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Question – $1 trip levy

Feb 19, 2019 | Parliament

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (14:29): My question today is for Minister Jennings representing the Treasurer.

I want to talk about the $1 levy on all taxi and hire car trips flagged to fund
the transition payments for licence-holders in the taxi and hire car industry, for the financial
compensation. We are all aware that rideshare operators, taxis, limo services and hire cars all operate
under the same umbrella now—they are all classified as commercial passenger vehicles, CPVs. We
are aware of widespread non-compliance with the $1 levy requirements. Drivers have not been paying,
and this is a question of fairness. Why should some people be paying and others not?
Why would they? It is a laborious, overly burdensome administrative requirement to make a quarterly
report on the number of trips to the State Revenue Office (SRO) and follow through with the payments.
We are asking this of people for whom English is not their first language and who may or may not
have the necessary equipment—laptops, computers and such things. So I ask the minister: what
systems are in place to ensure compliance and what penalties are in place for non-compliance?

Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan—Leader of the Government, Special Minister of
State, Minister for Priority Precincts, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (14:30): Thank you, Mr Barton,
for your question and your concern about what has been a very challenging matter to implement policy
that was associated with the reform of the commercial passenger industry. The government does not
underestimate the significance of that reform and the challenges in terms of what seems to be fair,
equitable and decent treatment of families and operators who have actually had to deal with the
transition in the taxi industry and what might be the regulatory and the financial contribution that may
be made by the sector to support the degree of compensation that is provided.

I have had the virtue of some briefing from the Treasury in relation to this matter, so there are a few
things that I can actually share with you at this point in time. Since the policy was implemented under
Victorian law there have been more than $400 million in payments made in compensation and from
the Fairness Fund in the little over a year since the introduction of those reforms, so significant amounts
of financial support have actually been provided to the taxi industry. We have also seen a rise in the
number of taxi operators from around 6000 taxis operating in Victoria to now currently more than
7000. One thing that I saw was a significant improvement in the availability of wheelchair access
vehicles as well, so there has been a significant rise in the quality and the types of services that are
being provided.

Within the compensation and within the transition in the industry I understand that questions of equity
and fair dealing still continue to exist. The question that you specifically asked me was about the
confidence that the government has in relation to compliance. I am informed that the projections that
the State Revenue Office made in terms of the number of trips that would be eligible to incur this
$1 fee that was negotiated through the Parliament is being provided for. But if there are individual
concerns about the way in which this is not being acquitted in the way that you describe, there are a
number of remedies. The SRO has the ability to ensure that there are fines associated with a failure of
any enterprise, whether it be a corporate or an individual, to register and to be deemed to be compliant
with this scheme and in making those payments. There is a fine that ranges in excess of 500 penalty
units for non-compliance or failure to register. That is in the first instance.

If there are instances where you are correct that you or others may be aware of non-compliance with
this, the SRO can be informed of that matter. Once the SRO determine that in fact there is noncompliance, then they are able to report this to Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria, who would
then deregister any operator who does not comply. There are two whammies. There is one financial
penalty if in fact you fail to register in the first instance. Then, if there is evidence brought to the SRO
that there is non-compliance and the fee is not being paid, the SRO can take action with Commercial
Passenger Vehicles Victoria to remove the registration and the ability to operate that vehicle. They are
the elements in place.

The government believe that at this moment across the board there is general compliance, because in
fact the revenues that have been raised are consistent with our expectations. But the individual
circumstances that your members may be aware of may require ongoing vigilance.

Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (14:34): Since deregulation, we have seen an explosion in
the number of commercial passenger vehicles on our streets. In fact we have gone from 5600 cabs to
11 800 cabs and over 50 000 hire cars. The overall number of additional CPVs on the road since
deregulation represents an increase of 750 per cent, and rising month on month. It is our belief that not
all are paying their $1 per trip to the State Revenue Office.

In my former life as a Commercial Passenger Vehicle Association of Australia president, we
recommended a flat fee. At the lowest end it was $2500 a year, which could have been paid quarterly;
it is 48 bucks a week. If the cars on our streets now had all paid that registration fee, we would have
collected over $150 million. Therefore I ask the Treasurer: how does the $1 levy collection compare
with the industry recommendations?

Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan—Leader of the Government, Special Minister of
State, Minister for Priority Precincts, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (14:35): I did a reasonable job
of actually conveying to you some things that had been shared with me by the Treasurer. I have not
actually been given the answer from the Treasurer in relation to that specific question. What I do know
is that, despite that recommendation, the government chose to reduce the licensing arrangements
significantly, as you know. Perhaps, from the argument that you have actually just voiced in your
question, it has dropped it to a level that is far too low to maintain those revenues. So in terms of your
original suggestion and in terms of what you have just put to me, it would be wise for me to refer that
matter to the Treasurer to get his response to you.

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