The main underground public car park at Parliament House. Photo: Graham Tidy
Thousands of staff and visitors at Parliament House are facing the prospect of paying for parking from next July.
The decision to introduce pay parking for the visitors car park under the forecourt of the building was announced late on Thursday.
However, officials are looking seriously at whether the scheme should be adopted for all car parks.
The presiding officers - Speaker Anna Burke and Senate President John Hogg - had little choice for the visitors car park following the budget decision to introduce pay parking in the parliamentary triangle and national lands in central Canberra.
Parliament House and the four independent institutions that run their own car parks - the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, High Court and War Memorial - faced a dilemma: impose pay parking or a voucher system on staff and volunteers or risk having free car parks swamped by public servants.
Parking in the area will cost the average full-time worker $2640 a year from July.
People who work in Parliament House, including MPs and their staff, committee officials, security guards and the press gallery, have swipe access to two underground car parks and one open air area, with spaces for about 1400 cars.
The 325-space public car park is now free and limited to three hours.
The decision to introduce pay parking in the precinct will affect all staff working in the building as their employers will be liable for fringe benefit tax for free parking in staff car parks.
As a result, pay parking may be introduced in all car parks at the Parliament.
In a letter on Thursday to Parliament House occupants, Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Carol Mills said the presiding officers had decided on pay parking for the visitors car park.
''The implementation of pay parking in the Parliamentary Zone will also have a direct impact for building occupants who utilise the parking facilities within Parliament House with respect to Fringe Benefits Tax,'' she said.
''This means that FBT will become payable for all onsite car parks at Parliament House, as parking will now be regarded as a benefit provided to building occupants.
''The presiding officers have asked the Department of Parliamentary Services to investigate the impact of these changes on building occupants.''
A spokeswoman for the department said: ''Were Parliament House to offer the only free parking in the parliamentary zone, we anticipate that the capacity for tourist and other visitors to the building would be severely limited.
''As a result, the presiding officers have decided that pay parking should be introduced for visitor parking at Parliament House. It is
anticipated that these changes to parking arrangements will also have a direct impact for occupants of Parliament House in relation to fringe benefits tax.
''As a result, as well as asking the Department of Parliamentary Services to advise on options for visitor parking in the public car park, the presiding officers have also asked DPS to conduct a feasibility study of options to introduce pay parking across all car parks at Parliament House and its precincts.''
A spokesman for the Community and Public Sector union said it had continuing concerns about pay parking.
''Public transport links and retail amenities in the area are inadequate, as is lighting and security,'' he said.
''The choice for employees is stark: drive and pay for it, or struggle in by public transport and put up with below par shops and services.
''If the government is intent on the introduction of paid parking, then these are issues that our members want addressed."
Press gallery president David Speers said office space for media companies was charged at commercial rates.
''So bureaus both large and small are already paying the Commonwealth to report on the workings of Parliament,'' he said.
''Many press gallery representatives have to carry heavy camera gear and many work late into the night and other forms of transport are often unworkable.''
Labor member for Fraser Andrew Leigh said he would talk to his colleagues about the decision. ''We will be working together to make sure the new government gets this issue right,'' he said.
Pay parking in the parliamentary triangle was opposed by outgoing ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries. His successor, newly elected Senator Zed Seselja, said he would lobby the government on the issue. ''This is the people's house … we should make it as accessible as possible,'' he said. ''I would urge the government to actually reconsider this policy, because I think that it wasn't thought through by Labor and by bringing it in when they're planning to, I think there could be some negative consequences.