-sleeper would choose this quiet suburb to bed down. It's probably the safest place in walking distance to sleep outdoors. It’s quiet, well lit and has some good sheltered areas.
As a pastor of a predominantly gay and lesbian church, who has talked to a fair number of the one quarter of homeless youth who are gay, what I long to see is public housing in this area. But Team Clover’s policy has consistently been one of promoting commercial development while discouraging public housing.
When I walk from the train station to my church, I pass one of Team Clover’s greatest achievements in the area, Paddington Reservoir Gardens. This lovely little green grotto is a great place to eat your lunch and de-stress. It’s secluded, down a small staircase, and is easily accessible from the street. Moore presided over its reopening in 2008.
But fear not: it is locked at night so that homeless people can’t sleep there. It has become for me, a symbol of the politics of Team Clover: green and lovely for those who can afford to access these things, proudly supportive of human rights and the myth of “equal opportunity”, but useless to the poor.
In the last year, a change has come to Paddington. Much of the boutique fashion is closing down. Prices are going up, and empty shopfronts are multiplying. All of this comes from a heartless council. A council that has known for decades about the problems homeless people face in suburbs like this, but continues to pursue zoning policies that encourage gentrification and an uneven distribution of wealth.
I don’t wish to speak for diverse gender and sexuality groups other than my own. As a gay man who has seen a little bit of what life looks like for other young LGBTI people who find themselves without a supportive home to live in, I know that my community needs better than Team Clover’s pro-corporate approach.
That’s why my queer voice is supporting Housing Action, not Team Clover.
[For more about the Housing Action ticket in the City of Sydney council election visit its website.]