Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [5.54]: I draw to the attention of the House a serious situation that is developing in my electorate involving the obnoxious practice of wheel clamping. This practice is occurring in particular in a number of flats or blocks of units in or in the vicinity of Moore Street, Liverpool.
Mr Kerr: That is where he has his branch meetings.
Mr LYNCH: They would not be big enough for my branch meetings. A company called Community and Industrial Protective Services is pursuing this obnoxious practice at the request of various strata bodies in some of the units. The company clamps cars and imposes a fine of $285. Unless that money is paid forthwith the cars are towed away. They will not be released to the owners until the money is paid. The amount of $285 is much more than most authorities, such as police or local councils, would impose for parking illegally or improperly, and removal of cars is not a practice of police or councils. These procedures are taken without any regard to the merits of the case. Those running the scheme are not interested in excuses; they simply want the money to be paid.
A number of cases have been brought to my attention. Ms Hediye Mertcan parked her car in a visitors parking space at 142 Moore Street while she visited a friend at 132 Moore Street. She parked her car at 2.15 p.m. and it was clamped at 2.20 p.m. The clamps were not removed until she paid the money. Because it took only five minutes for the car to be clamped, she was probably observed parking it. One must ask why the observer did not make her aware of her error. This sort of practice is absurd. Another case that came to my attention involved a man I have known for some time, Jaime Hernandez, who was the driver for the late President of Chile, Salvador Allende. Mr Hernandez received an urgent phone call from someone who resided in a block of units. That person had been robbed and was in a state of considerable distress. Jaime drove with some urgency to the area and parked in the best place he could find, and fell foul of those who run the scheme. Both people involved in these cases had excellent excuses.
I suspect if parking police dealt with such situations and representations had been made to them, there would be no chance of fines being imposed. This private gung-ho scheme does not allow for such flexibility. Another case, which has been reported in the media, involved a car being clamped. The owner of the car said, "I am not having this," and sat on the bonnet and refused to
move. Police were called. They threw their hands in the air, and said - not unreasonably and quite understandably - "This is a civil matter. What can we do about it?" Such behaviour will eventually lead to a breach of the peace. It is absurd that people can use such a scheme and levy such amounts of money.
In addition to the cases I have mentioned, solicitors from the Legal Aid Commission office in Liverpool have contacted me; apparently there is a plethora of other cases I have not mentioned. People have formed long queues outside the Liverpool legal aid office to ascertain the legality of such a scheme. There is an argument that an action in tort could be taken against those clamping cars, but the cost involved is prohibitive. It is absurd. Perhaps there is an argument that wheel clamping causes injury to property, but there is an issue about how one defines "malicious" under the Crimes Act. Using the courts to resolve the issue is not terribly sensible. The overall scheme is thoroughly unsatisfactory. One can clearly imagine why people who, in all good conscience, park in a particular place and come back to find their vehicles wheel clamped become quite angry. It is inevitable that a breach of the peace will occur if this sort of procedure continues. [Time expired.]
Mr AQUILINA (Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [5.59]: Coincidentally, last Sunday I attended the sixtieth birthday celebration of a very close friend Mr Lino Vella, the editor of the Maltese Herald. On asking him what sort of week he had had he replied that it had been dreadful. In the previous week his car had been wheel clamped at Merrylands. He described the odious practice, which I had not heard of previously. Thankfully it does not occur in Blacktown and the western areas. He told me he arrived, saw that his car was being wheel clamped, but the people continued to clamp it. The honourable member for Liverpool said that people often have an excellent excuse for parking their vehicles in a particular place. Mr Vella was over the two-hour limit by something like five minutes, but already people were wheel clamping his car and demanding an extortionate amount of money to release it. He called the police, who threw up their hands in despair and said, "This is basically a civil matter." Mr Vella refused to budge from his car because he would not allow it to be towed away. A lot of people were summonsed for the same reason. Under what authority do these people wheel clamp cars? What authority do they have to remove the property of others and take it into possession for the payment of a $280 fine or whatever else they determine?