Page 3994 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015

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The amendments which support greater competition allow removal of regulatory burdens that are not required, especially in an environment that is becoming more competitive and whose success will depend on the judgement of the consumers. These were unnecessarily prescriptive rules such as what drivers should wear and how they should behave. Drivers who want to serve customers well in order to compete do not need these kinds of rules prescribed.

As the Chief Minister and I have both said before, the amendments we are making enable the taxi industry to have a strong future in the industry. It will have exclusive access to the rank and hail market. This market makes up around half of the trips the taxi industry undertakes.

There has been considerable discussion about safety in this new environment, and the Chief Minister in his in-principle speech has outlined how the amendments support safety. The safety standards proposed not only directly support the safe operation of ride sharing but also apply to business models and their participants in the future.

New booking services will have to become accredited and regulated as transport booking services. All drivers and vehicle owners undertaking public passenger service will undergo an accreditation and ongoing registration process. Background checks, periodic health assessments and ongoing reporting will be among their responsibilities. Public passenger vehicles too must adhere to fundamental safety standards, regardless of what kind of business models they are affiliated with. Passengers in the ACT can take comfort that safety is foremost and permanently on the agenda of the government as new on-demand transport businesses are considered for entry into our marketplace.

I note that the scrutiny of bills committee has commented on the bill, recommending the minister respond on matters related to compensation of perpetual taxi licence holders and the operation of a court order provision in section 36I of the bill in relation to certain offences. The Assembly considered the issue of compensation in our last sitting and agreed in its resolution that the government will review how the introduction of ride sharing has influenced the price of perpetual taxi plates two years after the commencement of ride sharing in the territory.

As I said earlier, regulating this industry is a balancing act. It is important to balance the needs of consumers, drivers, plate owners, operators and new and emerging businesses. We need to consider each of these stakeholders and we cannot do so in isolation of the others.

The emergence of ride sharing technologies and the government’s regulation of the industry are likely to have impacts on all of these stakeholders. But so too would failing to take action; this would also impact on all of these stakeholders. I understand that there is disappointment from perpetual plate owners. Their investment will be devalued by the change in regulation. But I do not think the government is obliged to try to create a special, protected market for perpetual plate owners, especially when that would entail ignoring other emerging technologies and markets and a government obligation to make sure they are properly regulated for the sake of all stakeholders. The ACT has not issued a perpetual taxi licence in 20 years, and the government must always retain the ability to change regulations in the interests of the community for which it governs.

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