Australia

Police get tough new powers to tear down Sydney's homeless 'Tent City'

Homeless and displaced people shelter in tents that are scattered throughout Martin Place in Sydney, Tuesday, 8 August, 2017.
Homeless and displaced people shelter in tents that are scattered throughout Martin Place in Sydney, Tuesday, 8 August, 2017. Source: AAP

The NSW government's bill to give police the power to tear down Sydney's tent city for the homeless in Martin Place has passed both houses of parliament.

The NSW government has passed legislation giving police tough new powers to tear down Sydney's homeless tent city, just over 24 hours after urgently introducing the bill.

The bill, which passed the upper house on Wednesday evening without any amendments, was introduced by the government on Tuesday to quickly clear the Martin Place camp.

It will give the government the power to order police to remove people from crown land, including Martin Place, if the lands minister deems there is a "public safety issue".

Lanz Priestley known as the Mayor of Tent City Martin Place in Sydney's Central Business District, Monday, August 7, 2017.
Lanz Priestley known as the Mayor of Tent City Martin Place in Sydney's Central Business District, Monday, August 7, 2017.
AAP

The bill was opposed by NSW Labor and the Greens during debate on Wednesday, who described it as nothing but a smokescreen to mask "political argy-bargy" between two tiers of government.

"It is a sham and a mockery of this chamber, it is indicative of a government that simply do not understand their legislative powers, abilities, do not understand the need to build relationships across levels of government," Labor MP Clayton Barr said during debate in the Legislative Assembly.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the bill was a "new low" from the government and they are giving police new powers to arrest the homeless, rather than providing permanent housing for them.

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.

Sydney City Council trucks are expected to roll into a CBD homeless tent city to move on a large group of people who've been camping at the site for months.
Sydney City Council trucks are expected to roll into a CBD homeless tent city to move on a large group of people who've been camping at the site for months.
AAP

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.

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."

Sydney tent city to move after mayor deal
Sydney tent city to move after mayor deal