Since ride-sharing services entered the transport market, holders of tax licences have found themselves in a precarious position, questioning their livelihoods in a way they never expected they would have to.
Government reforms to the taxi industry in Victoria and compensation, have failed to allay the worries of those impacted.
To help voice the concerns of those in the Greek community, Greek Community of Melbourne president Bill Papastergiadis wrote a letter on 27 March address to the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and publicly published in the Greek edition of Neos Kosmos.
In a response on behalf of the Premier, Minister for Public Transport and Member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan acknowledged “the important role that the Greek community have played in the history of the taxi industry in Victoria and will continue to play into the future”, but pointed out that technology has changed the taxi industry globally.
She said they had already paid out “around $400 million to over 3,000 licence holders” – more than any other State or Territory – stating that some received “up to $900,000 in financial assistance”, a claim that has since been slammed by Shadow Minister for Public Transport, David Davis MP.
In a letter to Neos Kosmos, Mr Davis said “Maybe there is one person who received this, but literally hundreds of taxi families with whom I have met personally attest that this is a lie.”
Mr Davis said the licences were worth three to four times the amount paid, with many families owning more than four licences; those with a fifth or subsequent licence were paid zero for those.
He said that $100,000 for the first licence and $50,000 for a second, third or fourth was inadequate, dubbing it “the most extraordinary destruction of assets that have been ruled property by the High Court of Australia”.
Throughout the reform process, Ms Allan said that had been consulting with a number of taxi licence holders, including representatives of the Greek community, but claimed some individuals and organisations had “made or incited threats of violence and vile abuse” against her and her family, and so would not be engaging further with them.
The Opposition shot back at this, with Mr Davis interpreting it as “disengagement from and dismissal of a great number of honest hard-working taxi families”.
To sum up however, as a result of the regulations, including the recent announcement to cut compulsory third party insurance for taxis, the TAC charge from $2,586 to $510, Ms Allan argued that there is now a “level playing field” in place for taxis to be able to compete for passengers in the marketplace.