Did the Taxi Council’s legal advisors deceive NSW plate owners?

With his rushed, ill-conceived decision, announced on 18 December last year, the NSW Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, destroyed whatever value was left in my and 4,500 other perpetual taxi plates. At a meeting convened by the Taxi Council on 2 February some 300 plate owners were informed by the Council’s lawyer that any notion of a class action against the Government for compensation would be futile and cost millions. Apparently, it is ‘game, set and match’ to the Government and we’ll just have to suck it up!

by ‘Charlie’, Owner-Driver

NSW Taxi Council Information Meeting - 2nd February 2016, Wesley Centre, Pitt Street, Sydney.

Well, if there’s one issue that can really rally plate owners it is the advent of the “ride share” sector and its legalisation. In excess of 300 people turned up at the Wesley Centre, mostly retired owners and a smattering of currently working operatives. What went unnoticed was that the TWU managed to gate-crash the meeting with a couple of its members. Perhaps a change of admission procedures might apply for subsequent meetings? - How they passed the door check of being an owner/operator or network representative one can only speculate.

After a general briefing by Taxi Council CEO Roy Wakelin-King about the changes to the industry, the real bombshell was dropped. The Taxi Council, he said, had hired a very reputable and knowledgeable law firm to explore every avenue of any chance or obligation of compensation to owners by the Government due to the changes. The answer was, “Futile to sue for compensation nor does the Government even have to offer any”.

Some at the meeting wanted a second opinion, but as soon as the estimated cost was mentioned they all backed down.

This was when the TWU, which had quietly been handing out pamphlets, made its presence known by some loud clapping and one cheer. Their presence after that was short-lived. They were quickly marched out of the room.

Following that legal revelation the Taxi Council chairman, Brian Wilkins and CEO Wakelin-King embarked on an intense Q and A session with the attendees who finally came to the realisation that there was nothing to be done to effectively save or recover the hard earned equity in their taxi plates and particularly for retired owners, the loss of income.

The advice from the Chairman Wilkins was not to panic and sell. Wakelin-King then outline the steps being taken now to obtain a level playing field -

  1. Discussions with Govt. on decreasing CTP insurance premiums.
  2. Forcing Uber and others to participate in the present industrial relations system.
  3. Holding on to Govt. contracts and the TTSS.
  4. An increase in a fare levy on the “share” industry.
  5. Seeking Govt. assistance in getting the ACCC to pass the “ihail” application.
  6. Forcing drivers to be responsible for insurance excesses in case of an accident.
  7. The Govt. is to be asked to take back leased plates issued by them (the Govt.) and force lessees to obtain plates from existing owners. The fact that these operators might then migrate to “ridesharing” was of minor concern.

Also interesting was when one operator questioned why the Networks weren’t helping to cut costs by decreasing radio fees. The silence was deafening, as they say in the classics.

All in all most of us left the meeting with the realisation that more should have been done prior to the arrival of ridesharing, to operate a clean, efficient, cheaper and more customer orientated taxi industry. Whose fault is that?

As the Chair of the meeting said on more than one occasion “It’s a train wreck” and was not anticipated. That’s the problem with train wrecks, they never are. •

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OZ Cabbie February 2017

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