Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (21:19): (1580) My adjournment is for the Treasurer in the other place. The taxi and hire car industry has faced devastation throughout these lockdowns, and I commend the government for including the commercial passenger vehicle operators in the business costs assistance program. These support payments have been a lifeline to an industry that has already been on its knees since the reforms of 2017. However, my understanding is that these support payments will end at the beginning of November. This is too soon. Restrictions and border closures still limit most of the industry in supplying their services. This is an industry that is absolutely dependent on tourism, the events sector and travel. The industry’s bread and butter is driving the suits and the tourists from airports to major events and conferences. In fact it would typically amount to 70 to 80 per cent of all hire car trips.
As the tourism and events sectors have been decimated, so has the financial viability of thousands of drivers who depend on this sector to put food on the table. That is why continued support payments are critical to maintaining the financial viability of taxi operators and hire car drivers who provide an essential service to our community. This ensures that wheelchair-accessible vehicles can stay on the road and continue to serve Victoria’s most vulnerable. Our industry will not recover on 30 October; to think otherwise is incredibly naive. Commonwealth support for Victorians will be withdrawn. However, I do not think that should limit our state government from continuing to support Victorian businesses who face heavy restrictions. How can business for drivers be back to normal when the borders are shut and the passengers can only travel 25 kilometres from their home?
Extended support has been provided to the events industry. Given that the taxi and hire car industries depend on tourism and events, it is only fitting that they are granted an extension as well. So the action I seek is: will the government extend the business costs assistance package for the taxi and hire car industry out until 28 February 2022?
ANSWER From Hon Tim Pallas 9th November 2021
Since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government has allocated $13.4 billion to Victorian-administered business support programs (as at 28 October 2021), of which the State has committed to fund $10 billion along with $3.4 billion of co-contributions from the Commonwealth.
Since the 2021-22 Budget, $8.1 billion of business support has been committed, with most programs co-funded by the Commonwealth. This includes the Business Costs Assistance Program (BCAP) and Small Business COVID Hardship Fund (SBCHF), which have provided grants to support Victorian businesses heavily impacted by public health restrictions as Victoria reached its 70 per cent and 80 per cent fully vaccinated thresholds under the State’s Roadmap to Deliver the National Plan, after which lockdowns will be lifted, restrictions eased and the State’s economic recovery will resume.
Almost 35 000 BCAP and SBCHF applications – and associated payments of more than $1.1 billion – have been approved for Victorian businesses in ANZSIC industry classes 4623 (Taxi and Other Road Transport) and 5299 (Other Transport Support Services), which includes taxi operators. These businesses have received BCAP grants of up to $2 800 per week for sole traders or up to $8 400 per week for employing businesses depending on their annual payroll. Businesses that received financial assistance through the SBCHF received a one-off flat grant of $20 000.
The Government has concurrently supported businesses in Victoria’s tourism and events sectors, with the $20 million Victorian Events Support Package. This included providing grants to help event organisers, hosts and suppliers manage the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, building upon the $197.9 million total output cost for Tourism and Major Events in 2021-22 as reported in the 2021-22 Budget. The $152 million top-up to the Major Events Fund over four years announced in the 2020-21 Budget will also ensure that a strong pipeline of events will support the State’s longer-term economic recovery.
As part of the Government’s commitment to the Roadmap, the lockdown and 15-kilometre travel limit across metropolitan Melbourne was removed at 11:59pm on Thursday 21 October 2021, with travel restrictions between metropolitan and regional areas lifted from 6 pm on Friday 29 October 2021. These changes, combined with progressive adjustments to the quarantine requirements for interstate and overseas travellers, will help support the recovery of the taxi and hire car industry.