The industry association for drivers and operators in Victoria has expressed its disgust and disappointment at the indifferent response to the devastation in the taxi and hire car industry from the taxi industry regulator at recent parliamentary hearings into the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry reforms.
Representatives from the Department of Transport and Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria (CPVV) laid responsibility for the outcome of the reforms on "Government decisions" as if they had no part in the policy development or implementation and were unable to answer questions on how decisions had been made.
"The industry has no confidence in the regulator and following last week's performance we can see why," said Commercial Passenger Vehicle Association of Australia president André Baruch.
"CPVV thinks the explosion of vehicles, from 8,000 to 60,000, is a positive outcome of these reforms. The rest of us see unprecedented congestion in our city, dangerous touting practices, frightening vehicle and passenger safety issues and an industry so over-supplied that it's almost impossible to make a living."
The Department was unable to demonstrate how licence values were calculated and how the transition payment figures were arrived at.
"It appears an arbitrary value was assigned to licences when transition payments were calculated, and despite direct questioning, they were unable to provide any information on any modelling done to determine what the effect of the reforms would be on the industry," said Mr Baruch.
"Frankly it's a disgrace that they can sit so nonchalantly at these hearings and not offer an explanation to the thousands of drivers and operators who face financial ruin because of their decisions."
When the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill was passed in August 2017 taxi and hire car licences were revoked and two funds were established to compensate licence holders. Licences were trading for around $350,000 with some purchased for more than $500,000.
For taxi owners the first licence received $100,000 with second, third and fourth licences receiving $50,000. Any additional licences were scrapped without compensation. Hire car licence holders received $25,000 for the first and $12,500 for the second, third and fourth with nothing paid for subsequent licences.
The Fairness Fund - dubbed the "Unfairness Fund" - was designed to provide additional support to those who could show loss of income and large debt burdens related to the licences.
"Less than 700 people were given assistance by this fund and most were made to jump through hoops to show eligibility. I've heard accounts of those pressured by banks to sell their homes to meet license debt obligations being later denied fairness fund payments because they were no longer in debt," he said.
"These people lost their homes because of these reforms. That is hardly fair by any definition."
Department and CPVV representatives were questioned on the growth modelling and implications of opening up licences and if any planning was undertaken to accommodate more vehicles in the city.
CPVV chief executive Aaron de Rozario told the panel the regulator was only now working with Melbourne City Council on planning for commercial passenger vehicles in the city and was unable to answer questions on whether the regulator had allowed for expanded taxi ranks or parking for the increase in vehicles following deregulation.
"That's why we have rideshare operators parked on the curbs and cruising the city like seagulls. That's why fights are breaking out when rideshare try to take over coveted taxi rank spots," said Mr Baruch.
"There was no plan for this, it was a haphazard reaction to allow a new operator fast and cheap entry into the market, and it's backfired."