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Journeys : Oct Nov 2011
Member in focus In our community Helen Barker lives in Launceston with her husband and has adult children. She has been an RACT member for about 15 years. Why did you join the RACT? I joined the RACT just in case something happened on the road. What’s the most memorable time you’ve been helped by being a member of the RACT? I haven’t actually needed much help. Once, I broke dow n in Albury in New South Wales and was glad of being a member in Tasmania but being able to get help over there. Tell me about your current car. It’s a Toyota Camr y. Do you have any stickers on your car? No, I don’t have any stickers. What is your biggest motoring gripe? Idiots on the road; like people who are just so impatient they pass in silly spots or tailgate. You try to do the speed limit and they try to r un over you. After the family photos, what is your most precious material possession, the thing you would try to grab if there was ever a fire? Definitely my bird, a cockatiel. What is your most memorable holiday moment? In Sydney, when we met one of the survivors of the World War 2 holocaust. We went to the Jew ish museum and she showed us her tattoo and told us her stor y. It was ver y interesting. What about your favourite holiday destination? Melbourne is my favourite because it has got everything. I think it is the best city in Australia. Where do you plan to spend your next holiday? Overseas, I hope – maybe Singapore, because everyone reckons it is the safest, cleanest city. So, what is at the core of the problem? The clear and unequivocal answer of operators and drivers is that there are far too many cabs on the road around Hobart. Over the last three years, Government action has led to an increase of approximately 32% in the number of cabs on the roads of our capital city. It would be difficult to ascertain the precise increase in taxi business in the city over that per iod, but many suggest around 5%, yet despite the 8.5% increase in the tariff in 2008, drivers report that their daily average take is around 10% less than in 2007. On many days, drivers would struggle to earn $8-$10 per hour. One operator told me that on one day late in May this year, he made $5 per hour profit for a 10 hour day, after the daily cost of $150, just to operate his cab. The cause of the problem is the hybrid nature of the fundamental licences that allow a cab to be on the road. Before 2008, a Perpetual Licence (now advertised from time to time at around $155,000) could be bought, sold and leased. In 2008 the Gover nment introduced a new Owner Operator Licence, which cannot be leased but repor tedly sells in a bidding context for around $65,000. In addition, licences for wheelchair-access ta xis are free, yet many of these cabs compete for ordinary taxi business for much of the day. Reputedly, some do no wheelchair work at all. In the case of the taxi industry, government interference and contradictory regulation has led to a distortion of the marketplace. To be fair, it is my view that the Gover nment has been subjected to too little and inadequate advice and pressure from the taxi industry to prevent the 2008 legislation, and now, to bring in appropri ate change. Our daily news is full of stories of vigorous debate between industry associations, unions and government on the conditions necessary for business to flourish and industry to improve. In a democracy, that is how it should be, because politicians are motivated by one four-letter word – VOTE. The ta xi industr y must put more pressure on the decision-makers, not only for political pur poses but also for the formulation of policy. For a better, more efficient and more effective taxi ser vice, a strong and united Taxi Industry Association is needed. Readers may have a variety of views on what could be improved in the industr y – perceived deficiencies are regularly brought to my attention by passengers. I suggest the following: • Better training of drivers on taxi law and radio room policies • Better knowledge of suburban streets and facilities • One united, centralised radio-room for Hobar t and suburbs • Enforced higher standards of driver cour tesy and personal presentation • A rational system of ‘vir tual queuing’ for air port pickups to render unnecessary the wasted hours of real queuing in the airport bull-pen What do you think? Please tell the next driver you engage! Recently the Government announced a 3.5% taxi fare increase – the first since August 2008. Between the December 2008 and June 2011 quarters, the CPI rose by 7%. Operators and drivers are underwhelmed by the Government’s logic and generosity! Which other industries have had cost increases as low as 3.5%? And which workers have had pay increases less than the CPI over this period? October / November 2011 15
MNJ Aug Sep 2011