As a former Government Housing Minister in Victoria, I found that when I was chair of the Senate Hearing Services Committee, which was then known as the senate housing committee, that it was time to put some funding into the accessibility needs of all residents in the state. This was not only an issue of equity for the many people who were born with disabilities, but also an economic one because without the revenue that is generated through the so-called coffee break garage for everyone program, we would be facing problems with the budget. As everyone in the country will know, it is difficult to balance the books on a yearly basis. This is why this debate has been brought up and why there is an ongoing concern about the lack of accessibility. This hearing is also a way for me to voice my views on the impact that the lack of access to the garage would have on the economy.
As soon as I became chair of the Senate hearing services committee, I began to investigate the problem of access to the garage for everyone. At first I believed that this was a small problem, but as I delved deeper I discovered that there was a wider problem. There are a number of people who have told me that they are not even aware that they are entitled to belong to the garage; yet they are there. Others say that they were unaware that they had to be registered to be there. Others have told me that they were unaware that they could receive a coffee break discount, which means that they would be entitled to twenty minutes of free use of their garage on every single day of the year.
Now that I have this information, I will be looking closely at how the garage for everyone program operates. In the original proposal, there were only ten working days in each year. At the time, this would have made it difficult to access the garage for everyone because it would take a significant amount of time. However, I am pleased to report that we have been able to change this to a twelve-month policy. This gives us time to work out an appropriate way to access the garage for everyone while still maintaining our business model.
To be honest, there have been instances where it has been difficult to manage the garage for everyone’s needs. For example, one family member has her own car, while another family member uses the public parking lot. Because we have been able to change these policies, we have more time to deal with problems and allow everyone to enjoy their time in the garage. We also make it easier to have someone come in at any time to help with a maintenance task. This has saved our company a great deal of time and money on man hours.
Another reason why we feel that it is important to allow everyone to use the garage for everyone’s personal use, is that we believe it creates value in the community. Because the garage is accessible by foot, bicycle and vehicle, it makes walking to stores and other areas easier for people who need to get things done. As well, if someone were to park their car inside the garage, they would be showing pride in being responsible and paying their fair share. It is impossible for anyone to come in and take advantage of someone else, which means everyone’s safety and the safety of the community are protected.
Finally, we have found that the cost of the garage has been minimal compared to the benefits. For each individual garage, we are able to charge between ten and twenty dollars. There is no monthly fee, and there is no access fee. In addition to providing a convenient location for storage of products, the garage provides a great place for friends and family to gather and socialize. Because there is no cost to access the garage, people are more likely to visit and stay for a few hours or longer during their visit.