CANBERRA -- The world's most liveable city has been warned by a senior United Nations official its moves on homeless people is about to "violate international human rights law".
The first months of 2017 in Melbourne have been marked by a crackdown on homelessness culminating in a plan by the Melbourne City Council to ban "camping" in the city and fine people who leave personal items unattended.
Currently, it is illegal for people to sleep in a structure like a tent or car but the proposed bylaw would extend this to people sleeping rough in sleeping bags or on a piece of cardboard.
The protests have been loud and personal. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has been sworn at and heckled and even had late night actions taken outside his home.
The plan, which is poised to go to a vote on March 17, has now got international attention. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said it would make criminals of the homeless and discriminate against an already marginalised population.
"The criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law," Ms Farha said in a statement.
"It's bad enough that homeless people are being swept off the streets by city officials.
"The proposed law goes further and is discriminatory -- stopping people from engaging in life-sustaining activities, and penalising them because they are poor and have no place to live."
Farha said she had been in contact with the Australian government over the Melbourne proposal. The Huffington Post Australia has approached the minister responsible, Zed Seselja, for comment.