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Tuesday, 9 November 1976


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

 


Mr MORRIS -I thank the House. Reference to the table shows decrease in the number of prosecutions between 1973-74 and 1974-75. Prosecutions dropped from 358 in 1973-74 to 320 in 1974-75. There was a decrease in the fines paid in 1973-74 and 1974-75. But there was an increase in the amount paid as penalties. Reference to the amount of penalties paid in lieu of court action shows that in 1973-74 $48,556 was paid and that amount increased in 1974-75 to $64,376. That is an increase of almost onethird. But the number of penalties paid was 12 139 in 1973-74. This refers to a situation where offenders have chosen to pay the infringement notice rather than to appear in court. The figure of 12 139 compares with 16 094 in 1974-75. 1 refer again to the fines imposed by the court in 1 973-74. 1 mentioned that the number of prosecutions dropped from 358 to 320 but the fines levied also dropped, from $2,641 to $2,539.

No later information has been made available to the Parliament on these matters. I feel that they are relevant to any proper discussion of the legislation which is now before the chamber. The Government may care to give us some information on this matter at a later stage.

The Minister has told us nothing about how it is expected that the increased penalties will provide better parking facilities at airports, other than to state in the concluding sentence of his second reading speech that some increase in revenue is expected along with cost savings. The motorist who has to take his motor vehicle to an airport will be slugged to provide additional revenue. That seems to be the only major purport of the Minister's speech. If parking is a problem at airports- I understand that it isbecause it is composed of both travellers out of the airport and people coming into the airport as distinct from visitors to airports, then surely the

Government ought to be putting to the Parliament the proposals it has in mind; what parking stations are under way; whether it is proposed to have further parking stations constructed; what re-arrangement, if any, of traffic is under way; and whether holding areas can be built away from the airports outside Australian Government property. In short, some broad plan should be laid down in relation to this problem.

If revenue is to be the issue I point out that only $64,000 was collected in 1974-75, so surely the collection of revenue should not be the prime factor in this legislation. There is a fixed number of vehicle spaces at an airport. We ought to be concerned about how we can make the best utilisation of that finite number of vehicle spaces. Again, in drawing attention to the lack of information from the Government in support of this legislation, I point out that no reference has been made to alternative methods of transport. Has consideration been given to bringing people to the airport? It used to be that airlines transported people and encouraged them to travel on buses from inner city terminals to the airport, but it seems that the utilisation of those vehicles has dropped off. The movement of people from the airport to their destinations is not provided for in any way at all. While revenue seems to be the key to this legislation, I noticed that in the Melbourne Age recently there was a statement that the Tullamarine car parking station was being let out to tender. The report stated that the Department could not afford to construct the parking station itself. I understand from my own inquiries that in some cases the Department lets out parking stations, and in other cases it operates the stations itself. A decision is usually made on the basis of which method provides the highest return.

That matter too is very relevant to this debate, but there is no reference whatsoever to what is being done there. There is no reference to what is happening in Sydney. There is no reference to the facilities which could be provided for visitors to airports, and certainly a large number of people utilise airports. Back in 1960 when Senator Paltridge brought the principal Act before the Senate, he cited the relevant figures and said that 4000 to 5000 vehicles a day were visiting airports, as distinct from internal airport traffic. In the Minister's second reading speech there is no reference to such figures. There is no indication of what has happened since 1960. As I said earlier, that information is relevant. If the Department of Transport is to fulfil its broad policy of co-ordinating the modes of transport, then this is a matter relating to the urban public transport system. Is the urban public transport system designed to cater for airport traffic, or is it simply to be a matter of increasing the fines on parking meters, slugging the motorist another 150 per cent, and hoping that the whole problem will work itself out?

As I mentioned a few moments ago, no reference has been made to the profitability of car parking stations. I do not know of any public information which would give a net result on what happens in parking stations. In a Senate Estimates Committee hearing recently this question was asked:

What is the breakup of the income from parking fees at the major airports?

The answer broke up the income into 2 categories, concessions and departmental, and the total concession revenue for 1975-76 was shown as $832,883. There is no indication that that was net revenue. I have since learned that that was the net return to the Department. It is interesting to note that $543,000- well over half of that amount- came from Sydney airport parking concessions. In the departmental column a figure of $1.37m is shown for Melbourne. The total of that column is $1.7m, and the impression is that it is net revenue, but it is not. It is gross revenue. That is the difficulty involved in trying to determine the net return from services provided on the ground. The Minister might be able to provide some information on that.

I move one stage further to the potential impact of these proposals on car rental firms. Since 1960, and particularly since 1969 when the Avis contract was let, the car rental industry has expanded considerably. I understand that quite a deal of congestion at airports relates to people utilising cars they have rented. The use of cars in conjunction with airports and air travel is very widely publicised throughout the nation, and I think we are all aware of the fairly active public discussion going on between the competing companies in this field. One could not be misunderstood in pointing out that one of the results which will flow from the increased penalties provided in this legislation will be that some of the firms which do not have access to authorised parking areas at airports Will have their opportunity to provide a range of car rental services at airports reduced because of the increased penalties. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong. What I am saying is that this is the time to have a look at the problem because a major part of the car rental problem revolves around the utilisation of flydrive.

As I have said, the wide publicity that is given nationally to flying to a destination, hiring a vehicle when the destination is reached and then returning the vehicle to the airport has resulted in increased demand and in expansion of the industry. The only figures which I could find relating to this matter are contained in replies to questions asked at a Senate Estimates Committee hearing. In reply to a question asking for receipts from Avis last year and the estimates for this year, the departmental representative stated:

Avis paid the Government $465,607 in fees for the year 1975-76. It is difficult to predict an estimate for next year in the present aviation economic climate. The figure could exceed $0.5m. The figures are partly related to passenger traffic, but Avis could be expected to propose that much of the revenue related to Avis marketing and standards of service.

That goes back to the point I made earlier that as a result of the promotions that have been conducted, the market has expanded and this has added to the congestion problem at airports. Brisbane airport is one airport which has a severe deficiency in parking facilities. Certainly there are going to be some very unhappy motorists after this legislation goes through both Houses when they realise the impact of the new penalties.

The increase in utilisation of existing facilities ought to be the objective of this legislation and not the increase in revenue which will surely arise from the increased penalties. I cannot determine the Government's objective, but I believe it relates to an increase in revenue. No information is available on the costs associated with provision of the services; and no information is available on the number of officers involved in policing the parking areas at airports and in removing vehicles under the provisions of the existing Act. The only estimate on revenue for the current year is related to the 3 activities of airport rentals and parking station concessions and totals $2 1.3m. This revenue is part of the whole subject of the aviation industry cost recovery program. I have made this point before and I will continue to make it: While we have secret inquiries and reports about the aviation industry or any aspect of transport, which are not tabled in the Parliament, there cannot be properly informed discussion in the community on the pros and cons of what ought to be done. The McNeil Committee has been looking at publicly owned transport enterprises; the Administrative Review Committee and the Aviation Industry Review Committee all have had something to say about and have some interest in the aviation cost recovery program. I put to the Minister that the tabling of such reports in the Parliament is long overdue so that the information can be examined by everybody and not just be privy to those people who are concerned in the industry.

Ansett Airlines of Australia, Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd are the 3 bodies which constitute the Aviation Industry Review Committee, yet no information is available to the public on which the Committee bases its recommendations to the Government. The Parliament is entitled to adequate information on the Department 's activities and it is entitled to adequate information on aviation cost recovery.

The concept of multiple offences which is brought into being in this legislation is something which to my knowledge does not occur in any other State. In this particular case, where the permitted period is half an hour and a motorist leaves his vehicle longer than the permitted period, a situation could develop where somebody who stays for 2Vi hours in a half hour zone could then be charged with 4 separate offences. Little publicity and little explanation have been given to that. In fact no explanation has been given by the Minister other than to say that there will be increased efficiency in the Department's administration. That is not good enough. The motorist needs to know what is happening.

The staying period at parking meters at airports, particularly at Sydney airport, is IS minutes compared with the usual staying period of half an hour for motor vehicles which are parked at meters in the city. Honourable members can appreciate that it will be very easy for motorists to think that the parking meters at airports allow them to park for one hour or half an hour. This will happen in many cases if the motorists do not read the fine print on the front of the meter. What should be taking place along with the aviation industry review inquiry should be an investigation of the adequacy of parking spaces at airports as well as an investigation of the alternative means of transporting people to and from airports. I separate those people who are actually air travellers and those who are visitors to airports. The last year has seen a decline in the utilisation of domestic airlines and the concept of air traffic has, as I have said, come to embody both car usage and air travel. This legislation provides another barrier in the way of increased utilisation of domestic airlines.

I want to deal now with the dictatorial and high handed confiscation and disposal provisions of this Bill. Sub-section 9 (3) of the Act already empowers the towing away of vehicles. This can be done where a parking infringement is being committed and either the driver cannot be contacted after taking reasonable steps, or if he can be contacted, he refuses to move the vehicle. Sub-clause 6 (b) of the Bill proposes to add seven new sub-sections to section 9 of the Act providing a procedure for disposing of vehicles which have been towed away. The procedure involves notifying the owner that the vehicle has been towed away and that it may be sold if it is not reclaimed and the cost of its removal and storage paid. It provides for the inviting of tenders for purchase and the selling or disposal of the vehicle. The inviting of tenders is not an invariable part of the procedure. Proposed paragraph (6) (d) permits the disposal of the vehicle as the Secretary thinks fit if, in his opinion, it has no commercial value, I emphasise the words 'if, in his opinion'.

Proposed sub-section 9 (7) will authorise the Secretary to dispose of a vehicle as he thinks fit where no tender is received. Under proposed sub-section 9(8) the person who acquires a towed away vehicle as a result of the proposed statutory procedure is given a clear title to it. Any rights of financiers against the vehicle will be extinguished. What of the rights of the owner of the vehicle? It could well be that the owner still has a residue on the vehicle. I could see a situation where the owner is paying for a vehicle that has been disposed of by the Department and he is precluded from having any rights in respect of the vehicle. That owner could be paying off to a finance company an amount of money for something he has not got. Clause 7 of the Bill proposes to insert a section 9a in the Act giving immunity from action for loss or damage arising during or after the towing away of a vehicle.

Neither of these provisions under sections 6 and 7 makes an exception in the case of vehicles stolen or used other than under the control of owners. While section 8 provides that these circumstances provide a defence against fines being levied on the owners, the Bill as drafted makes it possible for a vehicle to be stolen, or used in an unauthorised way, parked illegally in an airport and then be, firstly, damaged or lost by an officer of the Department when removing it, without a right to sue for remedies or damage or loss and, secondly, disposed of at a price suitable to the Department which may involve substantial loss on the market value of the vehicle. There are no procedures for an independent valuation of the vehicle in any circumstances. The Secretary's right of discretion in this matter could well give rise to suggestions that a racket in the disposal of vehicles at some later stage could develop.

In short, the provisions of the Bill are dictatorial and heavy handed. The penalties are onerous. The Minister has not in any reasonable way justified to the Parliament support for these measures. In his second reading speech the Minister denied to the Parliament essential and relevant information. We have no indication of the Government's policy in respect of catering for motorists at airports. One would expect that in this area the Government would be trying to make things easier for people utilising airports rather than using airports as a source of raising revenue. Under these circumstances the Opposition is opposed to the legislation.







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