A Statement from Rod Barton, Leader of Transport Matters Party
The votes have come in and I have not been re-elected for a second term.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and these outcomes are often difficult to decipher.
I am no career politician; I came to Parliament at 60 years of age.
We focused our re-election campaign on the work we have got done these past 4 years. This was tough work, and we took it on, fighting for those most vulnerable in the community.
If this kind of work got votes, the major parties would be all over it. But it doesn’t and they aren’t.
Too many people in Victoria fall through the cracks and Spring St turns a blind eye.
One of my biggest achievements during my time in Parliament was starting the Inquiry into Homelessness. This Inquiry had 18 hearings and over 450 submissions from organisations and people with lived experience. The final report made 51 recommendations to the Government on how to solve the homelessness crisis.
To this day, I cannot believe that we continue with a system where over 24 thousand Victorians do not have access to safe and secure housing each night. It is appalling.
In May, I successfully moved a motion to introduce an independent tribunal that protects vulnerable transport workers by setting and enforcing minimum standards. Despite, Owner Drivers technically being self-employed, we know that they hold little power in the way of bargaining and have long been exploited. In November, the Victorian Government made a commitment to establish an independent, minimum standard-setting body that will have the power to enforce Safe Rates in Victoria. This independent body will protect the rights of thousands of workers in the transport industry.
I secured an Inquiry into Children Affected by Parental Incarceration. This inquiry gave a voice to children who are the invisible victims of crime. No Minister is currently responsible for these kids, they have been left with no support and no one to be held accountable.
I also started an inquiry that explored solutions to the transport disadvantage that exists in regional and rural Victoria. So many Victorians are trapped in their homes, with no way to get to TAFE, sporting activities, friends and family or medical appointments. We must do better.
These are big-picture issues that require innovative solutions. But we never forgot about the small stuff.
When the school bus from Nagambie to Euroa was going to be discontinued, we fought tooth and nail for the community and convinced the Department to keep it going.
When community legal centres across the state told me that the latest bill on reforming the toll fines system left disadvantaged families in the lurch, I acted. I put amendments to the parliament that would allow Transurban to waive toll fines for families experiencing financial distress and these amendments passed! These amendments will impact the lives of many.
When Channel 31 were told they were not able to renew their broadcasting licence, I went straight to the Government and managed to secure support for its renewal.
When sole traders were left ineligible for any business support during the COVID-19 lockdowns, I made a case to the Treasurer and ensured these small businesses were included in the package. This was critical to the survival of the CPV industry.
At the height of the pandemic, I managed to secure a $22 million package that kept wheelchair-accessible taxis on the road so Victoria’s disabled population could get where they needed to go in a time of serious distress and anxiety.
No one else cared about these issues. I fought every day to bring these issues to the Government’s attention and urge them to take action. I was more often than not, successful.
These kinds of issues are not ‘trendy.’
Those in the commercial passenger vehicle sector would know, we don’t always get the support we deserve.
The transport industry is the deadliest in the country. Drivers and operators often work for a rate of pay and in a set of conditions most Victorians would not accept. These are vulnerable workers who are now without a voice in Parliament.
The Andrews Government took away taxi and hire car licences, in a market they regulated and gave us a fraction of the value in return to some and nothing to others. Victorian taxi families lost their livelihoods, their superannuation, their homes, and some lost their lives. The consequences of this continue today.
During my time in Parliament, I represented these transport workers. I advocated for basic workplace rights and minimum wage for rideshare drivers. I also managed to secure the first increase in taxi fares in 8 years. This goes a long way for a cohort of people who have seen their real income diminish year after year.
I made touting illegal in Victoria and have reminded the regulator constantly of their obligations to the industry and public to enforce this ban. Touting is unsafe, predatory and undermines those who choose to do the right thing. It needs to stop.
When the Andrews Government extended the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program (MPTP) to Uber, I began a parliamentary Inquiry into the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program and uncovered a vast amount of information initially hidden by the regulator. We discovered that the MPTP Uber Trial in Geelong had a mere five participants, and one of them never finished the trial. This trial was deemed to be a ‘success.’ The inquiry later made several recommendations to the Government on how they can protect and raise the standards of the MPTP to ensure that Uber’s predatory business model doesn’t exploit disabled Victorians.
During the last 4 years, I held a position on an advisory panel that supplied recommendations to the Transport Minister in response to the impact of Covid-19 on the CPV industry. It is safe to say, that without my contribution to this panel, owner-operators in Victoria would not have received the support they did during the pandemic when their work came to a grinding halt.
Transport workers are essential workers.
Transport workers deserve to be treated fairly by the regulator. Unfortunately, that is far from reality.
The industry continues to operate with regulatory double standards that act to burden taxi and hire car operators while giving multi-national rideshare companies free rein.
Sadly, this work for the commercial passenger vehicle industry is not something I will be able to continue as a representative in parliament.
My biggest fear is who will be that voice for vulnerable transport workers now?
It is my hope that the new crossbench will continue some of this important work and listen to those people who are often denied a voice.
This last term has been an incredible journey and many people made these achievements possible.
I would like to thank my family for all their support, and for putting up with the risks of being in a public-facing role such as this. It is not easy. I would like to thank all the members of the Transport Matters Party who have chosen not to stand idly by but participate in the solution. Our fantastic volunteers worked hard and with great enthusiasm to fight for transport workers and their families.
I would also like to thank my Electorate Office team who went above and beyond to get the best outcomes for our constituents and community. We served an electorate that went all the way from Eltham to Doncaster to Mount Waverley and down to Wantirna and it certainly kept us busy!
During this time, I have also had the opportunity to meet and engage with some of the great minds and leaders in Victoria. I would like to thank all those individuals and organisations who do incredible work in the community and are committed to positive change. Your work and knowledge have inspired me and enabled me to make the right decisions on many important issues.
I would like to thank my parliamentary colleagues for supporting me on a number of causes that were close to my heart.
I would also like to congratulate those successful candidates in the North-Eastern Metropolitan Region, I wish you well on your future endeavours.
Although my time in Parliament has come to an end, my motivation to address these issues continues.