Taxi licence owners want bigger slice of Victorian government’s estimated $1 billion levy

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/news/taxi-license-owners-want-bigger-slice-of-victorian-governments-estimated-1-billion-levy/news-story/f3364f28743099cb9ac0b9128f1f4e45

Rebecca David, Leader

February 9, 2017 10:14am

TAXI licence owners estimate a $2 levy tacked on to taxi, hire care and Uber trips will raise more than $1 billion over eight years — and want to know why they will collectively receive only $428 million of that in compensation.

The extra charge has been designed to fund and administer a transition and compensation package for licence owners as part of a move towards a single registration system for taxis and hire cars.

It will be introduced next year and will replace annual taxi fees.

Leader previously reported taxi licence owners’ concerns the Government’s compensation scheme did not adequately consider the licences as assets being compulsorily acquired.

And basing their estimates on the Australian Taxi Industry Association’s (ATIA) most recent taxi trip statistics along with CPI and growth in fares each year, licence owners said the revenue raised by the levy could sufficiently pay out the industry to more fairly replace both the equity and income that a licence represents.

Linda De Melis, whose family owns six licences, questioned where the rest of the money raised by the levy would go.

“It might be filling the black hole created by the East-West Link payout. It might be trying to replace the state revenue stream that the taxi industry has been providing to date in annual fees and charges,” Ms De Melis said.

She said millions of dollars collected in fees from the taxi industry each year would disappear under the new scheme and that this levy should be used as intended and not to fill a gap in the state budget created by the proposed reforms.

“Rideshare does not and will not contribute to this economy as the existing industry has done to date,” Ms De Melis said.

Victorian Taxi Association chief executive Georgia Nicholls said the group was concerned the proposed levy would have an impact on the sustainability and competitiveness of taxi businesses, especially those outside the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Ms Nicholls said the charge could also hurt passengers who relied on taxis for their independence and mobility.

Treasury modelling for the levy was based on 30 million trips a year, rather than the 50 million licence owners estimated, and the Government said administering the levy was expected to cost many millions of dollars each year.

The Government would not say when the levy would be lifted.

TAXI INDUSTRY NEEDS MORE SUPPORT

Bob Neilson, spokesman for Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, said the Victorian Government’s $428 million transition and support package was the largest industry assistance package in Australia.

“The levy will be introduced next year and replace annual taxi licence fees — currently up to $23,000 — considerably reducing the cost of operating a taxi, paving the way for more competition, cheaper fares and better services for mobility impaired passengers,” Mr Neilson said.

But taxi licence owners disagreed – saying the Victorian package was the only one in which licences were being confiscated – and have vowed to continue to lobby for a “fair and just buyback”, with a rally planned for February 11 at Parliament House.

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