Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017

Written on the 7 July 2017


23 June 2017

COUNCIL

Second reading

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB Southern Metropolitan) 

 

I rise to speak on the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017. As others have said, it is a very important debate we are having in this house and the Parliament today. We are back here today after a normal sitting week to debate legislation that the government is desperate to get through. However, it is the role of this place to undertake a review of legislation and to provide input through various means, and one of those means was the Legislative Council's economy and infrastructure committee inquiry into the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017, whose report was tabled in this place not so very long ago by Mr Finn. Mr Finn, who chaired this very important committee, said in his foreword to the report:

There is no question that the government's proposed Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017 requires a number of amendments to reflect the reality of the plight of taxi licence holders in Victoria and the compensation that is owed them.

He goes on and makes some other points in the foreword, but I think the main issue here is that it is the reality of the plight and, as so many speakers have raised in their speeches, there is that human side and human toll. I congratulate Dr Carling-Jenkins on her contribution to this debate. I was listening to her speech in my office, and she outlined some of the concerns of the people that she had met with, that she had been listening to and that she had spoken with and received correspondence from. Like many of us, she received so much correspondence and so many emails and letters  I have personally, and I know other members have  in relation to the concerns of taxi licence owners, their family members and others.

This matter has been going on for months and, as other members have said, the government has made a complete shambles of this whole issue. I have met with many, many taxi owners and families and have listened to them, whether that has been in my electorate office, or whether that has been here in the Parliament, by having them come in here, so that I could try to understand the impacts of what the government proposes on their ability to manage their ongoing businesses and on their livelihoods. I think that has been extremely important for us all to understand. In fact I listened to some taxi owners and their families at a demonstration outside Mr Dalidakis's electorate office just a few weeks ago.

The angst and the emotion of those people at that time were very, very considerable. I think they felt absolutely abandoned by the government. I do not know if Mr Dalidakis has met with them, but they were outside his office  and there were dozens of them. Mr Davis was also at that particular demonstration outside Mr Dalidakis's office. There were many, many concerned members who were trying to bring this issue to the attention of the minister, who ultimately has a lot of responsibility in this area, as these people are small business owners.

Mr Morris  He is ignoring them. He is ignoring small business people.

Ms CROZIER  Clearly they feel he is ignoring them. They feel very strongly that the minister is ignoring them in their plight in terms of being able to manage their business and what that is meaning to their business and to their families.

Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.

 

Debate resumed.

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan)

I was speaking just before question time on the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017, and I was talking about the concerns that various taxidrivers and owners and their families have raised with me. I was particularly taking note of the demonstration that was held outside Mr Dalidakis's office. There were quite literally dozens hundreds of people there expressing their anger and disappointment at the government's stance. After all it was the government that went to the last election saying, 'We'll fix it', and these people have been let down in spades.

We have heard that from other speakers here who have been talking about their own areas. Mr Ramsay and Ms Lovell talked about regional areas, and Ms Lovell made some very good points in relation to the taxi fares in Shepparton and how placing a tax on a relatively short fare is going to be a significant impost. I think that is the point in terms of what the government has failed to recognise that is, the impost on those passengers and others who use taxis in a legitimate form, especially the elderly. Members of my family use taxis because they are elderly. For people who live in regional areas taxis are a very necessary form of transport.

I would like to go back to this issue of the $2 levy. Of course it is another tax. Just prior to the last election, as we have heard on a number of occasions, the Premier looked down the barrel of a Channel 7 camera and said there would be no new taxes or increases in taxes. He said, 'I give you my word' or words to that effect. Either the man was being disingenuous or he lied to the Victorian community, or maybe it was both. Nevertheless, that is what he said.

This is just another tax, and I want to make note of a particular contribution to the inquiry I referred to earlier that was conducted into this bill. It was evidence given by the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. I know Acting President Dunn was part of this committee. As has been said, four government members supported the recommendations made in this report, yet the government has not supported their views, the committee's views or, dare I say, the views of the taxi industry community.

I am just going to read a passage into the record. It comes from page 3 of the transcript of evidence included in the report and is talking about the levy. What the secretary, Mr Bolt, said is, and I quote:

There are questions that have been raised in respect of the bill that I should address, which is the size of the levy. You will have heard words of this kind before, but I will repeat them to open the discussion. The $2 amount strikes a balance between the immediate impact on consumers, bearing in mind that with the removal of licence fees and other costs and the impact of competition the net effect on trip costs is not simply a question of adding $2 per trip.

I am not sure if he fully grasps what this will mean to some of those people. Nevertheless, he went on:

In fact we would expect that there is a good argument or indeed reasonable expectation that trip costs in net terms should not go up and should in fact on average go down. That is not a guarantee we can provide

which is another point, in terms of his words in this report

but there is good analysis to support that, or a good expectation that that would occur. So on the one hand it strikes a balance between the immediate impact on consumers, on customers, on travellers, and on the other hand it provides recovery of a fair and reasonable package of assistance that I have just outlined to ensure that industry participants, some of whom are clearly going to be affected adversely by the reforms in total, get some assistance significant assistance to go through what is a significant transition for them. So it is a balance between those two. It is a matter of policy judgement

He went on to talk about other areas in this report. I will paraphrase what I think are some of the concerns the secretary himself has raised. He said there are no guarantees with this. He said that there are clearly people who are going to be affected adversely by the reforms. They will get some assistance and he said significant assistance. That is where there is a dispute. Taxidrivers, owners and their families would say 'Well, what is fair?'. The government has not listened to their concerns.

I have received emails today that are talking about this very issue. In fact I got one over the lunch break and I am sure other members did as well raising concerns about the effect of the financial implications. One email I received this morning states:

I feel a dark and dreary cloud has descended on our Victoria. Is it fascism? Is it communism? It certainly isn't a democracy if the government can confiscate a hard-earned asset without due recompense.

This person goes on to say:

I feel perplexed and desperate. How do I explain to my four children aged five to 17 what the state government is doing to us and thousands of other families too?

This is the emotional toll, the financial impacts of what the government is proposing. Dare I say it, I think the government has not listened to these people in full. I am not sure whether government members have spent much time with taxi owners and operators on a one-to-one basis like I and other members have. We have sat down and listened to them. I have had many men very desperate and in tears in my office. When I have met with them they have pleaded with me not to support the government's proposed changes. These are fellow Victorians who have worked sometimes for decades to get their families into a position where they feel secure. They feel absolutely ripped off and betrayed by this government. It is an absolute shame that there are not just a handful of individuals in this plight but many hundreds.

In my area of Southern Metropolitan Region I spoke with taxi owners in Bentleigh not long ago and there is significant concern. I know that they have been putting pressure on the local member in the Legislative Assembly, Nick Staikos, but clearly his pleas have fallen on the deaf ears of the minister. In other areas, such as in Oakleigh, the electorate of Assembly member Mr Dimopoulos, again clearly his pleas have fallen on the deaf ears of the minister. They are getting nowhere. Those local members have got absolutely no clout whatsoever. The minister has rejected the recommendations of the parliamentary committee that looked into this bill.

I go back to the start of my contribution. Mr Finn said in his foreword to the report:

There is no question that the government's proposed Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017 requires a number of amendments to reflect the reality of the plight of taxi licence holders in Victoria and the compensation that is owed them.

What some of these people have indicated to me is that they are angry. They are so angry knowing that the government tore up the contract for the eastwest link and wasted more than $1 billion another demonstration of the Premier and the government saying one thing before the election and carrying through after it with a completely different outlook. These people are so angry that $1.2 billion has been wasted and they get a pittance from this government. That goes to the heart and core of the anger that has been expressed to me. They feel desperate, they feel powerless, they feel absolutely betrayed. They have been law-abiding, legitimate taxpayers who have paid their dues, yet this government wastes $1.2 billion and they get what they feel is a disproportionate and inadequate amount in compensation for the licences they have for the businesses they have built up.

I think that is another demonstration of how members of this government have behaved. They have not listened; I am not sure they have wanted to listen. They have got into such a shambles. If it is not this bill, if it is not this issue, there are so many other areas where they have not been able to bring about a proper and conclusive response to issues that have arisen. We have seen that in so many different areas. Whether it is crime, law and order, the youth justice system or the corrections system, there are ongoing issues.

In my electorate there is sky rail and St Kilda Road, where things are just being rammed through with no consultation and no consideration. Whether it is sky rail or whether it is the Metro Tunnel, people and businesses are being absolutely devastated. The taxi licence owners and their families feel absolutely devastated as well, and it is an absolute shame that the government has not listened to their concerns. I, like my other colleagues, will not be supporting the government's bill.


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