From the Socialist Party’s Hands Off Melbourne’s Estates (HOME) campaign news:
After beating back the governments plans to build private apartments on our open space at Fitzroy and Richmond the campaign has now turned its attention to Prahran where the government has said that that are still going ahead. HOME activists have done some street stalls in Prahran and put up some posters around the estate in the past couple of weeks. So far we have made a few contacts with residents there but we need to get in touch with more. We want to call a meeting in Prahran but we need help with jobs like letterboxing the towers. If you or someone you know lives on the estate, and can help please, let us know or come to our meeting this week.
Committee meeting this Thursday
We will be discussing how to further our work at Prahran as well as elsewhere at the HOME campaign committee meeting this Thursday May 2 at 6pm in the community rooms under 140 Brunswick St in Fitzroy. Anyone who wants to help with our work is invited to attend. If you have any queries feel to email back here or call 96399111.
THE STATE Government has scrapped its ban on political meetings on housing estates after the threat of legal proceedings.
But the DHS spokeswoman Ruth Ward confirmed the guidelines were now being revised.
“In the interim, there is nothing restricting external parties from holding meetings in community facilities on estates,’’ Ms Ward said.
Ms Ward did not specify whether the government would remove bans on doorknocking and messages on notice boards.
The reversal comes after the the Human Rights Law Centre took action on behalf of two tenants of the Fitzroy Housing Estate.
Law centre executive director Hugh de Kretser wrote to the DHS and Housing Minister Wendy Lovell saying the bans unlawfully limited human rights.
“There is a strong case that aspects of the policies breach residents’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly which are protected under Victoria’s Human Rights Charter,’’ Mr de Kretser said in a statement.
Socialist Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly welcomed the revision of the rules, which he said were brought in following a successful community campaign against development of private housing on Richmond and Fitzroy Housing Estates.
“This was an outrageous attempt to stifle political dissent. We need a Minister who will work with tenants to improve public housing, not work against them,’’ Cr Jolly said.
State Labor member for Richmond Richard Wynne has also been a strident critic of the ban.
From the Daily Telegraph
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.