Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (17:55): (1611) My adjournment tonight is for Minister Carroll in the other place. I have been inundated with responses from those in the commercial passenger vehicle industry who watched the committee hearings for the inquiry into the multipurpose taxi program last week. While I will not comment myself, I have received a lot of feedback from those in the industry who were somewhat bemused.
Certainly in my discussions with the industry, at the forefront is the role of the regulator. Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria (CPVV) readily acknowledges that of almost 90 000 registered commercial passenger vehicles only approximately 35 000 are actually working. The question has been posed. Given the increase in the wheelchair-accessible vehicles was only about 300 to begin with, it is not an unreasonable assumption that there could easily be 500 wheelchair-accessible vehicles included in the dormant 55 000 CPVs which are inoperative.
I had one taxi operator contact me to inform me that they are no longer in a position to continue to offer cross-subsidised services that remain unrecognised by this government. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles cost up to $100 000; operators often make only a marginal profit at the best of times from offering these vehicles to Victoria’s wheelchair community. They have only been able to continue to offer these services for so long because they have been able to cross-subsidise with their usual sedan work. This taxi operator has had to reduce their fleet and divert their resources to protect the profitable sedan work. We are looking at the very real possibility—this is coming home to roost now—of limited wheelchair-accessible vehicles available, especially in regional communities. So the action I seek is: will the minister instruct CPVV to collect updated and accurate data on the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles that are currently active in the industry?
RESPONSE RECEIEVD 10 Dec 2021- Hon. Ben Carroll
I thank the Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region for his question.
The industry regulator, Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria (CPVV), has a strong understanding of industry activity, including service demand and active conventional and wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV). This understanding is gained through trip data CPVV collects from booking service providers and data regarding services provided through the Multi Purpose Taxi Program (MPTP), which CPVV administers.
I am pleased to advise that as at October 2021 there were 961 registered WAVs, 92 per cent of which have been active in the past 12 months. As the Member for the Eastern Metropolitan Region indicated, this reflects a significant increase in WAVs compared to 2017.
The Government has a range of initiatives in place to encourage the supply of wheelchair accessible vehicles. This includes the payment of a $21.80 wheelchair lifting fee for MPTP passengers in wheelchairs or scooters travelling in a WAV. The lifting fee recognises the higher costs of providing WAV services, including higher capital costs of the vehicles and compensation for the time taken to load and unload passenger wheelchairs, and provides an incentive for WAV service providers to prioritise passengers in wheelchairs or scooters requiring these vehicles. In 2020/21, industry participants received over $21 million in wheelchair lifting fees.
The Government provides further support for the supply of wheelchair accessible vehicles in regional and rural areas through the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Subsidy Scheme. In addition to the lifting fee, this Scheme subsidises the upfront capital cost of the purchase of wheelchair accessible vehicles, making it similar to the cost of a conventional vehicle. In 2020/21, 18 applications to support new wheelchair accessible vehicles in regional and rural areas were approved under the subsidy scheme.
The Department of Transport (DoT) continues to monitor impacts of the pandemic and the industry reforms on supply and will advise Government on changes that can be made to policy settings to address emerging issues or gaps. As a recent example, in 2020 wheelchair accessible vehicle lifting fees were doubled for four months as a COVID-19 industry support measure.
I note that the Government’s CPV Advisory Panel – consisting of the Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region and the Member for Oakleigh – provide advice to me, as Minister for Public Transport, on how to best support the industry through existing and emerging risks to ensure the long-term viability of the industry, including the WAV market. Additionally, as the Member referenced, the Economy and Infrastructure Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the safety standards for members of the public that travel on the MPTP, including examining pathways for the industry to absorb major change post-COVID-19. I look forward to the recommendations of both the Panel and the Committee in due course.