Bothering the mayor might be fair enough – but who wears the cost?

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On Saturday night the Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle was rattled by activists outside his home, protesting the proposed changes to Melbourne’s anti-camping laws. The proposed changes effectively punish people for sleeping rough.

In light of the proposed changes it is ironic hearing Robert Doyle complain about having his home disturbed. I can relate to the sense that the mayor is getting a taste of his just desserts. In many ways it seems like a fair response. (I think our leaders can expect to see more of this kind of action if they allow inequality to keep increasing.)

Fair as it may be, I would question whether the action is likely to have helpful results? The changes to the camping by-law have not yet been passed by Melbourne City Council. Call me naive, but I know that there are people from the street community, the homelessness sector and wider society who are seeking to engage councillors on the proposed changes. If we’re not able to stop the changes, engagement with the Melbourne City Council may make opportunities to influence how the by-law is interpreted and policed. (The proposed changes make the law much more open to interpretation.) If the mayor and his family are rattled, I can’t see him or his fellow councillors being more open to building bridges. This will make things more difficult for people who are sleeping rough in the city, not for psuedo-anarchist hobby squatters.

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