NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in early August commented that the sight of Sydney’s homeless camping out in Martin Place made her feel “completely uncomfortable”.
It’s only right that Berejiklian feel discomfort after the many things the NSW government has done during her short reign to make the rest of us uncomfortable.
Berejiklian has appointed a hard “pro-life” politician to the women’s portfolio, readying a renewed attack on abortion rights. Her government is overseeing cuts to Sydney trains on the western line, with peak hour services to and from Penrith set to be cut by a quarter by next year, only worsening what is already the most crowded rail line for commuters.
Most poignantly, however, her government has continued the tradition of being run by property developers. The NSW Land Registry, which collates and manages titles and deeds, has been leased for 35 years (effectively privatised) to a consortium of financial and property concerns, paving the way for Sydney and wider NSW property prices to rise even higher under its monopoly.
Berejiklian’s government has also continued the campaign against public housing and public buildings. The Powerhouse Museum is being moved to Parramatta, and its valuable Ultimo location has been earmarked for luxury apartments.
This is not to mention the long efforts to remove the public housing tenants from Millers Point and the historic Sirius building at the Rocks, as well as historical sites in central Newcastle – all to make way for developers.
There are more than 90,000 empty residential dwellings in Sydney. It would be entirely possible for every homeless person in NSW to be housed in these vacant homes.
Berejiklian might feel uncomfortable having to walk past homeless people. Any decent person should find it uncomfortable that developers and investors are sitting on unused property while others are sleeping rough.