Privatising public land and parks

Ever since Expo 88 successive governments and Brisbane City Council have been privatising public spaces.

Take for example the South Bank Corporation. It controls public spaces along the river in Kurilpa (South Brisbane) … the rules that that corporation uses are very restrictive. It has its own private police force. For example, I was banned from going to South Bank for six months after I held up a banner opposing the Queen’s visit to that place.

Gabba Councillor Jonathan Sri is opposing the privatisation of the Howard Smith Wharves under the Storey Bridge at Kangaroo Point. Councilor Sri is supported by Belinda from Space for Cycling

Apart from the valid arguments they make, what concerns me is the loss of democratic space. What is civil society without expression of the popular will where people can gather? We used to have the domain but now we have very little.

1998 demonstration in the parklands above Roma Street Station.

The stage is still there above Roma Street Parklands … its weird that it is not used more often because King George Square is a marketplace of bars, eateries, coffee shops and big screens, a thoroughfare of concrete, body beautiful but brain dead. 

Queens Park is a construction site soon to be another casino (yet another defeat for public space).

Redacliff Place is too small and has buses going by every few minutes (seconds).

Blotting out the space now called Roma Street Parklands as a venue for mass demonstration has something to do with the modern political dynamic.  It was here that the MUA – Here to Stay High Court victory was celebrated in 1998. Just down the road in Wickham Park, near the Tower Mill, the anti-apartheid protests challenged the racist South African regime in July 1971.

Organising groups want to be near where people are and so convening in King George Square is understandable. 

However to slavishly  organise rallies like that every time dilutes both politics and organisation. There is a word for it, populism. But in this case the populists are not popular (for the most part).

Some groups are very knee jerk and opportunistic. Their answer to everything is to call a King George Square rally on Friday at 5.30pm even if the numbers descend to 20 people. Same old.

The unions hardly ever organise rallies any more … except for May Day where we use the Exhibitions Grounds which can be messy and divisive. Musgrave Park and Some unions set up in the arena … remember you brought Kevin to the 2008 May Day to go on the rides … well the rides are still there for the kids.

Ian Curr
3 August 2021

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