Sep 01, 2015

The VTA held its Annual State Conference in the regional centre of Bendigo in the last week of September. Attended by over 120 delegates, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers, the conference provided opportunities to network, reconnect with fellow industry participants and hear the latest on the developments in the Victorian taxi industry.

The Conference brought together authorised Networks, fleet operators, licence owners and industry suppliers.The Business Program addressed key issues and opportunities facing the taxi industry, with a focus on both operational and policy aspects, delivered by expert presenters.

The Minister for Public Transport, the Hon Jacinta Allan opened the Conference in her home town. She addressed the challenges the industry currently faces and highlighted the importance of the taxi industry for all Victorians. Illegal ride hail services were the hot topic and the Minister was keen to emphasise that her government understood the issue and were working hard to resolve it. The Minister touched on other operational issues impacting the industry such as the Knowledge Test and driver supply.

Stephen Armstrong, Vice-President of the VTA, addressed the Conference after the Minister and acknowledged the good working relationship the new government has with the VTA, and spoke about competition, the law as it stands in Victoria and that it must be upheld. He also talk about competition: the industry welcomes it, but there must be a level playing field for all participants. Read the full address here

VTA CEO, David Samuel discussed the threats and challenges currently confronting the industry, particularly ride hail, the Knowledge test, 45/55 operator/driver split, redundant regulatory change and the industry’s legacy. He stressed that the industry can overcome these challenges by rising to them.

It was insightful to hear from the new CEO of the Taxi Services Commission, Aaron de Rozario in his first official address. Aaron focused on what he perceives to be the biggest threats and prospects for the Victorian taxi industry and was open to questions from delegates.

Other highlights of the first day included a presentation by VTA Senior Advisor Georgia Nicholls on a recently commissioned report outlining the economic contribution of the taxi industry. This coincided with an article published in the Herald Sun utilising the statistic from the report. Logie Smith Lanyon Lawyers offered a legal perspective on ride hail and the importance of up to date company rules for Networks and Rod Barton, President of the Victorian Hire Car Association, addressed the conference and discussed the similarities in challenges faced by our two industries. The working relationship has been strengthened into the future

VicTaxi magazine was launched to an appreciative crowd. Representatives from publishers TMPC were at the conference and audience members loved the look of the new magazine and of course the content, including a spotlight on our hosts, Bendigo Taxis

The VTA was delighted to announce Teresa Saldias from Silver Top Taxi Service as the winner of the 2015 VTA Industry Award for her hard work and commitment to the industry over the past 22 years. BP Australia sponsored the award for the second year running with representative Ashley Backman there to present the award to Teresa.

The Conference Dinner, sponsored by ROVA Media, Cabcharge and Toyota was a fun night at which guests were able to relax and socialise. Maree Edwards MP, State Member for Bendigo West was the keynote speaker for the evening. She reflected in an entertaining and insightful way on taxis and her local area of Bendigo. Meanwhile, the music of the Swing Club Trio provided the perfect accompaniment to the evening.

A session by Brendan Zwanikken from Melbourne Airport kicked off the second day. He gave an update on construction of the new Terminal 4 and Ground Transport Hub, which includes a new taxi rank. He also engaged in discussion on how taxis can manage the passenger experience in different ways and listened to concerns and suggestions from operators.

Tony Nicholls, a former ABC journalist from Good Talent Media Training presented an insightful session on managing the media in a time of crisis, citing examples of actual crises and examining how they were handled. He then posed some hypothetical taxi industry issues that could happen, and proposed appropriate ways to deal with them.

Dr Sandra Davidson from the University of Melbourne presented on the mental health collaboration she is working on with the VTA ‘The Driving for Change Project’. This will be ongoing and the research and outcomes should be of benefit to drivers in the future.

Following lunch Rhod Ellis-Jones delivered a session on a state-wide public relations and community engagement campaign, ‘Your Taxis’ to promote the role of taxis in the community. He asked participants for the stories, and VTA staff helped collect the large number of stories – next job is work out which ones are publishable!

Queensland Taxi Council CEO Benjamin Wash presented an update on how Queensland are approaching illegal ride hail services and VTA CEO David Samuel concluded the conference by giving a run-down on state-by-state issues within the national context.

The attendance and contribution by VTA members and industry participants was constructive and valuable. The conference really did deliver the right message. The VTA is grateful to all of our sponsors and exhibitors, without whom the conference would not have been possible. We particularly look forward to working with our Gold Sponsors; ROVA Media, Cabcharge and Toyota to deliver the VTA’s Annual Luncheon in December.

Your Say - a reflection on the VTA Conference

This year’s conference - the best I have attended. 

The venue – it was good to be in a regional area rather than the CBD or metropolitan Melbourne.  The variety of speakers and their presentations were relevant to the issues and concerns currently being faced by the Victorian taxi industry.    

The various presentations provided many thought provoking­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ concepts for the attendees to consider and reflect on, in a complex business arena where the major constant for the past few years has been constant change.      

The strong message that the State-wide Victorian Taxi industry must become more proactive in how it sells its service product to all of its stakeholders.  There were also some very good insights into the taxi industry’s contribution to the Victorian economy via GST returns, vehicle registration, licence fees, supplier and other services yet the Government and the TSC seemingly take this for granted.

It was interesting to note the assertion that a key function of the Taxi Services Commission is to support the taxi industry and the consumers of its services. I suggest that it can be strongly argued that consumer support is solid however the taxi industry support is negligible.

The conference heard repeated operator statements of reduced taxi service capability caused by the “Knowledge” test which has from its introduction and subsequent modifications has decimated driver supply.

Knowledge test applicants do not receive any feedback on their test outcomes.  Where else in the world does a person sit a vocationally measurable assessment task and not receive guidance feedback on their mistakes or misunderstanding?

In reality the administration and management of the Knowledge test is an excellent example of the opposite of constructive learning and its application.  It needs significant change or removal.          

Rapid change within and outside of the taxi industry has also seen some of the reforms become unworkable e.g. the new taxi meter specifications and the price notification scheme which has threatened the viability of co-operative country networks and is still a long way from resolution.  

To summarise, this annual conference provides valuable insights for the Victorian Taxi industry.  If you haven’t attended one yet – don’t rely on others to fill you in on what’s happening in your taxi industry put it on your to do list for 2016.

Eleanor Fitz, 
Conference delegate 2015 & Manager of Wodonga Taxis    



2015 VTA Gold Sponsors: