Canberra Cab firm loses legal bid to stop wheelchair booking system


A Canberra cab company has lost a legal bid to force the ACT government to abandon a wheelchair taxi booking system.

Aerial Capital Group launched court action after the government set up the centralised booking system in 2012 to provide easier access to wheelchair accessible taxis in the capital.

The system means all bookings for wheelchair-accessible taxis must go through the Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Centralised Booking Service.

The new regime requires Aerial, which operates the Canberra Elite and Silver Service taxis in Canberra, to direct any WATS bookings to the WCBS.

Aerial challenged the laws to establish the service in the Federal Court.

The government introduced the scheme by amending the territory’s road transport regulations but Aerial argued the amendment regulation was invalid as it exceeded the power of the ACT Self-government Act by acquiring property on terms that were not just.

Aerial’s lawyers said the right to operate a taxi booking service should be considered the company’s property. The cab company claimed the ACT government, by introducing the new service, has unfairly acquired its property without monetary compensation.

But the government countered that the amended regulations did not involve the acquisition of property.

It said the transport laws provided for a flexible scheme to deliver passenger services that met the expectations of the Canberra community.

Government lawyers argued Aerial’s accreditation was subject to changes in the regime, including the operation of taxi networks by others.

In a judgment handed down last month, Federal Court judge Jayne Jagot rejected Aerial’s argument and threw out the case.

“If Aerial’s accreditation is a species of property … I do not consider it to be capable of acquisition,” Justice Jagot wrote.

“As the ACT submitted, the accreditation confers nothing more than an exemption from a prohibition.

“The fact that … Aerial has created for itself a valuable commercial enterprise does not transform the accreditation, a mere exemption from what would otherwise be prohibited, into a proprietary right capable of acquisition.”

Justice Jagot found Aerial’s accreditation always involved the compulsory transfer of part of its right to other taxi services. The judge said the law allowed for changes to meet evolving community expectations.

“Aerial’s ‘entitlement’ being, in substance, an immunity from a prohibition, it is apparent that what occurred by the amendment regulation was that Aerial’s immunity from the prohibition was reduced in scope.

By the amendment regulation Aerial’s immunity no longer extended to bookings for wheelchair-dependent people.”

Source: Canberra Times