Saturday, June 4, 2011

Third homeless rights protest

More than 60 people rallied outside parliament house on June 2 in support of rights for homeless people. This was the largest of three protests organised since the issue was raised in state parliament in April in relation to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Police minister Rob Johnson said on April 7 that homeless people would have to “sleep somewhere else'', implying they would be swept from the streets during CHOGM.

Later comments by the community services minster indicated that homeless people would be given accommodation during CHOGM and then put back on the streets afterwards. However, it is not clear if even this promise will be fulfilled.

The rally heard from leading homeless organiser Corey Wilkinson, who had chained himself to the offices of housing minister Troy Buswell on the previous Monday. Wilkinson had tried eight times by that point to arrange a meeting with Buswell but the minister had refused to meet.

Wilkinson asked why it was that the state Liberal government of Colin Barnett was able to offer accommodation to homeless people during the three days of CHOGM, but not for the rest of the year.

Greens parliamentarian Alison Xamon and ALP leader Eric Ripper also addressed the rally. Xamon said she was appalled by recent comments made by Johnson disparaging the plight of the homeless and refusal of Buswell and the government to deal with the issue.

Ripper tried to distance himself from the appalling public housing record of previous state ALP governments. However, he made no specific promises on behalf of the ALP.

Alex Bainbridge spoke next on behalf of the CHOGM Action Network (CAN), saying that he would be more impressed if Ripper could stand before the crowd with a specific number of public houses that a future ALP government would build. “I would be even more impressed if he would stand before us and pledge to wipe out homelessness completely,” he said.

“Not one single person should have to live on the streets.'”

Bainbridge also called on the protesters to help make the protest at CHOGM as big as possible.

[This article by Alex Salmon was first published in Green Left Weekly. Video by Zeb Parkes.]