Call to means-test state government taxi cab compensation

ANTHONY GALLOWAY, State Political Reporter, Herald Sun

March 7, 2017 4:44pm

FEWER than 2 per cent of taxi licence holders bought their plates at the top of the market, prompting calls for means-testing of the state government’s compensation package.

Figures from the Taxi Services Commission, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, reveal just 1.7 per cent of taxi licenses were bought for more than $500,000.

Cabbies are expected to disrupt traffic on Melbourne’s busiest roads again on Thursday, in protest against government deregulation of the industry and the compensation it has offered drivers.

Taxi drivers have slammed the offer of $100,000 for a first licence, and $50,000 for second, third and fourth licences, saying it doesn’t nearly cover what many paid for them.

But the Herald Sun is able to reveal that:

JUST over 10 per cent of licences — or 325 — were bought for more than $400,000;

ONLY 14 per cent of licence holders in Melbourne actually use their taxis, the rest leasing plates to other operators, and;

ONE operator bought a licence in 2013 for less than $100,000, and so may profit from the compensation.

Over the past year more than 50 licence holders have transferred their licences to someone else for nothing, sparking fears operators are trying to circumvent the four-licence cap for compensation.

Sex Party MP Fiona Patten said the compensation should paid on a case-by-case basis.

Pubic Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the package was designed to “support those that need it most”.

“We’re providing up to $250,000 for the licences owners have invested in, and a $50 million, means-tested Fairness Fund to support those in significant financial hardship as a result of the changes,” Ms Allan said.

Victorian Taxi Association chief Georgia Nicholls opposed “any further overlays or complications”, saying: “Our primary concerns are the splitting of the reforms into two Bills — the second of which we haven’t seen yet — and the levy in its current form.”

Uber spokesman Mike Scott said the compensation — to be paid for by a new $2 levy on fares — needed to be more transparent.

Opposition public transport spokesman David Hodgett said the $2 levy would hurt taxi and ride-sharing operators.

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