Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:08): My question is for the Attorney-General, representing the Assistant Treasurer. When comparing Victorian taxi fares to Queensland the kilometre rate for Victorian taxis are on average 27 per cent less and the waiting time fare is 30 per cent less. When compared to Western Australia the kilometre rate is 7 per cent less and the waiting time fare is 27 per cent less. But when we compare ourselves with New South Wales the kilometre rate is on average 40 per cent less and the waiting time fare is 56 per cent less. It is clear the Victorian taxi fares are the lowest in the country, yet it was reported in the press only last week that the Essential Services Commission would consider reducing fares further. So I ask: what will the minister do to fix this appalling travesty for some of the lowest paid and the most vulnerable workers in the country?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:09): I thank Mr Barton for his question. It is a really good question, and it deserves a comprehensive answer from the relevant minister. I will pass that on accordingly.
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (12:09): Since the last taxi fare increase eight long years ago the executive team at the Essential Services Commission in the same period have received a pay increase of 24 per cent. Meanwhile taxidrivers have only had one fare increase in the past 14 years. In the past year fuel prices rose by 32 per cent—the biggest annual increase in 32 years. Now we are seeing reports of fuel soaring to over $2 a litre. The minister understands the industry has completely lost confidence in the Essential Services Commission. There is now an urgent review required, not in 12 months time but today. So my supplementary question is: will the minister urge the Essential Services Commission to conduct an accelerated fare review in light of the severe cost of living pressures being experienced by the Victorian taxidrivers?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:10): I thank Mr Barton for his question; he is well across his brief. I will provide your supplementary to the minister and furnish an answer according to the standing orders.
Response received 22 March 2022 – Hon Danny Pearson MP
The Essential Services Commission (ESC), as the independent regulator, released a consultation paper for the 2022 review of unbooked fares on 16 February 2022 and did not take a position on the appropriateness of fares in the paper.
I would note that the ESC is currently seeking submissions from stakeholders before a draft decision is released in June 2022, with the final decision to be released in September 2022. This is an opportunity for members of the taxi industry and other interested stakeholders (including Mr Barton) to provide views on issues relating to unbooked taxi fares and I encourage members of the community to utilise this opportunity.
The ESC recognises the increase in costs for conventional taxis in its consultation paper. The ESC may consider the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review and the impact of changing market conditions including the coronavirus pandemic.
The ESC’s review is designed to promote the impacts of current market conditions on taxi drivers and the taxi industry and the long-term interests of Victorian consumers. The ESC only regulates unbooked fares. Fares for booked taxi trips are not regulated and unbooked taxi trips only account for part of the market. Taxi operators and networks can vary fares for booked taxi trips as needed.