Homeless people living in Sydney’s tent city could be forced out at any time after new legislation was passed to give police the power to tear down the campsite.
The bill authorises police to remove people from crown land if the land minister deems there is a “public safety issue”.
It was passed in the upper house on Wednesday evening without amendment after being introduced by the government just over 24 hours prior in a bid to quickly clear the Martin Place camp.
The bill was opposed by Labor and the Greens who described it as nothing but a smokescreen to mask “political argy-bargy” between two tiers of government.
Social Housing Minister Pru Goward on Wednesday said the proposed legislation would ensure any unlawful use of Martin Place could be dealt with “appropriately and in a timely manner”.
“This bill underscores the principle that no one … should need to sleep in a tent in Martin Place,” Ms Goward said.
“The new powers are not intended to apply generally or specifically to homeless persons in the City of Sydney.”
Labor MP Clayton Barr, during debate in the Legislative Assembly, said it was a “sham and a mockery” to the chamber, while Greens MP David Shoebridge described the bill as a “new low” from the government.
The move comes after a plan agreed to by the City of Sydney and the homeless tent dwellers to vacate the Martin Place campsite failed.
Both the council and state government have blamed each other for the stalemate.
The opposition said the government already had the laws required to clear the tent city.
But under previously existing laws, the NSW government would need to issue a warrant against the homeless residents, which Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she’s reluctant to do.