Page 3770 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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The government’s commitment also is to closely monitor these changes. The taxi and on-demand transport industry is undoubtedly going through significant disruption around the world. The idea that we can pretend this is not happening and that there is not a response necessary is just madness. We have seen disruption happening, but the sort of disruption that is happening in this industry is happening in many others around the world. Just ask the newspaper industry, or booksellers. Those who have been involved in areas of regulated or semi-regulated service provision in many different industries need to embrace change. Think of Kodak, a major corporation that has struggled and fallen by the wayside as a result of technological change. In turn, even search engine and IT firms that were at the start of the tech boom have seen their initial boom move aside and others step into their place. That is the nature of change, and the pace of change is only increasing. The original business model for a company like Yahoo is obviously now out of date, and we see innovation and change as a constant feature in our society.

The ACT is in a better position to reform for that change than most. Unlike other jurisdictions, we have not issued a perpetual taxi licence in 20 years. What a good decision that was 20 years ago—a very good decision, and one that should have been taken even earlier, in my view. The fact that perpetual plate holders have bought into a highly protected market and received the benefit of operating in that highly protected market for more than two decades does not mean that the government is obliged to protect or sustain that business model forever. And anyone who invested on that basis should not have made that assumption. As Mr Coe indicated, regulations will change. Governments always reserve the right to change the regulatory environment. Anyone who invested on the basis that there would never be any change made a very bad call.

I do note, though, that when people benefited from the upside of regulation, when the value of taxi licences was increasing exponentially, as it has been in many jurisdictions around this country, I did not hear that many people, particularly on that side of politics, calling for increased taxation to capture that increase in value over a period of time. What goes up can come down.

The government recognises, though, that our reforms will change the taxi industry. There is no doubting that. Of course they will. Of course these reforms will mean change. That change was coming anyway, and coming at a rapid pace. That is why we have committed to actively monitor and review the impact of the reforms.

I hope we can deregulate further in the future. I think that is undoubtedly the direction of public policy in this country. It is what the new federal Treasurer has demanded of the states and territories—to implement the Harper competition policy reforms, one of which was to deregulate taxis and support the introduction of ride sharing services. It is a clear area of micro-economic reform for this country and one that the ACT is proud to lead. They are proud and important decisions, to lead in this area. But there have been umpteen reviews. The Productivity Commission has looked at this matter extensively over decades. The most recent analysis of competition policy priorities in this country, by Ian Harper, clearly articulated that this was an area that states and territories needed to move on.

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