Adjournment: Port Melbourne Housing Estate

17 May 2023

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This adjournment matter was for the Minister for Housing, asking that he stops the demolition and privatisation of Barak Beacon. 


My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Housing, and my ask is that he stops the planned demolition and privatisation of the Barak Beacon estate in Port Melbourne. Last Thursday I joined the residents of Barak Beacon estate, including Margaret Kelly, who is with us in the gallery today, on the steps of Parliament in protest at the government’s plan to destroy their homes. Barak Beacon in Port Melbourne has been home to a community of public housing residents for over 40 years. Residents have lived there for decades. They have raised their families, built friendships and created a close-knit, supportive community. But this community is about to be torn apart as a result of this government’s plans to demolish the public homes on this site, replace them with private housing and funnel profits to property developers.

This is another in the series of public housing demolitions by this Labor government that they insist on pursuing in the midst of a housing affordability crisis. After the rally Margaret went to the office of the Minister for Housing to ask for an appointment, something that she has not been able to gain without going there herself, but instead of meeting her the police were called and Margaret was threatened with arrest. While it was devastating to see this government’s response up close as police created a barrier to entering the building and seemed to surround Margaret, who was inside, perhaps it should not come as any surprise given this government has treated its public housing renters with contempt for years. Instead of looking after its public housing tenants and protecting our precious public housing stock, it has let their homes fall into disrepair, refused to respond to maintenance or security concerns and then moved to forcibly evict tenants when it saw an opportunity to send more money to its mates in the property industry.

Today, 16 May, is the official date on Margaret’s notice to vacate. That is right, this Labor government is threatening to begin VCAT proceedings against Margaret instead of hearing her out. You are threatening to throw her out of her home of 25 years. Margaret wants to talk to the minister about alternatives to what is planned at Barak Beacon.

A study that has been conducted by an architectural firm, Office, has found the site could be refurbished and upgraded for tens of millions of dollars less than what the government plans to spend. If this government actually cared about creating more public and affordable housing, it would keep this land in public hands and get on with building the tens of thousands more public homes we need, not knocking them down. You can try all you want to spin your way out of this with your PR machine, but it will not work.

Labor, you are abandoning public housing. Your Prime Minister reminds us that he grew up in public housing, but the modern Labor Party is now showing its true colours, the colours of neoliberal centrism. You have drunk so much of the neoliberal Kool Aid that you cannot even acknowledge what you are doing.

We are in a housing affordability crisis. Tens of thousands of people are sleeping in cars, in tents, on the streets, on couches. You are making the problem worse, and we know who is writing your housing policy – just this week cosy meetings with the development industry. How can anyone have confidence that you care about affordable housing when you are demolishing our public housing, crushing all our hope that we can ever find a way out of this crisis?

This adjournment was delivered on 16th May, 2023.

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