Ms Janelle Anne SAFFIN, MP, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Member for Lismore gave a Private Members Statement on the NSW Taxi Industry in the NSW Parliament on 21 October 2021.
Please read the statement below as available from the Legislative Assembly Hansard for 21 October 2021 -
Ms JANELLE SAFFIN (Lismore) (18:23): Via video link: I speak about the New South Wales Government's dysfunctional taxi industry. The Government is putting local taxi owner operators out of business, with no reparations in return. There is a fund, which is funded by passengers of point‑to‑point transport vehicles. The fund has reached $250 million. I am told that there is still $100 million left in it and it is accumulating at a [inaudible] rate annually. So there is plenty of money to pay reparations to those who are suffering as a result of economic injury caused by the Government. There is no other way to say it. My local taxi operators are [inaudible] from the stress. As I have said before in this place, in my electorate two local chaps, both in their seventies, are still driving to cover the payment of their costly, once‑prized plates. They have to keep working to pay for the plates, but the value of the plates has dissipated due to the inaction, and in some cases action, of the New South Wales Government. The taxi industry has been one of the most regulated industries in New South Wales, not just for health and safety measures but also for entire commercial operations. The Government has caused taxi plates, which are [inaudible] to go from $400,000 per plate in some cases to, in a lot of cases, being almost worthless. The New South Wales Government [inaudible] had their hands on all the levers. I am not saying all of this is bad. But what is bad is the New South Wales Government's exit plan, if it can be called a plan, because it is just to deregulate and let it rip. Small business owner-operators of one or more taxis have seen their goodwill being taken away from them by this process and have been given nothing or very little in return.
There have been reviews, reports, responses, a parliamentary inquiry and some half-baked measures, where some of them got $20,000. After paying tax, they got $11,000 and it affected a whole range of other benefits. I will use the words of my local taxidrivers. They said, "How can it be legal to seize a person's assets and pay under market value for them? For generations taxi licences have been bought and sold within New South Wales, and now, after significant investment from our members, many face the likelihood of having no form of superannuation, as that investment was placed in the purchase of their licence. This example of behaviour is likened to selling government land to citizens after they have taken out a mortgage for, say, $300,000, and then taking that land back for public use and paying $50,000. Disgraceful.
"Two reports prior to the Finch report have found the Government has been responsible for an 8 per cent decrease in the value of taxi licences. Why were these reports rejected by the Government? To our knowledge, no adequate reasons have been disclosed to the public. Why will the Government not commit to a buyback scheme, instead of destroying the industry and providing financial assistance? The current $1 or $1.10 levy is remaining in place to fund the reform package. So why isn't that levy being produced to fund fair and appropriate compensation to taxi licence owners?"
I call it reparation. They currently have several members locally who purchased taxi plates for $200,000. "If the figure included [inaudible] is taken at face value, 50,000 of our members will be left with no asset and possibility of a crippling debt. Previous owners who sold their plates stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars if plates are seized by the Government, as the new owners will be unable to pay their licence. Removing boundaries from taxi licences will just see taxis migrate to towns with [inaudible], leaving their own licence territories without or with much reduced services. As you can see, Janelle, there are myriad issues facing our industry in the seizing of our hard-worked-for assets, and buying back licences at pre-point-to-point-reform prices is just not right and certainly should strike fear into any other investment that people are looking at, that is owned or regulated by the Government." They said they appreciate my representation of their industry. I say to the New South Wales Government that we have the money. Let us just fix this; we just need to do it. These are our local hardworking people. We cannot do this to them.