Sandy Spanos may lose everything under Victorian government taxi reform

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/sandy-spanos-may-lose-everything-under-victorian-government-taxi-reform/news-story/063de7449c7403532a3ce5c31b62f595

A WOMAN faces losing everything she has worked for because of the

Victorian government’s decision to shake up the taxi industry.

Sandy Spanos is only 58, but now she could lose her house and be unable

to pay for treatment for her cancer, which she was diagnosed with two

years ago, because the reform will leave her and her husband in hundreds

of thousands of dollars of debt.

Mrs Spanos invested in three taxi licences so she could enter retirement

comfortably with a good superannuation, but she said it has all been

ripped from her.

“What did I do wrong?” She told news.com.au.

The Victorian government wants to deregulate the taxi industry by

abolishing taxi licences and introducing a single registration for

taxis, hire cars and ride-share services like Uber.

Taxi licences costs cabbies $500,000 and it’s seen as an investment that

will later help fund retirement.

The government now wants to buy back these licences, and has proposed to

compensate taxi licence holders by paying $100,000 for their first

licence and $50,000 for up to three others.

Mrs Spanos has three licences, meaning she would receive $200,000, but

she still has a loan of $300,000 she needs to pay back to the bank.

Her husband drives taxis but she said he was losing income.

“I can’t pay the bank back. I’ve still got bank loans and my husband’s

income has almost decimated and my assets are being seized and I’m going

to lose my house,” she said.

“I’ve told the government and they simply don’t care.”

Mrs Spanos said she wasn’t alone and there were 5000 families who were

at breaking point.

“(The government) said no person will be left behind but who am I? Am I

an alien kicked to the gutter?” She said.

“People are committing suicide and dying because of this, my kids are

going to inherent a legacy debt.”

Mrs Spanos said the government either needed to leave licences as they

were or buy back licences at a fair price.

“Offer us $300,000,” she said.

“People have sold properties to buy taxi licences to fund their retirement.”

Mrs Spanos has had to put her house up for collateral and the bank can

seize it if loan payments stop.

“I’m going to have to sell my house and that’s 30 years of work between

me and my husband go down the gurgler,” she said.

“I have to start again. I’m 58, how do I start again?”

Taxi drivers protest outside Parliament House in Melbourne over

Government deregulation plans for the taxi industry. Picture: AAP

Image/Joe Castro

Taxi drivers protest outside Parliament House in Melbourne over

Government deregulation plans for the taxi industry. Picture: AAP

Image/Joe CastroSource:AAP

Mrs Spanos has been part of the band of cabbies protesting the reform. A

convoy of taxis drove slowly along the Bolte Bridge in central Melbourne

this morning during peak hour traffic and rallied outside parliament.

“I’m not an activist. I’m a mother and a grandma and I have a right to

enjoy what’s left of my life. Why am I placed in this position, why?”

She said.

According to Mrs Spanos, the new reform has caused a whole number of

issues among those in the taxi industry in Victoria.

People are suffering from mental health issues, heart attacks and

domestic violence.

“It’s horrendous. So many people are in hundreds of thousands of dollars

of debt,” she said.

Mrs Spanos’ husband has lost his will to work and most of the people

with the loans are middle-aged or elderly and are hardly making an

income anymore.

“The government needs to start governing for the people and need to

protect their citizens,” she said.

“Why don’t the politicians hand over their super and see how they like it?

“We’ve lost everything that we’ve worked for and I’m tired of it and

just want to live my life.

“We’re dropping like flies, we’re slowly dying.”

Mrs Spanos said taxi licence holders were not asking for charity, “just

what’s rightfully ours”.

“It’s disgusting, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be in the

situation I’m in,” she said.

“I’ve been a lawful citizen, paid my taxes, did everything a good

citizen does, and I find myself in this situation where I feel like I’m

destitute.

“I’m a human being, a person. We all are.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government needed to sit down

with taxi drivers and negotiate a fair deal because drivers needed

certainty.

The Victorian government has previously said introducing new licensing

requirements would put passengers first and create a level playing field

for all industry participants.

“This will drive greater consumer choice, better service, and will place

downward pressure on fares,” the government said.

The government claims it will be cheaper to now operate a taxi or hire

car as the annual licence fee of $23,000 will be axed.

In addition to the government’s buyback scheme, it also established a

$50 million Fairness Fund to provide targeted support to those doing it

tough as a result of the changes.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said more than $420 million

would go towards supporting the industry and it was the largest

transition and support package in Australia.

“We will continue to work closely with and support the industry while we

get on with regulating rideshare, and creating fairer, safer and more

responsive services for passengers,” she said.

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