Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1036..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
whether we are talking about wheelchair-accessible taxis or taxis for the general public. The current operator of the taxi system in the ACT has assured the government on so many occasions that I am sick of hearing it that the taxi network despatching system will be fixed. I am sure that in the time they have been addressing it people have been born, lived their lives and died. I am getting heartily sick of it.
The complaint that I hear most of all from people is that a taxi does not turn up or that it turns up late. I am absolutely convinced that there are not enough taxis on the road. The people who have been saying not to give us more taxis are doing nothing more than protecting a proprietary right to perpetual licence plates and the imagined value of them.
The government released defined rights for 10 transferable taxi licences at a ballot on Wednesday, 19 April this year as part of the release of up to 40 taxi plates over two years. Members will remember my advising the house of that. People who were in the industry said, "Oh, woe is me. You are not going to get that much interest."The interesting thing about that was that 121 applications were received in the first ballot. That indicates to me a strong demand to take up taxi licences. As a result, a further ballot for 10 licences will be held later this year.
This release program was developed following a decline in the performance of standard taxis, as I have already mentioned, but we still get a stream of complaints from consumers. Interestingly, one sector of the industry actually asked for 13 extra plates. We obliged with 10. We are going to fix that a bit later in the year. Unlike previous taxi licence releases, which involved the auctioning of perpetual taxi licences, these licences have been released by the government for a six-year term.
Most perpetual taxi licences are owned by passive investors and leased to taxi operators for a fee of between $20,000 and $25,000 a year. The government's releasing of leased taxi licences directly to taxi operators will give operators more control over their businesses. The annual fee for the leased licences will be $20,000, which is at the lower end of the range of lease fees currently charged in the market by private taxi licence holders.
I was devastated to overhear a conversation some months ago about somebody who said that they were only getting a 10 per cent return on their investment. I thought that most people I knew would be as pleased as punch with a 10 per cent return on their investment. The people who were holders of these perpetual licences were not even residents of this town. That was also part of the motivation to do something about that.
The road transport authority has approved new minimum service standards for standard taxi networks and they became effective in February this year. The minimum service standards establish enforceable standards for, amongst other things, taxi waiting times, telephone response times and complaints handling. A failure to meet the standards could result in disciplinary action being taken, including the imposition of financial penalties.
We have heard tales of woe coming out of Canberra Cabs about what will happen if we fine the industry. Bad luck, simply bad luck! The people of this town have waited too long for a decent taxi service. We will be releasing more plates as the demand goes ahead. We will be fining for lack of service standard adherence. Let me tell you that if that does not work, we will go and investigate having another taxi network for this town.