Letters 20.3.21

Hands off heritage

THE demolition of iconic buildings often goes by quietly to avoid community outrage.

This has been the case in the destruction of many sites of significant cultural and historic significance. The motive behind this so-called development is always profit and greed.

Historically the CFMEU has played an important role in green-bans. The most significant was the struggle to save iconic places in NSW where Jack Mundey passed into posterity for having led a heroic struggle in saving these iconic places and to his credit this has shaped what Sydney looks like today.

A state funeral for Mundey on Wednesday March 10 in Sydney highlighted, what he as an environmentalist and a militant trade unionist was able to achieve.

The construction union has a role to play in saving our heritage which will help to ensure a connected past and future to enrich the future for our children and the people of WA.

It was with outrage that we recently found out that the iconic building located at 123 Claisebrook Road, East Perth was recently demolished despite community concerns.

As reported by the West Australian the building was put up for sale by former owner Performing Arts of WA who seemed unable to keep up the premises due to the cuts to its government grants. 

Melissa Callanan was quoted in the West Australian on May 25, 2016 saying: “The timing was bad. We had quite a few challenges, so we sought external advice and decided to liquidate the asset and we are exploring starting an endowment fund to support WA artists”.

Both state and local governments should be more active in the upkeep and protection of buildings of heritage value.

In the case of 123 Claisebrook Road it was built in 1890 so 130 years of history has gone.

On December 20, 2017 the City of Vincent approved 5-0 to “the partial demolition of existing buildings and construction of four storey mixed use buildings including one office and 12 multiple dwellings”.

The reality is that only the old bricks were saved and will be used as a fake facade; the rest of the building was destroyed.

The union is not against development but it stands up for the protection of our heritage and the preservation of iconic buildings like its new home at Perth Trades Hall which is back in the hands of those who built it.

Vinnie Molina
CFMEU Organiser
Beaufort St, Perth 

Code red: Gone AWOL

UNTIL 2017 the Vincent Code of Conduct had a requirement for all council members to return calls or emails from community members within a specified time period.

In December 2017 this was [quietly] removed from the Code of Conduct. 

The report that council considered in 2017 gave no indication to the community that the requirement was to be removed. There was no copy of the code with tracked changes provided so we could see what was removed, and the report to council listed just five areas that were being removed from the Code, none of which was the requirement to respond to the community.

Interestingly the report also said that all council members had reviewed and had provided feedback on the revised Code.

I only became aware of these changes after I heard from a number of community members that council members were not responding to correspondence.

I was telling them that the Code of Conduct required a response, so I decided to investigate to make sure that was still true, and that’s when I found out it had been removed.

Move forward to 2021 and the Vincent Annual General Meeting of Electors. A motion to reinstate this provision into the Code of Conduct, and to advertise the Code for public comment was passed by the community.

Because of changes to Regulations the City has come up with a new Code of Conduct.

However, the staff have not included any requirement to respond to the community, and they are recommending that it does not even get advertised for public comment.

The administration’s report did not even address the issue.

So much for listening to the community – it seems to be a lost art.

It will be interesting to see if any council member has the courage to reinstate the requirement to respond to the community, and to advertise the Code for public comment when they meet next Tuesday. I’m not holding my breath.

Dudley Maier

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