YES, we’re baaack! Amazing, I know. Sorry for the embarrassing delays. We have been busy learning how to fit into Malcolm’s new Australia, the land of agility, innovation and creativity... and unlimited, uncontrollable technological disruption fuelled by venture capitalists and investment bankers. F*** the working class, f*** small business, we can all become Bill Gates if we are agile, innovative and creative... and have a degree in computer science or some such field. Whatever happened to “the land of the fair go”?

As you would know, if you have accessed the OZ Cabbie website in the past month or received our announcement by email, it has become uneconomical for us to publish the magazine in print. I know it will disappoint a lot of our readers but I’m hopeful there are enough of you out there on the ranks who will make the switch to read it online.

The NSW Government’s rushed legalization of what it still refers to as ‘ridesharing’ and the quite insane and unfair changes it has made to taxi industry regulations are continuing to dominate our content this month. Understanding what the hell has happened in Sydney is as important to readers in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth as it is to Sydneysiders - after all they will be facing the music in a few months time.

In Sydney the negative impact of the reforms has already begun to manifest itself. Taking the lead in the race to the bottom, an insider tells us, is Cabcharge’s CCN (Combined Communications Network), which has reduced taxi driver training from the previous 4 months to 2 hours, and the ‘training’ is now gratis. Not surprisingly, the classes are packed, mostly with UberX drivers who see an opportunity to work both sides of the fence and for an alternative should they get kicked off the Uber platform. Silver Top and Legion allegedly have reduced their courses to 2 days. So much for lifting the standards!

As it is no longer mandatory in NSW for cabbies to wear uniforms we are already seeing increasing numbers at the airport in T-shirts, blue jeans even sweat suits and joggers. In a desperate bid to stop that trend CCN is apparently also handing out free uniforms. Points for that!

To add insult to injury, independent taxi app GoCatch launched a ride-share service in Sydney last month called GoCar, with a view to rolling it out nationally during the year. Now, why would it do that? Its founder Ned Moorfield told the Australian: “I’m teaching Uber a lesson”.  Well, he might be, but he is also teaching the 35,000 taxi drivers he claims are using GoCatch, who have helped him build his business, a thing or two about misplaced trust and disloyalty. GoCatch: agile, innovative or morally corrupt?

It already seems like ancient history, but it was only five years ago that Professor Allan Fels ‘turned the (Victorian) taxi industry on its head’. Pre-Fels Melbourne taxi plates were selling at around $530,000 and lease (assignment) fees were around $36,000 p.a.. However, these golden times came to an abrupt halt in 2012 when he introduced ‘open entry’ and a floor price on government leases of $22,000. Today a Melbourne owner will be lucky to find a buyer $200,000.

What was the response from Melbourne’s 2,500 plate owners? They called meetings, held rallies and negotiated and negotiated with the government … and they still are 4 years later. What they didn’t do was launch a class action against the government for compensation. Their government has offered $4 million for compensation to ‘hardship cases’. Everybody thinks they are a ‘hardship case’. Nobody wanted to rock the boat. Then came UberX. What now Victoria? More rallies?

When UberX was launched in Sydney in April 2014, unrestricted Sydney plates were trading at around $450,000 and lease fees averaged $28,500.  Today, only thee month after the Baird government legalized ‘ridesharing’, plates are selling for as low as $150,000, lease fees have dropped to $15,000 and there are unconfirmed reports that networks have dropped their radio fees by 50%. What has the response been from Sydney’s 3,500 plate owners? They too go to meetings, hold rallies and trust the NSW Taxi Council to negotiate on their behalf, the very mob that told them it would be futile to launch a class action and urged them not to disrupt the city. So instead of fighting, the majority simply sleeps as the Titanic sinks while a couple of small groups (the newly formed NSW Point2Point Transport Association and the terminal NSW Taxi Operators and Drivers Association) are planning yet more but separate rallies in front of Parliament House (10 and 16 March respectively). Should be a hoot! On Taxi Council advice, legal action is off the table. Here are the reasons why it shouldn’t be. The case for owner class action

And in case you weren’t invited (most owners weren’t) to the NSW Taxi Council’s secret and very, very confidential info meeting on 2 February at the Wesley Centre, ‘Charlie’, an owner-driver provides a full report here. Taxi Council deceives NSW plate owners.

In Queensland the Taxi Council has gone complete ‘nanas’. After two years of lobbying everybody and everything to stop ‘illegal taxis’ (aka UberX) from operating in the state and a string of expensive campaigns to scare the public off using Uber, all of which have failed miserably, it has now developed a strategy for the next three years identical to the one that failed. The total cost is estimated at $3.6 million, which it will raise from plate owners, all of whom allegedly have agreed to pay $360 per car per annum into the Council’s fighting fund over the next three years. OZ Cabbie has obtained a copy of the costing of the strategic plan. Fascinating stuff. Check TCQ’s “Illegal Taxi Fighting Fund”

Finally, the NSW Taxi Council, which has been heavily criticised by many in the industry for not doing enough to stop UberX, is blaming the Transport Workers Union. A 2-year battle in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission about bailee driver entitlements, has, according to its CEO Roy Wakelin-King, almost depleted the poor Council’s fighting fund. Obviously it has been more important to the industry establishment to prevent drivers from receiving basic entitlement such as a minimum wage, holiday pay and superannuation, than to fight the legalization of ridesharing. Full story here “TWU to blame for Uber”, NSW Taxi Council claims

“It’s a train wreck!” the co-chairman of the Taxi Council, Brian Wilkins, told the meeting at the Wesley Centre. He was referring to the taxi industry and for once he was right.

Have a nice day and thanks for reading OZ Cabbie online,

Peer Lindholdt

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OZ Cabbie February 2017

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