Taxi glut drives call to buy back li­cences

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - DAVID KIL­LICK

HO­BART has too many taxis and the Gov­ern­ment should cut back li­cences to al­low op­er­a­tors to make a de­cent liv­ing, in­de­pen­dent fed­eral MP An­drew Wilkie says.

De­scrib­ing the state of the in­dus­try as “a mess” Mr Wilkie said an over­sup­ply of taxis and com­pe­ti­tion from ride-shar­ing meant op­er­a­tors were suf­fer­ing.

“It’s self-ev­i­dent that the taxi in­dus­try in Ho­bart is on its knees,” Mr Wilkie said.

“The Gov­ern­ment has sold way too many plates over the years — all to make a buck for the Trea­sury — to the point now where there are at least twice as many taxis that are needed in a city this size.

“Uber drivers can lift their fares when de­mand is high but taxi drivers do not have that op­tion. Once upon a time, they made up to $400 a day but now they are lucky to earn $140 work­ing 12 to 14 hours.

“That’s less than the min­i­mum wage. The State Gov­ern­ment must cre­ate a level play­ing field and undo the mess it has cre­ated.”

Taxi driver Ewen Bleath­man paid $88,000 for his owner-op­er­a­tor taxi plate and he now val­ues it be­tween $20,000 and $30,000.

“Too many cabs on the roads mean cab drivers were strug­gling to make a liv­ing. We need help. Peo­ple are suf­fer­ing,” he said.

“Drivers have no home life, they’re in the cab try­ing to make a liv­ing 24/7.”

“Five or 10 years ago we were we were earn­ing a liv­ing. At the mo­ment, it’s not good.

“You’d prob­a­bly earn $280, $300 five years ago — that’s work­ing 12 or 14 hours a day. Now, work­ing 14 hours a day, you’d be lucky to earn $150 a day.

Mr Wilkie said Mr Bleath­man’s story was typ­i­cal for the in­dus­try and demon­strated why the State Gov­ern­ment needed to stop new taxi plates and in­tro­duce a buy­back scheme.

In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Michael Fer­gu­son said the Gov­ern­ment was aware of the prob­lem.

“We’ve al­ready pre­vi­ously in­di­cated that part of our mea­sures is in fact, the mora­to­rium on new plates. Now the mora­to­rium has ex­pired and we’re cur­rently look­ing at that again.”

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