Dozens of angry taxi drivers have lashed out at industry reforms by blocking traffic across Melbourne’s CBD and are vowing to do it all over again.
About 60 drivers and their supporters on Friday marched from Parliament House to Exhibition Street and set up camp outside government offices, blocking traffic for about an hour.
The group, being watched closely by a dozen police officers, shouted ‘‘we want justice’’ as drivers repeatedly tooted their horns.
The noisy and feisty group then headed to Flinders Street, blocking trams for at least 20 minutes, before the protest finally fizzled out. But it may not be over yet.
Nasr Nabbout, who has been driving a taxi for 20 years, says drivers will be back every week until the government agrees to meet with them.
‘‘This is going to kill us,’’ he shouted at the protest, which came only hours after the taxi reforms were unveiled.
The state government announced the first rise in taxi fares in six years on Friday, which will see the cost of catching a taxi rise by up to 30 per cent.
Other reforms to be rolled out by next month will see three kinds of tariffs slapped on customers depending on the time of day, with the cost of starting the meter rising up to $6.20 in peak periods.
The plan is aimed at addressing the shortage of taxis on Friday and Saturday nights as well as taxi drivers who are refusing short fares.
More taxi licences will also be available.
Some drivers, like Mr Nabbout, fear they will make less money because they will be competing against many more drivers.
‘‘We’re going backwards. We’re still the cheapest (taxis) in all of Australia,’’ he added.
Others at the protest, organised by industry group Victorian Taxi Families, were infuriated with the sale of new licences.
Denise Sax, 60, bought a license with her sister more than a decade ago and believes its value will be destroyed by a flood of new license holders.
‘‘I’m relying on this money for my pension. How can the government do this?’’ she said while holding a sign that stated, ‘‘The Liberal government has taken my future’’.
‘‘I thought this was safer than shares, anything else that could be vulnerable in the market.
‘‘I am diabolically angry at the government. That’s why I’ve got this bloody big sign. They’ve taken away my future.’’
Theodore Erevenidis, 77, said he was relying on his one licence like a pension.
‘‘They are going to deprive me of that. Why?’’ he said.
The group’s spokeswoman, Sandy Spanos, said there are 120,000 people involved in Victoria’s taxi industry and every one of them is now furious at the government.
‘‘This will cost them an election,’’ she said.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder said he wanted to support the industry in transforming itself.
‘‘If we want better drivers and better services, we need to fairly compensate those providing these services,’’ he said.
David Samuel, CEO of the Victorian Taxi Association, said the reforms strike the right balance and hopes customers accept fare increases are long overdue.
‘‘It’s necessary to keep pace with costs and inflation,’’ he said.
The state opposition is pushing for 24-hour public transport instead of seeing higher taxi fares to deal with late-night taxi shortages.