Door-knocking and public meeting bans for politicians at public housing estates

From the Daily Telegraph

POLITICAL candidates have been banned from holding public meetings at public housing estates in a free-speech crackdown critics have labelled “Stalinist”. 066964-public-housing

Under the crackdown, which began last month, door-knocking public housing tenants has also been forbidden.

Yesterday, staff from the Brotherhood of St Laurence, which manages access to meeting rooms at several inner-city housing estates, were forced to cancel a meeting in Fitzroy at which State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews was to address residents.

The ban was made on the orders of the Department of Human Services under new rules that came into effect last month.

Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolly, who has spearheaded a campaign against a state government push for private development on public housing estates, also has had meetings cancelled at a Fitzroy estate.

Opposition Housing spokesman and former housing minister Richard Wynne fell foul of the crackdown last month, when he was banned from door-knocking an estate in Richmond.

Mr Wynne’s office, which had booked the April 24 meeting at which Mr Andrews was to speak, was yesterday told by email the meeting was cancelled “due to a policy update just received from the Office of Housing, which states that political candidates, parties or representatives are not able to book facilities on the estates”.

Cr Jolly described the ban as “Stalinist”, saying the Office of Housing was acting “more like prison warders than landlords”.

“Why should public housing tenants have fewer rights than the rest of us?” he said.

“It’s like North Korea – it’s restricted democracy. Where is it going to end? Are they going to tell them what TV stations they are going to watch?”

Office of Housing spokeswoman Ruth Ward said access for members of political parties to open-space areas or foyers on high-rise public housing estates has been restricted for some years, though she acknowledged “this guideline has not been consistently applied in the past, and this current revision and reinforcement is the Department’s effort to rectify this”.

But Mr Wynne said any suggestion the ban had been place for several years was “completely false”.

The ban has also been questioned by Brotherhood of St Laurence chief Tony Nicholson, who said he would be seeking clarification of the rules from the Department.


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