Hundreds of taxi licence-holders met in Melbourne last weekend after the Andrews government’s sweeping new plans for regulating the industry were announced – and they have vowed to fight the changes to the end.
The government is there to protect its citizens not to rob them.
Under the government’s proposals, taxi licences are to be scrapped and licence-owners will be compensated, but at a fraction of the licences’ market value.
Replacing licences will be a single registration for taxis, hire cars and ride-sharing services like Uber.
Spearheading the campaign to persuade Premier Daniel Andrews to rethink the compensation plan is Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families (VTHF), and with some of its members urging shutdowns at Melbourne Airport and Flinders Street Station on Grand Final eve to get their message across, demonstrations have already begun.
Sandy Spanos, VTHF spokeswoman, told Neos Kosmos: “We’ll be on the steps of the Victorian parliament every day from 12 until two pm until we get an outcome.
“Last week the government sold a $10 billon Australian industry to accommodate a foreign multinational. They’ve stolen our super,” she said.
“We want market value for our licences, and a market value calculated from the period before any of these reforms were introduced.”
One of the many Greek Australian owner-operators incensed by the government’s plans, ‘Costas’ (real name withheld) is preparing to fight the newly-announced package all the way.
“I paid $337,000 in 1996 for my first taxi licence, and I then I bought two more after that. Now the government wants to give me $150,000 as reimbursement for all three,” says Costas, whose father started the family business in the 1970s.
“It’s a disgrace what the Andrews government is trying to do and I’m very surprised. I voted Labor as I believed they would help us, not destroy us.”
Asked what the chances are of persuading the government to change its mind on the compensation package, he says the only recourse may be to take the fight to the courts.
“We’ll have to take legal action,” he says. “The government is there to protect its citizens, not to rob them.”
Another family affected shared their concerns with reporters immediately after the government’s announcement. After driving cabs for 45 years, Chris Michaelides (72) is set to lose his livelihood if the buyback scheme goes ahead. His daughter Elizabeth told reporters he was devastated by Premier Daniel Andrews’ plan.
“He was holding on to the licence for his retirement,” she said. “The drivers will be on welfare, they’re stuffed. We want to be heard and not feel like we’ve been silenced.”
Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne, one of the few MPs at either federal or state level to have voiced support for licence-holders, has vowed to raise VTHF’s concerns in Canberra.
Meanwhile, VTHF has launched a campaign to raise $1.5m to meet the costs of a legal challenge to the government. The funds will go towards paying for legal advice and a professional lobbyist.