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Fair and equitable compensation for taxi plate owners.

Taxi turmoil caused suicides, says Jeff Kennett

As stated in the Australian, May 24, 2017 written by Samantha Hutchinson, Victorian taxi drivers have lost homes and life savings and been driven to suicide as the value of ­licences for which they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars have been reduced to virtually nil by ride-sharing services, said former premier Jeff Kennett.

Addressing a parliamentary inquiry into new taxi legislation, the former Victorian leader spoke of the huge damage inflicted by the indecision of successive state governments over a “fairness fund” supposed to compensate taxi ­licence owners.

Mr Kennett cited two deaths he believed to be suicides caused by the financial stresses of an ­industry in transition and spoke of five taxi drivers who had lost their homes in the past year when banks had called in mortgages ­secured against taxi licences.

Some drivers had paid as much as $535,000 for their licences, he said, only for their values to be ­reduced almost to nothing by the Andrews government’s plan announced last August to revoke all licences.

“We’re seeing individuals having their houses reclaimed as banks realising that licences are now worthless … a couple have lost their houses, but its also the mental cost of the delay in getting this matter resolved that is most ­destructive,” Mr Kennett said.

“They should be given support for what is an absolute injustice.”

Mr Kennett appeared at the ­inquiry as the state government considers new taxi and ride-sharing legislation and the best way to administer a fairness fund to compensate for 5000 licence owners following the transition.

Proposals so far include a fairness fund generated by a $2 levy applied to all taxi and ride-sharing trips, to cash-up a fund that the government foreshadows might need more than $500 million, to fund $100,000 payments for each owner’s first licence and $50,000 for any others.

But Mr Kennett said he ­believed the fund might need to be larger. He also recommended that payments be allocated ­according to the previous fair value of licences, rather than as an income-replacement subsidy that would attract higher tax.

The taxi scheme could reflect the Andrews Labor government’s arrangements with Port Phillip Bay commercial fishermen who had their licences revoked under changes to fishing rules in the ­region.

Following that decision, some commercial fishermen received payments as high as $1.6 million in recognition of the former value of their licences.

Mr Kennett did not spare his own side, criticising the Baillieu and Napthine governments’ haphazard attempts at reforming the taxi industry in response to the rise of ride-sharing apps such as Uber, without any clear direction for the industry’s future.

Mr Kennett also attacked the Andrews government for having hesitated too long over legislation and the fairness fund and called on Transport Minister Jacinta Allan to consider issuing fairness payments even before the $2 levy was implemented.

“There have been no payments yet from the fairness fund, and why is that the case and what is the point of the fairness fund if its not helping people through these difficult times?” he said.

“I’d argue that its not fair to wait until the legislation is passed and the licences are revoked.”

 

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