Hutt Street under fire
Franks says she is confident she has the numbers in the Legislative Council to set up the select committee, which would consider the causes and effects of poverty and homelessness in Adelaide’s CBD.
She told InDaily this morning that as chair of the committee, she would call councillors Alex Antic and Anne Moran to explain what she argues is a significant distinction between their public statements concerning “escalating violence” in the precinct and those made by SA Police.
“SAPOL says that there’s not an escalated crime rate … but the councillors say otherwise,” said Franks.
“I’d be very interested to hear from SAPOL and from Alex Antic and Anne Moran … to put their perspectives on the record and test them.
“The committee will have the power to compel documents and witnesses … willing or not.”
Moran told InDaily she would be happy to appear before the committee to share her knowledge and experience concerning homelessness and poverty in the CBD, but that she would have to be compelled to give evidence if it were intended to “castigate political foes”.
SA Police has stated that while some anti-social behaviour and criminal activity occurs in the Hutt Street precinct, there has been no spike in statistics on crime in the area in recent months.
But Moran argued her views about increasing levels of violence in the area were based on speaking with local traders, and the lack of a spike in police statistics was because locals had given up reporting criminal activity.
She said her statements were consistent with those of SA Police on the subject.
Antic has previously warned someone may be “killed” and there would be “blood” on the council’s hands if it did not act – but he has not responded to repeated requests for comment from InDaily. He is a senior official in the SA Liberal Party.
Superintendent Craig Wall said earlier this month that his officers were working to combat “fear of crime” as much as actual crime in the area.
Franks said the committee, which she intends to establish when parliament returns next month, would have a broad brief to examine the causes and effects of poverty in the CBD, but that it would open with inquiries about the situation in the Hutt Street precinct.
She said the committee would also give a public forum to people who have experienced poverty.
“No-one should be living in poverty in this country,” she said.
Moran said she welcomed any inquiry into the “collapse” of South Australia’s mental health system, the scourge of the drug Ice, the lack of affordable housing and other issues that contribute to poverty.
However, she said that if Franks was “using this committee to castigate two people she sees as political foes … I would have to be compelled to go on that”, adding that denying a problem of violence on Hutt Street was “like being a climate denier”.
She said it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to use a parliamentary committee to “establish facts that have already been well-established”.
Moran was among the invitees to last night’s closed-doors meeting of Hutt Street stakeholders, established by the Adelaide City Council to address “concerns in relation to safety, business tenancy and general amenity”.
She said the meeting was productive and did not escalate into argument.
Instead, concerned traders – as well as residents and representatives from SA Police, Shelter SA, the State Government and the council – were asked to describe what they would like for the future of the precinct and how to achieve it. Moran said traders who disputed the existence of escalating violence in the area were not invited or did not attend.
She said the “elephant in the room” – the Hutt Street Centre, which provides an array of services to the homeless – was not directly addressed.
The chair of the centre’s board, Phil Donato, told InDaily this morning the meeting was “very respectful and constructive”.
“They just wanted to focus on some … practical solutions and how we can all go forward together as a community,” he said.
“It should achieve come good, beneficial outcomes for everyone.”
He added that city council staff would now prepare a report about the meeting’s outcomes, including a number of suggestions about what could be done to improve things in the area. But he declined to say what “solutions” had been suggested, saying that “in the spirit of the working group” he would prefer to wait for that report.
As InDaily revealed earlier this month, the Hutt Street Centre board is considering moving its location or upgrading its facilities in its current location.
Lord Mayor Martin Haese, who also attended the working group meeting, said the information gathered at the meeting would be used to guide “short-term and long-term” action.
“Adelaide remains a safe city but following recent events, people sometimes don’t feel safe and we want everyone to feel safe in the city at all times,” said Haese in a statement.
“We also know that there is an unacceptable number of retail vacancies and that this risks the economic future of the precinct.
“We are working together with government, the community, social services, SAPOL, business owners and residents to help restore confidence in Hutt Street.”
The group is due to reconvene next month.
Help our journalists uncover the facts
In times like these InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to donate to InDaily.