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Published 11 December 2012 00:05, Updated 11 December 2012 03:39
Premier Ted Bailieu will ask Victorians to contribute to yet another round of public consultation before deciding what to do with the taxi industry. Alan Fels’ 18-month inquiry considered 1500 submissions. Photo: Angela Wylie
NSW is examining slashing the value of taxi licences to cut fares as Victoria delays implementing a controversial report calling for similar moves.
The NSW pricing regulator yesterday called for the O’Farrell government to issue an extra 205 unrestricted taxi licences and 280 peak licences to increase the supply of taxis, cut waiting times and ease fares.
The announcement came as Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu came under fire yesterday for announcing his government would delay its response to the report by former competition regulator Allan Fels on reforming the state’s industry.
Mr Baillieu said the state would undertake yet another round of community consultation before deciding how to respond.
Professor Fels recommended slashing the value of licences to cut fares and increase competition. He also called for tougher entry rules and recommended that the reforms be adopted nationally.
NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal chairman Peter Boxall said his recommendation of a 7 per cent increase in the supply of licences would reduce their value – now about $425,000 in NSW – by about 10 per cent.
“Two thirds of Sydneysiders who thought about catching a taxi but didn’t blamed the cost and another 37 per cent tried to catch a taxi but gave up because the wait was too long,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
Mr Baillieu denied that the decision to consult further was a response to threats by the state’s 3500 taxi licence-holders to sue the government.
The 18-month Fels inquiry received almost 1500 submissions.
“We will be releasing Allan Fels’ final report this week, we’ve had that report for a few weeks and we are keen to ensure that the community have an opportunity to assess that,” Mr Baillieu said.
Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett blasted the Fels plan as “a disaster”.
Mr Kennett, who led reform of the industry in the 1990s, revealed that Professor Allan Fels was not the state government’s first choice to clean up the taxi industry. Mr Kennett said he now regretted not taking up the role himself to lead an 18-month review.
“Partly this is my fault,” Mr Kennett said. “When this inquiry was suggested I was approached by government to head it up and I said no because I didn’t want the media to see this as Ted Baillieu giving jobs to the boys,” he told the Financial Review.
“I now regret that, because had he made me commissioner, we would have had a better system by now, we would not have to retrospectively destroy people’s assets and the public, drivers, owners and government would have had a service of which they could be proud, so in one sense it is my mistake,” Mr Kennett said.
War widow and licence holder Arlene Dugan said she was in limbo while the Victorian inquiry continued.
“Because of the inquiry going on you can’t actually sell your licence at the moment,” she said.
Nasr Nabbout bought his first licence in 2003 for $250,000 and a second in 2005 for $342,000 with a mortgage over the family home. He said that “everything we’ve ever worked for will be lost”.