Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 7 Hansard (3 July) . . Page.. 2701..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
We have also talked to the industry—believe this or not. The Canberra Taxi Industry Association—whose sole membership is Aerial taxis by the way—have been having talks with us. We have been trying to work with the industry. It is a private sector industry. It is not something that the government owns; it is not an arm of ACTION buses. It really should have been for the industry to fix itself, but the existence of perpetual licence plates both in the hire car industry and in the taxi industry was a barrier to the provision of good service to the people of the ACT.
We have done more indeed in the last four years than the Liberals did in 10 years of their stewardship over the public transport system in the ACT. It is a bit of an indictment that occasionally, when we have dialogue with the taxi industry, those opposite sit on the sidelines and carp, and say that it is our fault because they cannot get a cab in town—it is our fault that there are queues at the airport—when clearly it is not. This government has moved quite substantially. It has provided many opportunities for development in industry.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Gentleman.
MR GENTLEMAN: Minister, will the issuing of further taxi licences fix the problem of this industry, and is it the government's problem to find solutions?
MR HARGREAVES: No, it is not the government's problem to find the solutions, but we must do what we can in a regulated environment, otherwise the only option open to the government is to totally deregulate. That would be open slather, and that would be a mistake. It was tried in Darwin, and it was an absolute mistake. Those vehicles had to be purchased back and leased out again.
Some history is warranted. In 2004 there were 217 perpetual licences, and we have been approached only very occasionally by the Canberra Taxi Industry Association for an increase. Most of the time people have told us we do not need any more taxis because there is not enough work for everybody, and yet the community keeps screaming that we need more taxis.
No additional licences were issued prior to 2005—nothing in those 10 years. In 2005-06, 10 restricted lease licences were issued, and 30 standard lease licences were issued by this government. In 2008, 25 standard lease licences have been issued, and another 25 are to be released in August. This means that between 2005 and 2008, there has been an increase of 42 per cent—that is, 90 additional licences in four years.
There is an interesting thing. People are saying that they cannot get drivers and they cannot get interest. Mr Speaker, in every one of the ballots that we have had for those 90 licences, more than 100 people have applied for the licences. There is no slackening off of interest at all.
What else have we done? The recent taxi industry forum indicated to us that we needed to go with the extra 50 licences to bring us into line with cities of similar geography and demography to the ACT. Contrast that with 10 years of inactivity from those opposite. When the 25 licences are issued in August, we will have roughly the