Nov 01, 2015

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly update readers on what the VTA are doing to address what we see to be the biggest challenges facing our industry.  We have clearly identified two major threats to the sustainability of all taxi businesses; continued operation of illegal ride hail services and the Knowledge test.

It was immediately apparently following introduction of the Knowledge test that it required radical amendments. The VTA were successful in pushing for several key changes: a review of the content; a change to restrictions on module attempts to twice every three months from twice every 12 months; and establishment of regional testing locations.

These changes were possible because of the sensible approach taken by the Minister and her office in addressing the issues at hand.

The short term damage of the Knowledge test is becoming increasingly apparent. The VTA has strengthened our position on the issue and are calling for the removal of the Knowledge altogether. Once again, the Minister's office has been receptive and allowed us to make our case.

It is our view that responsibility for training and assessing drivers should return to the industry. Within this context, if the industry fails to deliver appropriately, the market will respond by directing customers away from companies and businesses that have low standards. As it stands, taxi businesses are competing with alternatives in the market who have no barriers to entry.

The VTA is currently pursuing three avenues to respond to ride hailing services:

a)      effective enforcement of existing laws and the introduction of a new more robust and modern regulatory structure;

b)      legal opportunities the VTA may be able to pursue on behalf of the industry; and

c)       a more bold and comprehensive approach to community engagement.

The first and second avenues are rather self explanatory and we are happy to discuss either with interested parties. In relation to legal action, let me assure you that if a viable avenue had been identified it would have been acted upon. Regardless, this work continues and without wanting to give false hope a new idea is currently being explored.

On this third front, we have been working hard on a new public facing industry website - www.yourtaxis.com.au – and associated campaign.  This site will act a platform from which we can run various promotions, competition and initiatives to promote the industry to Victorians.  Those who attended the VTA Conference in Bendigo were made aware of the campaign and I am pleased to say it was well received. I also hope many saw the work the VTA commissioned demonstrating the importance of the taxi industry to Victorian community and both the State and Federal economies which generated plenty of media.  The full report is available on our website.

Coming to terms with what we see unfolding before us is difficult for many to accept and understand. In a highly regulated industry we have always understood that we must follow the law or suffer the consequences. This is a legitimate approach to doing business and should not be labelled as a desire to retreat from competition or a refusal to innovate and change with the times.

We don’t want to see the day that a big bank balance determines laws rather than thoughtful public policy. Regulation should be crafted based on consideration of the public benefit, not dictated by what any given industry participant is prepared to adhere to. This view is not outdated and neither does it seek to inhibit competition.

The taxi industry in Victoria should be proud of the fact that we refuse to descend to this level even in this current climate. I am also of the view that participants right across our industry have the right to be both outraged and concerned about what is currently occurring.

Keep up the good fight!

Editorial Note

A series of accusations made in the September addition of Taxi Talk by a so called editorial writer, Mr N Singh (Taxi Talk September edition, page 8) were offensive and misleading. This type of defamatory and trivial commentary will not be addressed on a monthly basis here but handed to lawyers for appropriate action.

In his article, Mr Singh claimed no reason had been given for the VTA's decision to conclude its relationship with Taxi Talk. This is untrue. Both Taxi Talk and VTA members were made well aware of the basis for this decision.  As far as I am aware, Mr Singh fits into neither category which would explain his ignorance. Why Mr Singh has such a strong opinion on the matter and where he sourced his information is a mystery.

For the record, the VTA ended its long relationship with Taxi Talk because they continued to advertise and by inference promote entities, namely unregulated taxi clubs, which the VTA see as detrimental to the interests of taxi operators, drivers and the community as a whole. The VTA tried to work with Taxi Talk to address this matter for over a year but common ground could not be found. As a result, the VTA ended the relationship because it was felt that it could no longer put its name to a publication that received funding from sources that continue to operate and behave in the manner they do.

The VTA completely reject the claim the VTA in any way ‘bullied’ Taxi Talk. The VTA made a business decision, as did Taxi Talk. The VTA are not required to continue any relationship it does not see as beneficial to the Association, its members or the taxi industry as a whole. 

David Samuel
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER