I came into Parliament to represent the taxi and hire car industry, to hold the government to account and, when needed, work with the government in addressing the challenges that the industry faces.The taxi and hire car industry has suffered an enormous impact due to the Covid19 crises, seeing an 80% drop in taxi demand and close to 100% drop in hire car demand.
Taxis, in particular, are an essential service that play a vitally important role in our society. For many Victorians, taxis are the only form of transport available to them, especially people in wheelchairs and people in regional and rural Victoria. The government has an obligation to support taxi services for Victorians who rely on them and to ensure they are there as the economy recovers.
Hire cars are an important link in the transport chain and many hire car operators are accessing Job Keeper or Job Seeker and qualify for other government small business grants. This also applies to ride-share drivers.
Whereas some taxi drivers also qualify for government support, many taxi drivers are vulnerable workers living taxi fare to taxi fare – they are also the ones providing transport services to Victorian’s most vulnerable people and those with no other transport options.
The government took a risk in asking me, a non-government member, to be part of a Commercial Passenger Vehicle (CPV) Panel with the task of advising the Minister for Transport on measures to assist the CVP industry during this time.
The panel made a number of recommendations, costing $22.7, million to the Minister for Transport which have been accepted. These targeted and effective initiatives are a good start in addressing the challenges the industry is facing.
The recommendations I made as a member of the Panel are grouped into three clear objectives;
Transport for Vulnerable Victorians
• Doubling the wheelchair lifting fee from $20.80 to $41.60 per lift for accessible vehicles
• Increasing the MPTP fund from 50 percent to 70 percent
• Subsidising taxi drivers $250 per month for each active operational taxi CPV vehicle
A Covid19 Safe Industry
• Cleaning and sanitation grants program covering both regional and metro BSPs
• Providing CPVs with a new set of cleaning standards that match both community and driver expectations
Ensuring a viable CPV industry
• Rebating CPV drivers the $1 levy paid from April to June 2020
• $1million fund for regional taxi Booking Service Providers where significant community detriment can be demonstrated without additional government assistance
This is addition to initiatives the government has already made including the pausing of regulatory fees, and the $1500 Coronavirus Worker Support Payment, for drivers who contract the virus or are required to self-isolate.
The Minister for Transport, Ben Carroll, has asked that I continue as a member of the CPV Panel to identify further opportunities to utilise CPV’s, assist and oversee the implementation and conduct a review of the initiatives in three months. This will complement the already agreed role to implement any government endorsed recommendations from the Inquiry into the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act 2017 Reforms that was undertaken late last
year and due for response by the end of 2020.
I would like to thank the Minister and the Andrews Government for allocating this funding and supporting this package of measures which, to date, is the best and most targeted CPV funding package in Australia.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the previous Minister for Transport, Melissa Horne, and the government for forming the panel and for including a non-government Member of Parliament and acknowledge the hard work of the Member for Oakleigh, Steve Dimopoulos and the team supporting the panel.