Taxi drivers call for MPs to oppose industry changes

Emma Watson, Mordialloc Chelsea Leader

January 18, 2017 3:15pm

RETIRED taxi driver Ken Benton believes the taxi licence he bought 30 years ago to fund his retirement will soon be worth nothing.

As the Victoria United Taxi Industry issued a plea to State MPs not to vote planned taxi industry changes through parliament, Mr Benton said his retirement dream had all but vanished and slammed the government’s proposals as theft.

The 65 year-old gave up driving taxis about 10 years ago, but his wife still owns the perpetual taxi licence the pair bought in 1988 so they’d never have to rely on the pension.

“There are people out there, like my wife and I, who have got one or more taxi plate,” Mr Benton said.

“I guarantee they all had the same thought in mind — that when I retire I don’t have to rely on the pension and when I die I have a major asset I can hand over to my children, which could make their life easier.

“That’s what we all strive to do. The government has stepped in and stopped that.”

In August the government detailed plans to establish a single commercial passenger industry in which controversial rideshare services would be legalised.

A “simpler” registration system would be implemented; all existing licences dumped to “reduce the cost of travel for passengers” and a levy equivalent to $2 a trip charged to fund the new system.

The government has promised to compensate taxi licence owners up to $100,000 for their first licence and $50,000 for up to three more.

Mr Benton, who lives in Carrum, said he’d watched the monthly income his licence generated drop $1200 since an independent inquiry into the industry began in 2011.

Ken Benton in his taxi driver days.

Acting Public Transport Minister Jaala Pulford said the government had announced “hundreds of millions of dollars to assist licence owners affected by these reforms — the largest transition and support package of any state in Australia.”

But Victoria United Taxi Industry’s Jacob Revzin urged MPs to oppose the legislation.

“They take away from us assets and income, so what are they making of us? Slaves who work hard all life for nothing,” Mr Revzin said.

The government has established a $50 million ‘fairness fund’ for licence holders who may experience significant financial hardship as a result of the changes. Applications are open and will close on April 30.

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