Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 3871..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
urban and non-urban areas over the last 31/2 to four years and, as I have previously indicated, of those, 145,000 or thereabouts have been cared for through watering at vulnerable stages.
Mr Speaker, I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.
Supplementary answers to questions without notice
MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for the Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs): Yesterday Mrs Dunne asked about breaches of taxi regulations. If I may, I would like to take the opportunity to provide some information to Mrs Dunne and expand a little on the answer.
A search of the Road Transport Authority's records since January 2002 indicates a total of 39 notifications of services received from Aerial relating to wheelchair accessible taxis—I will call them WATs from now on. Initially, nine notifications related to operators' monthly reports on the total number of WAT hirings. The reports indicated that the number of wheelchair-based client journeys were lower than the expected average. In those instances a letter was sent reminding the operator of the requirements of section 114, special responsibilities of wheelchair accessible taxi drivers, under the Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) Regulation 2002. This was the appropriate action at the time, as the dispatch system used by the network was being reviewed and adjusted.
Twenty notifications related to a refusal to accept a WAT hiring. In these cases a letter was sent to the operator, commencing disciplinary action. Where the operator was not able to provide an explanation for refusing to hire, a reprimand was issued. So any suggestion that we have not taken action against people is not true.
Some operators provided assurances that the offending driver would be no longer assigned to a WAT vehicle. Again the issuing of a reprimand is in line with section 322, which is action that may be taken in relation to accreditations and licences under the Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) Regulation 2002. No action was taken in 10 cases, due to either Aerial being unable to confirm refusal, evidence that the onboard computer equipment was faulty, or the notification related to a late acceptance of hiring rather then an outright refusal.
Canberra Cabs may also discipline drivers for failing to give priority to a wheelchair hiring. However, it is acknowledged that Aerial has found, just as the department has, that it can be difficult to prove that a driver has deliberately refused a hiring, as drivers can use the dispatch system to indicate that they are not available for hiring, rather then actively reject that hiring.
Further, until recently the department has had concerns about the efficiency and level of fairness provided by the dispatch system. Canberra Cabs has now substantially complied with a new requirement under the minimum service standards for a network to micromanage hirings for wheelchair-bound people. These were recommendations of the wheelchair accessible taxis reference group.