My adjournment this evening is for the Treasurer. The illegal entry of Uber into the market and the subsequent deregulation has had consequences far and wide. We are all aware of the costs that were paid by Victorian taxi and hire car families. However, I do not believe the Victorian taxpayers are quite aware of the costs they suffered as well. At the time of deregulation in 2017 there were 5600 taxis. Two thousand of these were permits that were leased out by the government for in excess of $20 000 per year. That is $40 million a year just from leasing permits that the government is no longer collecting. Consider that we have now got 10 500 taxis and about 80 000 rideshare vehicles. On top of that, the government reduced annual fees for a commercial passenger vehicle driver to a mere $55 and have not collected this fee for five years. They have of course muddied the water, misleading taxpayers by claiming that these fees were waived in response to COVID. But how can you justify the waiving of fees in 2017, 2018 and 2019? Clearly the government had a crystal ball.
Who loses in all of this: the taxpayer. The supply of wheelchair-accessible vehicles is diminishing, passengers are facing a new norm of predatory surge pricing and drivers are refusing to turn on the meter. The industry is in mayhem and the taxpayers have lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars because of how desperately this government wanted to accommodate Uber. Our streets are plagued with congestion, and the gig economy has been a gateway for creating a new working poor. This only shows the arrogance of this government in treating rideshare like it is not just another taxi.
Uploaded by Rod Barton MP on 2022-09-21.
In the meantime households are being squeezed from all sides. This government has introduced a number of new taxes on Victorians this past term but purposefully neglects the responsibility to collect fees from the commercial passenger vehicle industry. Without doubt Victorian taxpayers have paid a heavy price for the government to accommodate Uber.
Treasurer, in the interests of transparency for taxpayers, will you instruct Treasury to calculate just how much revenue this government has foregone since the deregulation of the commercial passenger vehicle industry in 2017?
Answered: 11 October 2022
The Victorian Government’s commercial passenger vehicle (CPV) industry reforms established Australia’s first fully open and competitive CPV industry. These reforms have been a win for passengers, delivering more choice, better service and improved safety. The commercial passenger vehicle reforms introduced one new low-cost annual vehicle registration fee for all unbooked and booked-only service providers. The reduction in costs reduced barriers to enter and exit the market, enabling providers to more easily scale services according to customer demand. This open market has increased competition and lowered price pressures for consumers, while also giving them greater choice.
The reforms introduced a $1 Commercial Passenger Vehicle Service Levy (the levy) from 1 July 2018 to fund a financial assistance package for former taxi and hire car licence holders. The levy applies to each trip taken in a CPV, meaning those who benefit from the reforms are helping to cover the cost of the Government’s assistance package, including former licence holders. This assistance package included transition assistance payments of $330 million to eligible taxi and hire car licence holders in September and October 2017. Additional Fairness Fund payments totalling $56.75 million were paid in mid–2018, to 693 applicants assessed to have experienced immediate financial hardship as a result of the reforms. The Government also cut costs for industry, mitigating the potential for fare rises due to the levy, including abolishing annual taxi and hire car licence fees of up to $23,000 in October 2017 and reducing TAC premiums for taxis by up to $2,000 per year from 1 July 2018.
In addition to the initial financial assistance package, the Victorian Government has continued to provide additional support to the CPV industry. On 24 July 2020, the Victorian Government announced it was investing $22 million to ensure the safety of thousands of passengers and drivers relying on these services throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This support included:
- More than $6 million to subsidise the depot fees paid by vehicle owners to booking service providers, ensuring wheelchair accessible vehicles were available for those who needed them.
- $1.7 million to double the wheelchair lifting fee for transporting wheelchair users for three months from 24 August 2020, paid by Government, to give providers further incentive to keep wheelchair accessible vehicles operating.
- The Multi Purpose Taxi Program (MPTP) subsidy was increased from 50 to 70 per cent per fare for three months from 24 August 2020 to make rides more affordable for the people who needed them the most.
- The Government waived the levy owed for the 2019-20 June quarter, to put more money into the pockets of drivers.
- Up to $3.5 million worth of grants were made available to support increased cleaning and sanitation of vehicles.
- Up to $1 million was made available to support booking service providers in regional communities, ensuring vulnerable regional Victorians did not lose access to vital services.
I trust this is of assistance and thank you for raising this query with me.
TIM PALLAS MP