Last week, for the first time since 2009, an additional sitting day was called in Victorian Parliament to allow more time to debate the taxi tax (or Uber levy). Formally known as the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017, the Bill covers a lot, but the key points are:
- creating the architecture for the levy
- removing taxi license fees
- abolishing specific licenses and creating a one-size-fits-all license
- streamlining the application process for a license
The Bill passed the Legislative Council late on Friday night, after multiple time extensions. So what outcomes did the Greens help achieve?
Halving the Levy
When it came to the proposed amount for the levy, both the Victorian Greens and the Sex Party agreed that $2 was too high. We did not want to see a flat-rate of $2 charged on every trip, as the impact of this would be significant, especially for shorter rides and for those with no other choice but to use taxis or ride sharing services.
We supported Fiona Patten’s amendment when it came to this, although we were ready to move our own amendment to halve the levy in case she did not. We are pleased with the outcome as we believe it strikes the right balance between generating funds to compensate taxi license holders while protecting customers from a huge price hike.
Exempting country Victoria from the levy
It’s one thing to charge those in metropolitan Melbourne a levy to jump in a taxi, Uber or other hire car - people here often have access to public transport and other cheap ways of getting around, and so we can view this as a choice. It’s a completely different thing to pass on a levy to those in country areas with very few public transport options and no other choice but to call for a ride.
The Victorian Greens could not, in good conscience, support a bill that would charge people who have no other option more to get around. We negotiated and secured a commitment from the Government to introduce a rebate system to reduce the impact of the levy in country areas.
The Andrews Government was adamant that no further compensation would be provided, aside from case-specific hardship assistance from the Fairness Fund. Furthermore, it was made clear that not passing the Bill through the Legislative Council before the winter recess would jeopardise the amount of compensation, and further delay payments. Considering how long it has taken to get to this point, not passing the bill would have been a particularly poor outcome for those taxi licence holders that are in financial distress (hence the extra day in parliament).
The legislative response to the disruption experienced in the commercial passenger vehicle industry has been one of the most challenging tasks during this term of Parliament. We’re proud to have fought hard for the fairest outcome we could, and we’re happy our work will achieve #FairerFares.
In the meantime, we’ll be monitoring the operation of the Fairness Fund to make sure outcomes are reasonable and justified.
For more information, check out my second reading speech on the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill 2017.
Having an issue with the Fairness Fund? Please contact me with details of your situation by email here.