Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Amendment (Further Reforms) Bill 2017
I am pleased to be joining the debate on the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Amendment (Further Reforms) Bill 2017. Before going into my detailed comments about the bill I might just take up where the member for Gippsland East left off. He was quoting the member for Croydon — the shadow minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party— saying he could give numerous examples of people being worse off and how he was very concerned about this. It is just ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ with those opposite. It is like they think you get to a certain point in time, the slate is just completely blank, you start again and no-one is going to remember what you did on your watch and even what you said earlier in the current debate.
When the Liberals were in government, taxi licence values were cut in half from, over $500 000 to around $250 000. Not a cent of financial assistance was provided. I certainly do not recall the member for Croydon or any members of the National Party crying foul or saying anything about that. It is quite true that from the get-go the Liberals have supported ridesharing and the legalisation of Uber. They have supported the removal of existing taxi and hire car licences, but they have put forward amendments to remove the provisions to provide financial assistance.
I have a quote from earlier in this debate — not the debate in Parliament but the debate that has gone on for some time to regulate ridesharing and to make changes to the taxi industry — from Neos Kosmos on 27 August 2016:
Daniel Andrews is basically setting up a slush fund to buy the votes of the companies that hold these taxi plates …
That is what the shadow minister thinks of financial assistance for these hardworking families that are getting financial support now that this industry is going through so much change. We have heard all that nonsense in the last hour when he was giving examples —
Mr Watt interjected.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Thomson) — The member for Burwood!
Ms Green — of his concerns about families not being compensated, yet he was completely silent. I think the children in the gallery probably wish, like everyone else in this place, that the member for Burwood would be silent. On his epitaph it is going to say, ‘I came, I raised a point of order, I finished’. Hansard of 9 March 2017 shows that the member for Croydon said:
It is important for the house to note that process, because this groundbreaking report by Professor Allan Fels is called Customers First: Service, Safety, Choice. It put passengers first, as should be the case.
On 19 October 2017, which is quite recent — only last month — the Leader of the Opposition said on Facebook:
Taxi fare free-for-all.
That’s Daniel Andrews’s plan. He says passengers should haggle for the right fare, or shop around between cabs while waiting on busy streets.
This will inevitably result in cabbies refusing short trips or charging massive fares. And what about the elderly, frail, or disabled? Will they have to haggle too?
Then we have got David Davis, in the Legislative Council, who said on Facebook on 18 October 2017:
Daniel Andrews’s plan to completely deregulate taxi fares will leave many Victorians much worse off as they are refused short trips or forced to pay massive fares.
Victoria will face an Asian-style tuk tuk approach to taxi fares with haggling and negotiation and the frail and old at a sharp disadvantage.
Does Daniel Andrews seriously think it’s acceptable for an elderly person to be hailing taxis and then haggling with the driver in driving rain on a busy street?
On the one hand they are saying they are going to have an absolute free-for-all, and on the other hand they are trying to get people to believe that they actually give a damn about passengers, about ridesharers, about drivers in the industry and about licence plate holders and their families. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This bill is the next stage of the very necessary reforms — reforms that are not of the industry’s making and not necessarily of the government’s making. The introduction of ridesharing has changed the landscape for taxis and that type of transport forever. We saw the first tranche of changes take effect on 9 October. I have a local taxidriver in my neighbourhood, which is in my electorate, that I use regularly, and he is a much-trusted bloke. We have had a lot of conversations about his work and about his livelihood. He has what is known as a Green Top taxi, so he has only been able to drive at night.
Mr Singh is an absolutely, thoroughly decent, honest human being and one of the best taxidrivers I have ever known. He knows all his customers by name. He is known all around the neighbourhood, and importantly parents really trust him with their kids. When you live in the outer suburbs, it is fine if you are going into the city and getting home on a Friday or Saturday night, because we have rail services that operate all night, but what do you do to get from the station or to get from within some of the properties that are out of Diamond Creek in the high Nillumbik hinterland and not a walkable distance to the station? Places like Whittlesea do not have a train station, and their last bus is at around 9.30 p.m., so you entrust your kids and your loved ones to a fabulous taxidriver like Mr Singh.
These changes, which took effect last month, and broader changes will mean that Mr Singh can actually drive during the day. He can work as long as he wants, evening and night, and will be able to support his many loyal followers. I have reassured him that I have never booked or paid for an Uber. I said that I was going to stick with supporting the existing industry until we had a proper set of changes. I think he is really happy with these changes.
The removal of licensing costs of up to $23 000 per year and increased competition will reduce fares for all Victorians. We will have this new flexible fare system for commercial passenger vehicle service networks to set their own prices. Consumer protections will be strengthened by requiring all service providers to provide passengers with a fixed fare or estimate before the trip begins. When there has been an increase in demand we have seen huge price gouging by that well-known rideshare operator Uber. I have also known some Uber drivers who have had some really dangerous things happen to them when they have had accidents or been attacked. We have got to have support for all drivers, whether they have existing cab licences or are engaged in ridesharing.
In short, we do care about this industry and about having it grow and be flexible to reflect the needs of all sorts of communities in all different settings. Rural and regional outer suburban areas that are often transport-poor will really benefit from this, and I know that drivers like Mr Singh in Diamond Creek will be an active and forward part of this. I hope that the community has seen through the lies of those opposite, who never had the courage to actually provide any compensation or support for this industry during its transition and flip-flopped all over the place. I would rather be on the side of the house with a government who can be trusted with this industry. I commend the bill to the house.