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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 11 May 1995) . . Page.. 433 ..

Excessive regulation set up a vicious cycle with higher fares the direct result of the controls on the number of taxi plates issued. Higher prices were paid for plates, creating a need for higher fares to ensure reasonable return on investment. Research indicated that every taxi ride cost $2 more merely to pay for the taxi plate.

A similar report in the Financial Review stated:

The Trade Practices Commission has condemned the close regulation of the taxi industry for quashing competition, holding prices too high and inhibiting the development of new and profitable types of taxi services.

During the election campaign, Mr Speaker, when my policies were launched, we had a single-line policy - it might have been a two-line policy - which said that we believed that it would be appropriate that the taxi industry be deregulated. During the election campaign there was quite considerable debate over that, with Aerial Taxis and its chief executive, John Muir, and others taking out large advertisements about the issue of deregulation of the taxi industry. Certainly, at that time, I indicated that when I used the term “deregulation” I had been intending to use it in the terms of the Trade Practices Commission rather than the notion that we allow a simple free-for-all. Indeed, to emphasise that, Mr Speaker, I published at the time the very terms of reference that you have before you now, to indicate to the industry that I was not seeking a free-for-all but looking for sensible deregulation, in the same sense as the Trade Practices Commission used the term.

The reaction that I got from the management of Aerial, rather than encouraging me to back off, did exactly the opposite. It seemed to me that there was incredible overreaction at that time. I had a number of discussions with the ACT Taxi Drivers Association Inc. I will quote a comment from a statement that they put out at about that time. In respect of deregulation, they said:

The industry had greatly overreacted to the proposal to deregulate the taxi industry.

Then they talked about the irresponsible way in which a range of people were encouraged to phone my office at the time. In fact, Mr Speaker, it was very interesting, because, whilst a number of the phone calls that came into my office did indeed oppose what I had suggested, there was a whole range of new issues raised by people phoning my office and saying that this was a good thing. The people who phoned were almost invariably taxi drivers, but there was also just a small number of taxi owners. I do not pretend that that means that all taxi owners felt that it was a good idea. On the contrary, there were letters to the editor and quite a number of objections from some taxi owners.

One issue that people raised at the time and which concerns me greatly is the issue of black money being used in terms of taxis. If that is the case, Mr Speaker, then it is something that ought to be looked at with a great deal of concern. Where people in any industry are not paying tax, it really means that the burden lies on the rest of society to pay more tax in order to compensate for their failure to pay their fair share.

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