Nothing new in taxi inquiry: VTA representative

THE Fels Inquiry for the Victorian taxi industry has not made any new recommendations, says a local Victorian Taxi Association representative.

VTA councillor for Gippsland region Carmen Giddens, who oversees 14 depots and “hundreds” of taxi drivers from Hastings to Mallacoota, also said allegations the taxi industry was “broken” were untrue.

“If it were broken, we wouldn’t have 5500 taxi drivers doing 44 million jobs a year,” Ms Giddens said.

While she had yet to examine the 580-page draft recommendation report in detail, Ms Giddens said there were two issues especially of concern to country taxi operators.

“The change in licencing, and the way we run our daily business with the requirements for more reporting will be the biggest issues,” she said.

“The VTA had a meeting (last week) to discuss what we are going to do; but the 13 June deadline for submissions and the size of the report means we do not have much time to go through the draft report.

“We will certainly do the best we can.”

Ms Giddens said a consensus among taxi operators was a feeling their voices were not heard.

“The taxi industry is the most over-regulated industry in Australia; we are the only business that cannot absorb (overhead cost) increases into our fare structure,” she said.

“We needed a fare increase yesterday.

“If fuel prices remain as high as they are now, we won’t have any more country taxis.

“Taxis are classified as an emergency service, same as the Country Fire Authority or State Emergency Service, because we are an instant response service and in some country towns, we often take the place of ambulances.”

Ms Giddens said the recommendation to pass on a higher percentage of fees to taxi drivers was not likely for country operators.

“There is no more to pass on; fuel is already costing too much,” she said, citing the example of an 18.5 cent difference in the price of LPG between the country and the city.

She said when the industry was self-regulated, there were “no problems”.

“Overregulation impedes us from running our business; protecting the consumer is great to a point, but who will protect us? We need balance,” Ms Giddens said.