Aug 01, 2015

I can honestly say that since I have been a part of this industry (about seven years), I have not experienced a prolonged time of calm and stability. Having said this, I have also never seen the tension and concern that has defined the last six months, particularly the last three. I said many times during the Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry that I was proud to represent the taxi industry in Victoria because of the way it conducted itself during a time of adversity. My resolve, and the resolve of the VTA, to do what we can to stand behind this industry has only strengthened tenfold since then.

Why? Because this situation is rubbish! We are effectively being asked to play a game against an opposition playing by completely different rules – they chose how to play and when they score. Our terms of engagement on the other hand are tightly controlled and very specific – our goal posts are much closer together and our accuracy is heavily checked and scrutinised by officials charged with that responsibility. So what is out opponent’s argument? It’s all ok because we are simply playing a different game. It just happens to be for the same trophy (or customers), on the same field at the same time. 

What has once again pleased me is the ability of our industry in Victoria not to get sucked into an inappropriate and self-defeating response as we have seen in other places. In Western Australia, for example, drivers went on strike blocking access to parts of the city. We all understand and sympathise with why they acted this way, but ultimately it is completely counter-productive. Uber’s subscription rate went through the roof while customers can’t access taxis.  Meanwhile the public commentary about the strike was almost all negative towards the industry and the Western Australian Government’s position has not moved as a result.

As I say, I do not intend to criticise the taxi drivers of Western Australian taxi drivers - they did what they thought necessary, but ultimately this form of protest is ineffective in this context against this type of threat. I am of the firm view that when making decisions of this nature a clear line needs be drawn in relation to motivation. Are you doing it to make yourself feel better or achieve an outcome? Unfortunately, often making oneself feel better will not produce a tangible outcome and can often have the opposite effect, as in this case.

In Victoria, the Minister has put a process in place to try and resolve this issue. Obviously, people’s views on how the Government have performed in this respect will be largely determined by the outcome of that process but it is vital that we allow it to run its course without disruption. In places like Paris where there have been fiery protests, much of the frustration has stemmed from the Government not doing what our Government is doing, which is seriously considering this matter and attempting to come up with a sustainable and effective set of rules. In the meantime, we will do what can to encourage the TSC, and others, to enforce the law and hold all to account. 

It is vital during this difficult period that we remember our industry is still the biggest provider of point to point transport services in Victoria by a big margin - even Uber's commentary confirms this. We must use this position to retain and encourage new patronage, and wherever possible, limit the impact of this illegitimate and illegal product on the businesses of honest hard working people.

At the VTA we have the utmost confidence in the service you provide. It is safer, more accessible and is as affordable as any competitor that is required to play by the same rules and pay the same compliance costs. At the end of the day, demand for point-to-point transport services is not declining, it’s growing. Most of that is due to the great work done by our industry. I know how hard many are doing it because I hear about it and see it every day, but I also know once the field is levelled it will be your business that succeeds not the poorer imitation.