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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2274 ..

MR HIRD (continuing):

This inquiry by the Standing Committee on Urban Services began on 24 September 1998 following a direction from this parliament. My committee invited public comment on the terms of reference in October of that year and subsequently received submissions from a large number of individuals and organisations, many of whom appeared at public hearings in February and March of this year. Members of the committee also visited Sydney to obtain further information from individuals and organisations involved in the supply of transport services for the disabled.

During the lengthy inquiry the committee reviewed existing transport services available to the disabled and how those services affected their regular lifestyle. The committee was surprised to hear that there had been no independent analysis of the need for wheelchair-accessible transport in the Territory. Aerial Taxis suggested there was no substantial demand, with able-bodied hirers representing, in their words, 75 per cent of passengers using the six cars presently providing facilities for the disabled. There was also evidence, however, that an estimate of 100 wheelchair-bound residents was conservative and that many people were housebound because they were not able to use existing transport facilities.

The committee's view was that there was an urgent need for taxis capable of carrying two wheelchairs and that the Government should immediately move to release 10 wheelchair-accessible taxi licences, with the objective of eventually moving to 10 per cent of the taxi fleet in the Territory being wheelchair accessible. The committee was also of the view that, because existing taxi licensees have an asset that they are able to capitalise on, special conditions should apply to wheelchair-accessible taxis to encourage operators to apply for the 10 licences.

Several of the committee's 26 recommendations call for the Government to embark on an innovative campaign to set national standards in the provision of wheelchair-accessible taxis for the disabled. We have, for instance, recommended that the Government immediately release 10 wheelchair-accessible taxi licences, with the objective of moving, as I indicated earlier, to 10 per cent of the taxi fleet being wheelchair accessible.

My committee further recommended that for the foreseeable future the Government should release taxi licences only by way of non-transferable short-term licences to apply for a period of six years and that these licences be issued by ballot to individuals who satisfy appropriate criteria. This would in effect temporarily abolish the existing taxi plate auction system until 10 per cent of the ACT taxi fleet is wheelchair accessible. The committee recognises that this is a very big change. We have tried not to hurt existing operators, but the committee believes that the needs of the disabled, under the terms of reference given to the committee, are paramount.

The committee commends the operator and drivers of the current multicab fleet of six cars licensed through Aerial Taxi Services on providing the best service they can with the equipment at their disposal. We acknowledge that they are working with vehicles and equipment that are inadequate to meet the needs of the disabled. The committee also recognises that if we impose more stringent requirements upon those six plates then

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