My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure. Just last week channels 7 and 9 and radio station 3AW reported on taxi drivers who refused to turn on the meter even while sitting at a taxi rank. Instead of the driver turning on the meter, passengers are being quoted prices in the realm of $60 to $80 to get from Rod Laver Arena to Richmond or to the city. There is no doubt that blame lands at the feet of the regulator. What this means is that taxi drivers, who have received only one fare increase in the past 14 years, are following the Uber model and surge pricing.
Let us be clear: they are allowed to negotiate a fare. This is not their fault. They are in a market with 120 000 drivers, all fighting for a smaller piece of the pie. They are forced to watch on as Uber exploits demand and surge prices whenever it suits them, and it suits them a lot. Meanwhile they sit handcuffed by price ceilings enforced by a system that up until recently did not really even consider the financial viability of operating a taxi when setting fares. In real terms their wages have decreased consistently. Now taxi drivers are some of the most vulnerable workers in this state. However, the solution is not to match the exploitative Uber model. We need a regulator that protects Nonna from Northcote, who wants to get home from the footy match at the G on a rainy Sunday. If nothing is done, vulnerable Victorians will suffer.
I have been raising this issue for some time and have just been ignored. We must do something to stamp out these practices that just do not match the expectations of the community. Firstly, we need to increase the maximum fares for taxi drivers to alleviate their financial suffering. I believe we are on track for this to happen shortly. Taxi drivers have families to feed. Many have legacy debts from the reforms of 2017, and they make decisions every day based on these hard facts. Minister, the action I seek is: will you instruct Transport Safety Victoria to perform their role and start regulating to protect passengers and their drivers from this exploitation?
Answered: 26 September 2022
Under the Commercial Passenger Vehicles Industry Act 2017, drivers providing unbooked services (e.g., rank and street hail) are legally entitled to either negotiate a fixed price at the beginning of the trip or to run the meter during the trip to calculate the fare price. This is not a discretionary matter for the regulator; it is determined under the Act and associated regulations.
If the driver wishes to negotiate a fixed price, the fare must be agreed between both the driver and passenger before the journey commences. A negotiated price cannot be altered during the trip without agreement of the passenger. Where drivers wish to use the fixed fare option, they are not obliged to pick up and take passengers to destinations if an agreement cannot be reached on the fare in advance, provided the driver does not breach anti-discrimination legislation.
If the meter is used, and journey begins in metropolitan Melbourne, Frankston, Dandenong, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Ballarat or Bendigo, the fixed price cannot be more than the maximum fare set by the Essential Services Commission (ESC) for the distance of the trip. The ESC has recently released its final decision regarding the maximum regulated fare to increase the maximum regulated fare as well as introduce a new adjustment mechanism that will apply between scheduled reviews.
If passengers observe or experience any unlawful behaviour relating to fares or failure to display required driver identification, passengers should take note of the driver’s identification or the vehicle number and report to the service provider or Safe Transport Victoria.
The Hon Ben Carroll MP