Taxi reforms: Industry at crossroads

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One group shows interest in issue of new taxi licenses; critics fear losses for drivers

While industry has shown “strong” interest in new taxi licenses becoming available in Victoria on 1 July as part of the state’s taxi reforms, critics say some license holders are dreading the news and fear losing their homes as license values plummet.

“Taxi drivers are bleeding, they are bleeding with this state government’s ill thought actions,” said Labor MP for Cranbourne Jude Perera.

“Many are losing their retirement funds, many are praying to god they will not lose their homes,” said MrPerera.

Under Victoria’s taxi reforms, licenses are no longer available for lifetime purchase and instead can be leased each year for a yearly fee, subject to an increase of 0.5 per cent below inflation. Last year, the conventional cost of a metropolitan license was $22,000. The new prices will be released by the Taxi Services Commission (TSC) shortly.

Prior to the reforms, taxi licenses cost around $500,000. The four major banks dropped the valuation of Victorian taxi licenses to nil after the reforms passed the state parliament, the Taxi Industry Stakeholders Victoria Group (TISV) claimed last year.

TSC spokesman Jamie Collins told The Indian Sun that interest in the new licenses had been strong.

“The interest from the industry to date by way of general enquires has been strong and the TSC anticipates removing the barriers to entry by making licenses will allow the industry to grow and increase competition,” Mr Collins said in a statement.

He said TSC had been working with industry since last July to prepare people for the changes, providing information for existing and new license holders on its website: www.taxi.vic.gov.au.

“The TSC also uses a number of communication channels to communicate with industry including face-to-face forums, e-newsletters and direct mail.

In addition, industry participants also have easy access to our call centre and customer service centre,” he said.

But MrPerera said there was a lack of communication and outreach to those affected by the changes who were not tech savvy, “many from South Asian and European backgrounds”.

MrPerera conceded that the industry needed to be more equitable, but said, “I fail to see how increasing more cars is going to do anything, even at 55 per cent of the farebox when the owners and depots are struggling to make a profit, coupled with occupancy of 28 per cent, this model is beyond ridiculousness.”

Mr Collins said TSC was confident the taxi industry would “see the benefits of these reforms over time”.

TSC has been progressively implementing changes as part of the taxi reforms following an independent inquiry into the taxi industry in 2011.

In April TSC announced fares would increase $5 on weekends as part of a tariff restructure—the first in six years.

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Melbourne)

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