Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 464..
MR GENTLEMAN: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Urban Services. Minister, I noted over the weekend that the government has announced a new taxi licence release system. Can you please inform the Assembly of the details of the new system and its aims?
MR HARGREAVES: I thank Mr Gentleman for his question. Mr Speaker, community satisfaction with Canberra's taxi industry has been declining in recent months. My office receives many complaints from commuters about their inability to get a taxi when they need one, and I believe these complaints are also made to the media, to other MLAs and to Canberra Cabs. It has been a concern to me that the community is not receiving the level of service that it expects and deserves and that the key aims of the government's sustainable transport plan-reducing the travel time of public transport journeys, improving the reliability of public passenger services and improved equity of access-are not being achieved.
With that in mind, and following requests from the industry, the government announced last week the release of more taxi licences into the Canberra market. Up to 40 new licences will be released over the next two to four years, depending on the level of demand. Releasing leased licences means there will be no increase in the pool of standard taxi licences. There is a very good reason for this. The standard licences have attained significant value due to their scarcity and have driven up costs in the industry, resulting in lower take-home income for operators and drivers.
This taxi licence release program marks a clear break with the previous practice of issuing licences at auction. Leased taxi licences can be released in a timely manner in response to demand and place the quality of taxi services at the centre of future policy decisions. The industry has been through several years of uncertainty and we have seen concerns about licence values skew the industry's focus away from service quality. It is now time for the taxi industry to concentrate on meeting community expectations and return the Canberra taxi service to its former high standard. It is logical that higher service standards will result in increased patronage and increased incomes for taxi operators and drivers.
The first set of 10 leased licences will be released by ballot on 19 April 2006, followed by a further ballot later this year, depending on the level of demand for the first release. A maximum of 20 licences will be released in any one year and the program will be reviewed at the end of four years or when the 40th licence has been released, whichever is sooner.
Mr Speaker, there has been some criticism that the releasing of leased licences will have a detrimental effect on existing perpetual licence holders. This has not proved to be the case in Western Australia, where the introduction of 84 leased licences since January 2004 has had no significant impact on the market value of existing perpetual licences, and has allowed a timely, predictable and measured release of new licences in response to demand.