Backyard Car Dealers

27 May 2010 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs, who is also Minister for State/Local Government Relations, a question on the issue of backyard car dealers

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members may recall that we changed the Second-hand Vehicle Dealers Act 1995 last year to amend and bring up to date some of our legislation. I note that the minister issued a press release in February this year in which she stated that the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs would target backyard car dealers using data held by other government agencies and private organisations to determine where they were operating.

There has been some consternation in the press in relation to new by-laws which have been issued by the Onkaparinga, Mid Murray, Port Augusta, Robe and Yankalilla councils, which are seeking to ban movable signs, such as 'For sale' signs in cars. The by-law apparently makes it an offence to park not just on council property but also on roads. My questions are:

1.Has the minister had discussions with local government and OCBA in relation to this issue?

2.Is there any relationship between the proliferation of council by-laws and OCBA's activities?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:26): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. Indeed, the issue of 'For sale' signs in parked cars has received some media attention recently. However, to the best of my knowledge, our office is yet to receive a complaint by a member of the public, that I am aware of at least. Nevertheless, I do accept that it has attracted some attention.

Some councils have adopted by-laws that regulate the display of advertising in parked cars. The City of Onkaparinga has stated that the by-law was adopted following complaints from residents about cars for sale parked in prominent places, particularly on busy thoroughfares, where it is deemed to be unsafe to have people pulling in and hopping out of vehicles and checking out cars for sale.

The Local Government Act does allow for such by-laws to be made. In May 2009, the LGA circulated a model by-law to councils. The movable signs by-law included a provision that allows councils to regulate vehicles being offered for sale on road verges where councils wish to do so. The provision states that a person must not, without the council's permission, display those movable signs.

The LGA informed councils that the proposed provision captures only those vehicles parked primarily for the purpose of advertising. Accordingly, any vehicle, no matter what the advertising, that has simply pulled over or is parked for any ordinary reason obviously would not be captured by this by-law.

I met with the LGA quite recently, and this issue was discussed at that meeting. We have agreed that the government and the LGA should sit down and develop some guidelines to be made available to councils to inform them on a fair and reasonable way to apply the particular by-law. The LGA was very pleased and agreed to do that with us, believing that that would be a much simpler and quicker response than trying to amend a by-law to reflect those sorts of more subtle intentions. After all, the intention of that particular by-law is really primarily focused on public safety and not obstructing traffic flow. As I have said, the LGA is more than willing to assist the agency with developing guidelines to reflect that quite clearly.

I am happy to then apply those guidelines and monitor how councils operate under those guidelines. Clearly, the guidelines would be voluntary but, if there was an indication that some councils were still being too heavy-handed or what I consider to be unreasonable in the way in which they are applying the by-laws, I would look for other mechanisms to rectify that. I believe that councils generally have applied this by-law, as I said, mainly around issues of public safety and maintaining good traffic flow.

In relation to second-hand car yards, I am not absolutely sure of the intent of the question. The issue of private property came up, such as an office block that has an empty car park over the weekend and a number of individuals park their cars in that private lot for the purpose of selling those vehicles privately.

There are a number of scenarios. Sometimes there are individuals who want to sell their own vehicles privately, and it just so happens that the private lot is in a particularly visual position, so lots of locals might use that lot over a weekend. So, you might have a collection of vehicles in one location. There is also the issue that second-hand car dealers are sometimes moving some of their vehicles into those lots as well, which, of course, is improper use of that private property.

The local council does not have jurisdiction over that private space, so it is not able to police, if you like, the use of that parking lot. A complaint would have to come from the owner of the actual property—they could pursue a complaint of trespass, for instance. So, unless the private property owner does that, there is not a great deal that can be done about people selling vehicles in those private lots. We did discuss that as well. However, in terms of people parking their vehicles on roads, that is within the purview of local councils, and we are looking to ensure that we have by-laws in place that operate in a sensible way and are not heavy-handed.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:32): Does the minister have an expectation of when the guidelines will be completed, and did she request that the LGA have a moratorium on the issuing of fines until the guidelines are completed?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:33): The guidelines should not take very long. It is a fairly simple mechanism. No time frame has been set at this particular point in time. We have asked the agency to meet and go through and scope it, and look at what it thinks is possible. It would be quite a simple and straightforward process, so I cannot imagine that it would take a great deal of time.

At this time I do not believe a moratorium is necessary. As I said, my office has not received—to the best of my knowledge—one complaint on this matter. The issue has received a high public profile, and the LGA is also very aware and sensitive to the way councils are applying these by-laws. I think there is a very clear message that it is expected that councils apply these by-laws in a sensible way and not be heavy-handed.