We want justice

first_imgTraffic on one of Melbourne’s central arteries was brought to a standstill yesterday as cabbies opposed to the state government’s taxi industry reforms vented their anger at the unlimited release of new taxi licences.Organised by Victorian Taxi Families (VTF), the blockade took place in Exhibition Street directly outside the offices of the Taxi Services Commission (TSC) – the body charged with implementing the state’s controversial new taxi laws.With police allowing scores of cabs to stop bumper to bumper in Exhibition Street from 11am, more were circling nearby in the VTF’s highest profile action to date. Between 100 and 200 cars are estimated to have taken part.The protestors – taxi licence holders who have worked in the industry for decades – have seen the value of their licences destroyed by the Napthine government’s new legislation.Many of those who took part were elderly owner-operators of Greek heritage.Bill Spanos – who has held a licence for 22 years – said he was tired of being ignored.“The government play games with us, they say they want better customer service but how will they do this by putting more taxis on the roads when already most taxis are under-used.“The government is ignoring us. If they gave us compensation we’d be happy.”Taxi licence values that were once estimated around $500,000 each a few years ago are now worth much less than half that figure.Speaking from the back seat of her dad’s cab, Maria Papakyriakopoulos said she was protesting in support of her 73-year-old father Nick – who has held a taxi licence for 33 years.“My dad began working when there was no superannuation, he’s worked very hard and has never asked the government for anything. We’re here to say it’s not on,” Maria told Neos Kosmos.“If the government is going to devalue our licences people should have either compensation or they should change the law.” Last month the TSC made up to 60 new metro taxi licences available. Hundreds more are planned to be released in July, despite current taxi occupancy rates at 28 per cent – meaning cabs are empty 72 per cent of the time.Parallels have been drawn between the government’s compensation offer for property holders affected by the proposed East-West link and the plight of taxi licence owners, whose capital asset has been slashed in value due to government policy.While Labor voted against the initial taxi reform legislation and has moved amendments, the state Opposition – as yet – has been reluctant to set out its stall as to what promises it makes to the industry in the run up to state elections.A Labor spokesperson told Neos Kosmos: “Labor remains seriously concerned about the impact Napthine government changes are having on the taxi industry. We have raised these concerns in parliament and in forums with Victorian Taxi Families.”Labor has vowed to continue meeting with the industry ahead of the elections and said it will “have more to say about these changes before the November poll.” This week the government accepted recommendations from the Essential Services Commission to increase taxi fares by up to 30 per cent by the end of May, but the move is cold comfort to taxi licence owners whose prime asset has been decimated. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img

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