September 13, 2019 News

Over the last 10 years, paid car parking at shopping centres has become more prevalent throughout Queensland. This is a disgraceful episode of corporate greed with Westfield being the main culprit.

SDA members are the pulse that keeps shopping centres alive yet these same centres have rewarded these workers with added costs which they can ill-afford. We have met with centre management and not surprisingly, they hide behind their corporate banner and are unrepentant. No doubt, the centre managers don’t pay for their own car parking!

We have organised petitions, lobbied Councils and held media conferences to no avail. This issue is an Australian wide problem. In New South Wales, for example, democratically elected Councils have opposed the introduction of paid car parking in shopping centres yet these same shopping centre developers have challenged Councils’ decisions in the NSW Land and Environment Court and have always won.

Evidence strongly indicates that online shopping has had a negative impact upon bricks and mortar retailing. Consumers are voting with their feet and are walking away from traditional retailing. You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to realise that online shopping has its attractions and shopping centre owners still demand that customers shopping over a given period of time have to pay for the privilege.

One has to ask, “Are shopping centre owners running a car park or are they running a shopping centre”?

The tragedy is that SDA members are caught in the crossfire. We all have to work to make ends meet. For many members, they started working at, for example, Westfield Chermside, Garden City or Carindale and were able to park in designated areas for free. Over the last 10 years, Westfield has changed its position and started charging staff and customers. This has meant that highly successful corporations have become richer at the expense of those who can ill-afford the additional expense.

Let’s look at the Northern Gold Coast

Westfield Coomera has opened in the last 12 months and has not met its trading expectations. In fact, many customers were inquisitive when it first opened but have never returned. Interestingly, Westfield Coomera is the only centre which charges its customers and staff.

Harbourtown goes from strength to strength whilst Westfield Helensvale and Runaway Bay Shopping Centres continue to trade well. Guess what; Harbourtown, Westfield Helensvale and Runaway Bay have free car parking!

What to do

Many of our members are paying up to $30 per week for the privilege of going to work. This cannot continue. It is also a fact that some Sydney-based centres are now charging retail and fast workers up to $17 per day to park in their centres yet these same centres are receiving free parking exemptions from the NSW state government.

This is just not fair.

I have come to the conclusion that the best way of fixing this issue is that the key stakeholders need to join me in visiting the Queensland state government. We need the government to pass legislation which will enable workers and customers to once again park for free in shopping centre car parks.

I have sent invitations to representatives of the Woolworths Group, Wesfarmers Group, Coles, Aldi, David Jones and Myer to meet with me and then head off and make representation to the government. These companies have invested 100s of millions of dollars in their brick and mortar retailing and they need to make a return on their investment.

We at the SDA want shopping centres to be successful because it means that retail and fast food workers can gain and retain employment.

Yet at the same time, we don’t want our members paying for the privilege of going to work.

I am determined to pursue this issue with the state government with or without the retail representatives because it is a ‘bread and butter’ issue for our members.

I will continue to keep members posted on this important issue.