I am pleased to rise and speak to the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017 and support the amendment moved by the member for Croydon to:
Omit “$1” and insert “nil”.
We were told that there would be no new taxes, and there is no doubt that this is simply a tax. I agree that we should support compensation for the taxi drivers; that is not something I am disputing. However, what my concern mainly centres around is the people of the South-West Coast electorate. We do not have Uber services at this point in time, and in some areas where we have taxis — Koroit, Port Fairy, Portland, Warrnambool — who knows when that will occur. I am very concerned for the people who will be affected who do not have access to public transport. You cannot just get a bus up the street from anywhere in these places. If you are elderly or disabled, particularly if you have mobility restrictions and cannot walk 100 metres to a bus stop — if there is one — or if you cannot use public transport because you are in a wheelchair, then you have absolutely no other option than a taxi. So if taxis are not available and Ubers are not available, where does this leave our elderly?
Not only that, but putting the tax on taxis when there is no other option in the country is unfairly taxing people who are not able to use Uber. If you are trying to get to the supermarket to do your grocery shopping to be able to eat, if you are going to the doctor for an important medical appointment or if you are going to an elderly socialisation service such as the Archie Graham Community Centre in Warrnambool, then you are usually paying $8 or so per trip. If you are going from the airport to the city in Melbourne and you are paying $70, an extra $1 or $2 is nothing, but if you are 80 years of age and you are on a pension and you are totally reliant for your socialisation, your health and your food needs on going via taxi, if you do four trips a week — $8 there plus another dollar or two, and $8 back, four trips a week — you have taken your budget from $64 to $72 by adding an extra dollar at least, and twice that if it is $2. This is extraordinarily difficult. It is a lot of money in a pensioner’s budget and weekly income.
Not only this: if Uber ever do come, what is the incentive for them to install the mobility requirements of someone who needs wheelchair access? In our part of the world, there might be one or two clients in Koroit or Port Fairy — the smaller areas — that need wheelchair access. There is no business case for someone with an Uber vehicle to put a wheelchair-accessible mechanism in. What provisions have we made as a community to ensure our disabled are able to continue to be transported to and from appointments et cetera?
I just do not think that this is a fair or well thought through situation, particularly for people in my part of the world, where there is no public transport, where people are not able to use Uber and where the elderly, the disabled and people with poor mobility are relying on these taxi services for their food — which is their health and nutrition — their socialisation and their mental health. I think this is poorly thought through and a terrible move for my part of the world, and I am very concerned, as are many, many people in my electorate who I have spoken to, at what putting a tax on a taxi journey of either $2 or $1 will do for people right now. This is a significant tax for the people affected, who are the most vulnerable members of our community.