I rise to say that Mr Grimley and I support Mr Barton’s motion.
I won’t go into all of the many areas extensively canvassed by Mr Barton in his motion and his speech, particularly given the limited time available to me.
Instead, I will speak to his call for more transparency through this documents production motion in relation to two areas, in particular.
Those are passenger wellbeing and safety – and the future of taxi services in regional and rural areas, including in many towns in my electorate of Northern Victoria.
I believe CPVV’s decision to partner with Uber in the delivery of the Multi Purpose Taxi Program gives rise to many concerns and questions in those areas.
One of the reasons I say this is that taxi drivers have long been required to have cameras and GPS trackers inside the car to ensure safety, but Uber is subject to no such regulation. Let alone to any requirement to leave such devices turned on permanently. Indeed, there have been many cases where these have been switched off. It is not clear what recourse any vulnerable passenger would have in such circumstances.
I have spoken before in this chamber about the horrific chain of events that led to the rape and murder of Samantha Josephson in the United States, for example.
I would also add that, on multiple occasions, when safety problems have arisen in Uber cars here in Victoria, their company has refused to supply critical information about those incidences and instead insisted that Victoria Police serve them with an international warrant!
On a separate matter, I am also greatly concerned about the impacts that the decision to allow Uber to deliver the MPTP will have on taxi drivers and companies in my electorate.
For many of those companies and drivers, MPTP work is the backbone of the business and often accounts for up to 50% of their trips. With the decision to expand the MPTP scheme to include Uber, a reduction in revenue associated with the increased competition for MPTP work will impact the delivery of wheelchair accessible vehicle services.
The operating costs for specialized wheelchair accessible vehicles are such that these services often run at a loss, and the financial viability of operating them is only possible through regular sedan work in other sections of the business which cross-subsidizes this specialized area of transport.
The potential reduction in MPTP work and associated revenue across the fleet will leave in question for many operators the commercial viability of offering WAV services. Wheelchair users will be most impacted should networks choose to discontinue these services, and this is obviously a critical point requiring urgent consideration.
More broadly, this recent decision to award Uber the MPTP work also comes, of course, after years of economic devastation to the traditional taxi industry that began with the removal of taxi licenses in 2017 and has been compounded by the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry has not recovered from any of these blows, and this latest decision will only exacerbate matters.
In a rural and regional context, thousands of families in the taxi and hire industry are already struggling to maintain their livelihoods – and the MPTP can represent the difference between small communities having a taxi service or not.
Given all of these concerns and many more, I’ll conclude my contribution by reaffirming the support of Mr Grimley and me for Mr Barton’s motion, particularly in the interests of public safety and regional and rural services.
We give that support because we do believe these issues require further consideration and review, and that would be greatly aided by the release of the relevant documents.
I commend the motion to the House.