3 November 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak today on behalf of the Greens in support of the Private Parking Areas (Shopping Centre Parking Areas) Amendment Bill. I do want to start my remarks by reflecting on my own journey in terms of my working life and the importance of this bill. I actually got my first-ever job when I was 17, having finished year 12, and it was working in the retail sector. Indeed, I was working for Big W at Westfield in Marion.
I remember—working night shift packing boxes and packing shelves—how difficult it was for me to get home at the end of my shift. That was over 20 years ago now, and in fact there was such an absence of transport that my dad used to come to pick me up late at night to make sure I could get back to the southern suburbs because you could not get a ride home.
It is pretty disappointing that decades on so many of our state's retail workers find themselves in the position where they are often trapped, finding it difficult to get home from work, and then being slugged increasing car parking fees. It is particularly disappointing when one considers what our retail workers have been through over the last three years of this pandemic because we know that their work really is essential.
These are the people who have been at the frontline ensuring that our society could function during the pandemic. These are the people offering critical goods and services to our community, and they were often people copping abuse, copping unfair treatment, and what they have also been copping of late is an increase in their car parking fees, and that is outrageous.
For us in the Greens, we have always recognised the need for these crucial workers to be given free car parking, and that is one of the reasons why we are supportive of this bill. We of course recognise that we should always prioritise alternative forms of transport where possible, but we do acknowledge that travelling by car is necessary for some people, and that is particularly the case for retail workers. As I mentioned, there is often insufficient public transport available for these workers, and I hope that the government will take action to address that over this term of parliament.
The Greens believe that all workers should have safe ways to get to and from work. My office has received over 530 emails in support of free car parking for retail workers at shopping centres, but we have also had a large volume of correspondence from retail groups also calling on better ways to manage car parking.
One of the issues that we have been alive to in the Greens when the government first put this bill forward was the need to find a resolution for hospital workers. Whilst we were supportive of free parking being made available to retail workers in these key shopping centres, for the reasons that I have outlined, we also felt that it was important that that principle should apply to our hospital workers—people who have also been at the frontline of this pandemic and in particular during this really tough flu season—so we have been advocating for the government over some time to deliver a better deal for those workers.
I must say, what the government have come back with is a really excellent solution. What the government are delivering is car parking for just $2.50 for hospital workers, just $2.50. That is cheaper than a cup of coffee—that is $12.50 a week—that is cheaper than a sandwich. This is going to be cheap car parking made available to these workers in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. As a result, car parking for hospital workers will be at the lowest level it has been at for more than 10 years. That is a really good outcome for these critical workers. The other thing that the government have put on the table is they are going to provide free public transport on an ongoing level to workers who do not have access to a car parking permit. That is another terrific win.
It was the Greens who first filed amendments to provide free public transport and free car parking to these critical workers. The Greens came out very strongly on this issue months ago, and we of course welcome the Liberal Party joining the call, and we have now achieved that outcome because the government have delivered this heavily discounted car parking and free public transport, and there is therefore not a need to pursue our amendments. So, I indicate that we will not be supporting the amendments from the opposition in that regard either. The other issue—
The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I hear the Hon. Stephen Wade is interjecting, screaming out 'backroom deal'. I do not make any apology for working to get good outcomes for all workers, particularly those in our hospital sector and those in our retail sector. That is why the Greens are here. The same could not be said of the Liberal Party that, as we know, served the interests of big corporations like Westfield—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: But the other—
The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order, the Hon. Mr Wade!
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, continue.
The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order, the Hon. Ms Franks! The Hon. Mr Simms, continue.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Sorry, Mr President, I heard the Hon. Michelle Lensink interjecting with 'small family business'. She obviously has a very different definition of small family business. I would not describe Westfield as being one of the small family businesses.
Just to go on to some of the other issues in this bill, one of the other issues that we were concerned about was the fact that the bill was going to give local councils a role to play enforcing these car parking provisions. We heard from the local government sector that they did not actually want to be placed in that position and, indeed, many would have a conflict of interest because they manage car parking. That was an issue that we raised with the government, and I understand the government has taken that issue up and will be moving amendments to address that.
Given that all of those concerns have been addressed, we are delighted to be supporting the bill today. I think this is a breakthrough that will be welcomed by not only our retail workers but also our hospital workers as it brings to a close what has been a bit of a saga. It means that heading into the Christmas period those workers will have more money in their pockets, and that is going to be really critical as they continue to deal—as all South Australians do—with this ongoing cost of living crisis. I am proud of the role that the Greens have played to bring these issues to a head.