Forget the collapse of the Queensland hospital system. The issue which
dwarfs all others is funding – funding for the next election campaign.

Developers,
with their beachfront and urban vertical profiteering, already
contribute to funding. But their undying gratitude stems from Peter
Beattie’s inspired facilitation of slum development in what are still
respectable suburbs, simply by not doing what previous governments have
always done to prevent this happening.

With any real estate
boom, rents are sucked into the updraft and first home buyers are
eliminated; to be thrust back onto the rental market and compounded
competition. Add to this scenario the high price of fuel, cost of
living increases and falls in wages as hours are reduced to combat fuel
price-generated productivity costs; and budgets exceed incomes.

With
rents for houses well beyond reach, couples and families are left with
no choice but to share units and townhouses, and overcrowding ensues
with ever-increasing noise levels and inter-tenancy hostilities. As
babies and children join the equation, disposable nappies and an
expanded volume of grocery wrappings force wheelie bins to overflow and
rats move into the neighbourhood. The first rat bite of an infant will
be headline news and the suburb’s reputation will crash.

With
workers’ only two means of income protection – awards and unions –
demolished by a Government intent on introducing third world poverty in
the form of outsourcing and insourcing, there is only one way to go.
Down.

Very rapidly, these suburbs become associated with
dilapidated For Sale signs, abandoned vehicles and disowned parts.
Developers quietly buy up the worst properties but retain thesigns
to encourage further market falls and to discourage prospective
homeseekers. Local homeowners become trapped by the low sale prices,
and if they sell they can’t afford to buy elsewhere. Meanwhile, the
values of adjacent suburbs plummet as desperate sellers flee the
dramatic rise in local violent crime.

The result: developers
can acquire formerly desirable city perimeter suburbs at bargain
basement prices rather than wait for the natural urban attrition of
many decades.

So where does gratitude to government come into the equation? The
Housing Commission would normally absorb that part of the population
which can’t afford private market rents and overcrowding would be
firmly prevented by the Health Department. With this and other
measures, social and economic stability is preserved.

But
as part of a nationwide abandonment of century-old Labor principles,
our Pete – the developer’s man on the inside – has supervised the
destruction of the all-important Housing Commission factor and
he has permitted increasingly extortionate rentals, that age-old method
of transferring the incomes of workers to wealthy landowners.

Now we understand Peter’s cute and boyish grin.

Tony Ryan has a background in the union movement, community welfare
and social research, rural land development, Aboriginal consultation,
tourism, and real estate. He is author of several papers on Aboriginal
development issues, and the 2005 book, Delusions of Democracy.

Peter Fray

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