Private Car Parks

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Road Safety Amendment (Private Car Parks) Bill 2015. It was cheeky and mischievous of the member for Bayswater to say that the opposition is supporting this bill because it will be interesting to watch the results after it is enacted. It will be interesting to watch because those opposite know it is the right thing to do. It is further mischievous of the member to claim that she supports this bill, because when she was the Minister for Consumer Affairs she did nothing in relation to addressing this issue — —

Ms Victoria — I said we would not oppose the bill. There’s a difference.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — Right. The coalition does not oppose the bill, but Consumer Affairs Victoria, within the now Department of Justice and Regulation, has known about this issue for a long time, so I am sure the member for Bayswater, as the former minister, has also known about it for a long time. Again, it has taken a Labor government to do the right thing by people who do not have the power themselves to ensure the right thing is done for because of what appears to be collusion between the state and private car park operators.

I am proud to speak on this bill and I am proud that this is an election commitment we are fulfilling. The bill has broader community support. As others have said, the Consumer Action Law Centre has been campaigning for this reform for years. In fact, some years back, I went to the website of the Consumer Action Law Centre to look for a pro forma letter to defend myself against one of these unscrupulous providers.

As far as I am concerned, there are two main issues in relation to this bill. There is the fact that, as the member for Dandenong and others have said, people’s private data should be protected. The integrity of data provided to the state should be protected, and it should only be released when it is appropriate to do so and only to an appropriate person or authority. Under this legislation the threshold in relation to when data should be released will be high. No-one on this side of the house thinks that threshold is met by private car park providers. As the member for Dandenong and others have said, the issue is about the integrity of the data.

The second issue is that I do not think the state or these private companies should collude for this purpose. While it has not been an active interest of the state to collude on this matter, because of the loophole that has been left open, from a distance it looks like the state and these private companies are colluding to defraud people of their money on a wishy-washy basis. It is about time this was addressed. I am very pleased we are addressing it today in this chamber.

We have heard a lot of discussion about the rights of normal car park operators. The bill will not impact on them in the least. Even those operators who are the subject of this bill can make amends; they can change their business practices to continue to operate as private car park operators of repute rather than being dodgy operators.

Proposed section 90R of the act will not prohibit private car park operators from including liquidated damages clauses in private car parking contracts nor will it prohibit private car park operators from issuing payment notices that seek liquidated damages from car park customers who are alleged to be in breach of the car park’s terms and conditions. That protects the rights of private car park operators. The bill prevents operators from using a process of discovery that is available, a normal legal mechanism available for the justice system to work appropriately, to circumvent justice and extract extra profit from unsuspecting victims. That is what this bill tries to stop, and I think that is a good thing.

My friend Geoff Lake, a councillor at the City of Monash, just last week provided Clay Lucas with an article for the Age that reminds us of the kind of shady dealings we are seeing in this industry. The story referred to an operator who not only provided a legal service to one of these dodgy private car parks — and I stress that the majority of them are reputable — but also ran a debt collection agency. You would almost question why, as a lawyer, he would have any incentive to make the person who allegedly owes money conform, when he wants to receive some profit through the debt collection arm of his business downstream. The article states:

A Boroondara councillor has emerged as the owner of both a debt collection agency and a law firm issuing controversial legal claims against motorists who overstay in private car parks.

The role of Cr Jim Parke, as sole owner of Crown Collections and Parke Lawyers, who act for Care Park, was revealed after proceedings were issued for overstaying against Monash councillor Geoff Lake.

Cr Lake was quoted as saying:

It’s pleasing the state government is now legislating to stop people like Jim Parke from ripping off unsuspecting people and amassing a personal fortune out of it.

I could not have said it better myself.

I commend the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, who is in the chamber, on this bill. It is an excellent bill, and it is the right thing to do for the right people under the right government. I commend the bill to the house.

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