Baillieu sits on taxi report
The Baillieu government will defer its response to Professor Allan Fels' blueprint for major taxi industry reform when it tables his report in State Parliament this week.
Premier Ted Baillieu said the public would be given extra time to debate the final report before the government responds to its many recommendations for reform.
"We have had that report for a few weeks and we are keen to ensure that the community have an opportunity to assess that and there will be a process for that to take place," Mr Baillieu said, ahead of the report's expected tabling on Wednesday.
"We are concerned to get this right. We want to have a taxi industry that all Victorians can be proud of, that works obviously for the drivers, obviously for passengers."
Professor Fels said it was fine for the government to take extra time to respond to his report, but warned it not to cave in to industry attempts to block reform in their own interest.
“While it is up to the government how and when it responds, it is concerning, based on the past form of numerous governments around Australia including Victoria, that the taxi lobby will try to do a deal behind closed doors that puts consumers last," Professor Fels said.
“The taxi industry's time is up – for years they have failed to fix their own problems and their recent efforts to improve are window dressing and a case of simply tinkering around the edges when under pressure from the inquiry."
Tourism and social services groups called on the government last week to accept the proposed reforms in full, arguing taxi standards for tourists and people with a disability were unacceptably low.
The Victorian Council of Social Service said the report presented the Baillieu government with an opportunity to "stand up and take action for ordinary Victorians, and not be swayed by those who seek to undermine a competitive, fair and productive economy".
Opposition public transport spokeswoman Fiona Richardson said the government had "thumbed its nose at commuters and the taxi industry" by putting off its response until after Christmas.
"The Liberal government has had months to formulate their response to Allan Fels' final taxi industry report but once again they have failed to deliver," Ms Richardson said.
"What this Liberal government doesn't seem to understand is that you can't fix the taxi industry by simply having an inquiry – you actually need to implement reform."
Victorian Taxi Association spokesman David Samuel echoed the premier's stance that it was more important to get industry reform right than respond to the report this week.
The government announced in March last year an independent inquiry into the state of Victoria's taxi industry, in a bid to improve service standards and break industry conditions that were seen to stifle competition and disadvantage drivers.
Professor Fels released his 800-page draft report 12 months later, which received more than 1500 public submissions. It recommended 145 reforms including slashing taxi licence values to encourage more taxis onto the road, halving Cabcharge's 10 per cent credit card surcharge, giving taxi drivers a greater share of the farebox and making them sit a new "greater Melbourne knowledge" test.
Taxi industry groups have argued that some of the reforms would damage the industry badly, and that many small business owners would be financially ruined because their superannuation was based on owning a taxi licence valued at up to $500,000.
With Josh Gordon