I spoke on the unfairness of the compensation for Gippsland Lakes fishing licences when compared to the transition payments for taxi licence holders.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (14:24): I would like to congratulate the fishing community of Gippsland Lakes on the magnificent negotiations they have held with the Andrews Labor government and on the very generous financial compensation package for the compulsory acquisition of their commercial fishing licences. It is a very good deal—$371 000 for the licence, the market value of the licence as assessed by the valuer-general. And of course they are getting compensated because the government is recognizing that a commercial licence is property.
It would be remiss of me not to compare how the government declared commercial taxi licences were perhaps not property, even though the High Court of Australia said they were and recently in the Supreme Court of Victoria that was reaffirmed. For the fishos, it does not matter if they paid $50 000, $150 000 or even $350 000; they are all going to get $371 000 for each and every licence. Why are they getting it? They are getting it because they deserve it—it is property. However, the government determined that the taxi and hire car commercial licences will not be treated the same. Fishos will receive a further allowance of $60 000 for redundant fishing vessels. They get to keep their tinnies. At no stage did the government consider the taxi industry and offer to pay for the vehicles they put off the road because of the ill-thought-out, poorly managed and badly executed taxi and hire car reforms.
More—there is also compensation for the loss of income based on three times the annual catch value, calculated over a three-year golden harvest period. This is the right thing to do. Where is the compensation for the loss of income for the taxi licence owners and their drivers? They were impacted then and it continues today. Perhaps the Andrews government should go back to the valuer-general and look at the income for, say, the three years prior to the illegal entry of Uber and compensate those who were so badly affected. Those reforms and the explosion of illegal rideshare more than halved their rates of income to below the living wage.
I say congratulations to the regulator, who has failed us—the commercial passenger vehicle industry. I am constantly asked why was this allowed to happen. When did the Labor government decide to treat thousands of people in the taxi and hire car industries and their families differently to other Victorians? How do we justify this? This bill is an insult and a kick in the guts to an industry that is crippled with debt and is on its knees.
What is known as the commercial passenger vehicle industry is a joke. There are more than 100 000 drivers and over 70 000 cars; up from 8000 only two years ago. Drivers are fighting in the streets over jobs. An alarming increase of young women are being harassed in the streets, and some have been assaulted by unscrupulous people masquerading as legitimate rideshare drivers. This legislation has created an environment that provides opportunities for those predators to act in this way.
I say to all of you: we all have a responsibility here, including me. I have failed because I have not been able to convince this government that this system is not safe and must be addressed. After years of regulations having been developed because of the need to make taxis safer with cameras, GPS tracking and education, we have allowed a foreign rideshare company to set the rules that suit them. They have played this government off a break. Touting is rife; congestion is rising. For those who work in this industry there is no holiday pay, there is no sick pay and no superannuation. I will have a bit more to say about super a little later on. We expect these people to work in a set of conditions that would be unacceptable to the vast majority of Victorians.
I cannot support this compensation package no matter how much it might be deserved. This is a matter of principle for me. The government should have applied the same criteria to the taxi and hire car industry. We showed you how, but you ignored us: market value licence compensation and compensation for loss of income, because that would be the right thing to do. This government has plenty of things to be proud of, but the treatment of the taxi and hire car industry is not one of them. I cannot support this bill when a minority group is being treated so unfairly and another group of Victorians so generously. This is simply unfair. I cannot support this bill.