by Dee McLachlan
I may be wrong, but it seems that the price of parking in the “Brave New World” (that Australia is becoming), has risen disproportionately — and looks set to be prohibitive.
I have been travelling back and forth between Melbourne and Sydney recently, and have been trying to avoid being fleeced at the airport parking lots. It seems the airports are designed to rip you off. Even the ACCC thinks so. In an article entitled, “Watchdog slams airport parking rip-off,” they report that “Melbourne Airport earns the highest margin on parking at a whopping 73.2 cents in the dollar — an increase of 20 per cent on year before.”
Parking Costs A Future Indicator
Something doesn’t seem right when renting a space 2.5 x 5.4 m for one hour is more than the minimum wage (currently $17.70/h). Parking, for example, at Wilsons Car-park in Pitt Street in Sydney during the day between 11 am and 3 pm will cost $84 ($21/h).
Well maybe the owners are making large profits and at least contributing to the tax burden? In a Sydney Morning Herald report entitled, “Wilson Parking’s tax numbers appear to defy economic reality,” Michael West writes:
“Parking charges are eye-watering, but you may be surprised to hear that car-parking companies toil for paper-thin profit margins.
“The company had failed to comply with the Corporations Act and get its financial statements in on time for the past 18 years… left incorrect details about its ultimate holding company in ASIC’s registers for 12 years… (etc.)
“It is no small irony that Wilson has its security guards stationed at court houses and the Australian Taxation Office.”
The Wilson Group was also targeted by protesters last November in Brisbane for its part in controversial practices at refugee processing camps at the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres.
Wilsons are also in health care (providing ” world-class health services and pre-hospital care education”), but I haven’t tested them in that area.
I just see parking as an indicator of how we are going to be fleeced – and thus “controlled” — in the future. It happens that Wilsons do both of these.
A quick search on who owns Wilsons Parking Holdings, leads to the Kwok family. Does it surprise you when the search brings up?:
“Thomas and Raymond Kwok, two [billionaire] brothers who control Sun Kai Properties, the second largest property company in the world, were arrested (in 2012) by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption Thursday — [charged with bribing a Hong Kong government official in July 2012].”
Thomas Kwok was jailed for 5 years.
Leaked documents, obtained by the Four Corners show, showed that the brothers covertly remained directors of the offshore company that controls Wilson’s operations in Australia. (However, Wilson insisted the Kwok brothers were never directors of Wilson Security.)
Beach Parking and Private Fines
In St. Kilda (Melbourne) parking at or near the beach is around $4.80 per hour. For someone who wants to pop down and walk their dog for an hour or two each day — they better be earning much more than minimum wage. And for those working on lesser salaries, there are crappier, less desirable places that only charge $1.20 per hour. “Go there.”
Also, many of these parking areas are privately owned or leased. And beware — if you break your “contract” and extend your stay by a few minutes — these private companies fine you. This is privisation in its grandest form.
They will attempt to punish you for an extended service — of around $88. And the fine will be disguised to look like an official Council fine.
In this example, in St. Kilda, the ticketing company issuing the fines is also a private contractor — called CARE PARK (Care?). And if you don’t immediately pay up, a threatening letter arrives intimating that it is a “criminal offense” if you do not pay.
Question: Do they have the right to access registration details?
At least Consumer Affairs Victoria issued a public notice warning of the company’s tactics and was
“…alerting people the company was not a law enforcement agency.”
But these companies are acting like law enforcement bodies. Generally speaking, they cannot impose ‘fines’, but disguise it in legalese, referring to “liquidated damages.”
$1,000 Parking Fine – A Tactic
What’s the saying: “Kick someone when they’re down”.
Monique Garcia raced her 13-year-old son to Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital emergency recently. After spending two hours with her son, she returned to her car, and found a $1,000 fine on her windscreen. The shock might have landed her in emergency.
“I have hardly any savings, that’s going to wipe me out, all because I took my son to get assessed at the hospital,” Ms Garcia said. The fine print provided an option. If she paid early, she would only have to pay $200.
Fortunately the media fuss on the 5th of August resulted in Health Minister John Day waiving Ms Garcia’s and all other current hospital parking infringements.
But, I’m sure this over-charge tactic will become the norm.
A fed-up Adelaide man, as a protest, decided to pay his $60 parking fine entirely in 5 cent coins. He withdrew 1200 coins and then visited the council. The worker behind the desk agreed he could pay cash — but refused to take payment when he dumped hundreds of coins on the desk, making him even more disgruntled.
But the law is not on his side. Even though coins are legal tender, the Reserve Bank of Australia confirms there is a limit: “if someone wants to pay a merchant with five cent coins, they can only pay up to $5 worth of five cent coins”
I wrote about the disadvantaged single mother who had accrued $342,050 in fines — predominantly for unpaid tolls on EastLink and CityLink — a public private partnership. Fairfax Media obtained figures revealing outstanding toll warrants of almost $687 million for 2014/15 — 80% up from 2012. What was the total earned from paid fines? And who gets this money?
One is reminded by the rioters — self-styled Jack-a-Lents — “many naked with their faces blacked” that destroyed tollbooths and turnpikes in the 1700s in England.
As a society, we are becoming acclimatized to exorbitant parking fees and disproportional fines. They have become the norm. And this acceptance paves the way for all sorts of other ingenious rip-offs for raising private and government revenue from the masses.
Soon, they’ll be fining you for taking the rubbish out early. Oh, already doing that. 13,841 New Yorkers were slapped with up to $300 in fines for dragging their trash out to the curb too early.
The parking fee trend is like the canary in the mine — with private companies looking like government, and taking over the role of law enforcement, financial punishment and revenue raising.
(More on privitsation and the TPP soon.)
Any suggestions on how to fight this will be well received.