Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (18:25): My adjournment today is for the attention of the Minister for Public Transport, the Honourable Ben Carroll in the other place. It relates to a legal matter being pursued by an association known as the Victorian Taxi and Hire-Car Families, or the VTHF, against the regulator for the commercial passenger vehicle industry. The VTHF represents hundreds of ex taxi and hire-car licence owners who, as a result of the unlawful operation of rideshare prior to the reforms of 2017, sustained significant damages to their income as well as to the value of their private property—their taxi and hire-car licences.
It is claimed that this may have been due to the action and inaction of the regulator in exercising its statutory functions and obligations in relation to the monitoring and enforcement of licensing requirements by regulating the commercial passenger vehicle industry. Ultimately the industry reforms of 2017 culminated in the revocation of all licences for a fraction of their worth through a transition assistance scheme which provided an arbitrary monetary payment for some but not all licences. The legal matter before the courts is an application for preliminary discovery requesting that the regulator supply documents which may assist the VTHF to decide whether to institute proceedings against the regulator for damages incurred. This matter should simply have fallen within a freedom of information request. Instead the regulator has tied this up in the court for over three years, fighting tooth and nail against the families and small businesses of the commercial passenger vehicle industry who invested in their future through the purchase of taxi licences as part of conducting a lawful business and as part of their superannuation.
I have been contacted by a number of my constituents and industry stakeholders asking, ‘What are the documents that have been requested that the regulator wishes to hide? Why are they fighting so hard?’. Does the minister believe that vigorously defending these proceedings against taxi and hire-car families is the best use of taxpayer funds by the regulator? Therefore the action that I am asking the minister to take is: with the understanding of the model litigant rules and obligations for how the state and its agencies ought to behave as parties to litigation, will the minister ensure that the regulator acts with complete propriety, fairly and in accordance with the highest professional standards as would be expected of the behaviour of a model litigant?