Casino billionaire, James Packer, is tapping into the uber-rich chinese ‘whale-size’ appetite for gambling in Macau and Melbourne. With his Barangaroo resort casino under construction, Packer is set to dominate the chinese casino market in Sydney. Some say, good luck to him, but behind the scenes what political deals are costing ordinary Australians?
The New South Wales O’Farrell Liberal Government has been happy to comply with whatever Packer wants, as it eyes on promised gambling tax revenue of $114 million a year. No tender required when it comes to Liberal deals. Since when has public tender process or consultation been forthright when multinationals lobby Liberal governments?
Think of all the 1300 jobs at Barangaroo Casino! All outsourced, contracted, casual, Mandarin speaking on 457 visas. The incoming chinese battalion of workers will need somewhere to live close by in Sydney too, paid for by investing wealthy parents back in China!
That’s where Barangaroo’s adjoining heritage suburb, Millers Point, comes in. Nineteenth century colonial heritage Millers Point comprises hundreds of small working class cottages and terraces nestled up on a high point overlooking Sydney Harbour, dating to Sydney’s early settlement days. It is ten minute walk from Millers Point down to Barangaroo via the cliffside stairway, so ideal for prospective housing for chinese casino workers.
The houses, the street and the whole precinct of Millers Point is heritage listed, including its resident public housing community. Millers Point and its inseparable community are legally protected by Australia’s National Trust under the NSW Heritage Act precisely because it was ‘the first real public housing in Australia’. Its long-term residents are in the main, public housing tenants with little or no income and they hold protected 99-year leases.
Many resident have ancestral connections to the place when Sydney Harbour was a working harbour and many worked in harbourside industry. Their landlord used to be the Maritime Services Board, which let the old dwellings to folk working in the harbourside industries since after the Bubonic plague invaded in 1901. For almost a century then to the 1980s when the Housing Commission took over as the government landlord of Millers Point, Millers Pointers have been such.
Steadily, Sydney’s traditional working harbour has been greedily gentrified by corrupted Labor and Liberal state governments and interconnected local councils encouraging revenue raising high-rise residential development. Millers Point residents have been ignored and denied a local supermarket, public education, a public hospital, and most of the usual affordable services of Sydney suburbs.
Millers Point has effectively been under siege by property developers since the Labor Government closed down East Darling Harbour Wharf to the maritime industry.
Problem is that Merriman Street in Millers Point overlooks the massive 22 hectare Barangaroo casino site below from the old clifftop under “The Pill” (see tower above). And this is Packer’s marketing problem for his multi-billion dollar vision for the chinese Barangaroo casino resort. The vision of poor public housing tenants looking down on his uber-wealthy chinese gamblers he thinks will not be a good look. So O’Farrell’s Liberals have been lobbied to convert Millers Point into a white-collar enclave conducive to the high roller chinese whale tourist. Sydney’s Domain has recently come under similar “remodelling” lobbying to be conducive to the chinese gaming whale.
O’Farrell’s Finance Minister, Greg Pearce, since sacked for alleged corruption, revealed his Liberal prejudice toward Millers Point’s tenants: “the government needs to consider it in the context of all of the surrounding areas, including the Barangaroo redevelopment area.” Public housing tenants give off a bad odour. The poor are always with us, but preferably far removed.
Then last August 2013, Liberal Community Services Minister Pru Goward, announced she would be cancelling all the 99 year leases of Millers Point public housing tenants, with a two year forced eviction to make way for wealthy chinese. Goward did not consult the heritage office, the tenants, the National Trust; but which lobbyists?
Millers Point residents don’t want to leave their home and community of decades and so they are protesting their rights against being evicted.
Pru Goward’s discriminatory decree is reminiscent of what the Robert Askin Liberal Government tried to do to The Rocks during the 1970s – highrise it. In March 2014, Goward announced that all buildings would be sold off and as many as 400 tenants forcibly evicted over the next two years, including the descendants of the original Millers Point maritime workers.
The plan is to evict by stealth so as not attract media attention – heavy knocks at the door late a night
Goward says the poor can be dispersed elsewhere, far away and out of sight. According to Pru Goward they are “not good enough” to be overlooking billionaire chinese tourists-come-investors.
In 2011, the previous Keneally Labor Government had similar designs in Millers Point. It had forcibly evicted 130 public housing tenants in the Sydney harbourside suburb of Glebe, demolishing their fifteen apartments in Cowper Street. The government blackmail was that the tenants would only be rehoused once Labor had evicted all Millers Point public housing tenants and banked the proceeds of sales of the Millers Point terraces (probably received from the wealthy chinese).
Under the Liberals, Goward’s media propaganda is slick. She accuses the tenants of hogging dwellings better fit for large families. Goward accuses Millers Pointers of putting their occupation of what she calls “million dollar heritage homes in Millers Point” ahead of apparently 57,000 families on the public housing waiting list. Millers Point dwellings are old and tiny, have no backyards or front yard and unfit for big families.
Goward’s quoted 57,000 families have been inherited by dud working class Labor in NSW ingnored over the previous 16 years under state premiers Carr, Iemma, Rees, and Keneally.
But for Goward and the Liberal lobbying predatory real estate agents, the tenants exist at best; they don’t inhabit. Compared with cash up chinese, poor traditional Australians are ‘terra nullius’.
Goward considers all public housing tenants to be transitory and moveable. “We are determined to move public housing away from being an entitlement, a final destination for most tenants, to a transition point to a better life for those with the genuine capacity to move on.” Ms Goward said. There is no place for the poor to live in the city, just the rich and Sydney has become an international city.’
“We’ll start by having a conversation. We’ll see how much resistance we get.”
Dear Prudence, you live in upmarket Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands! Nice for some.
One would presume that decent chinese eyeing off Millers Point homes would somehow be sensitive to the spectre of forced evictions out of the horrific legacy at the hand of local governments and property developers in China. Chinese evictees have been beaten, imprisoned, and killed at the hands of authorities.