Taxi drivers protest in Melbourne over industry reforms

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taxi protest

Hundreds of angry taxi drivers have marched from the steps of state parliament to Flinders Street Station today to protest plans to deregulate the industry.

Trams were temporarily halted in Melbourne’s city as drivers marched with banners against the Andrews Government’s plan to legalise Uber and introduce a taxi licence buyback scheme.

The regulations will see licence holders eligible for $100,000 compensation over eight years, but drivers say the figure is insufficient.

 “If the government want to take our taxis, that’s fine, we want payment. It’s not compensation, we’ve paid hundreds and hundreds of thousands for these licences, we still owe money to the bank,” licence holder Georgette Makdessi said.

“We’re happy for Uber to come in and trade, our issue is the way the government has come in and decided to take our licences away.

“If they want to take the licenses, we want a lump sum, not what they’re calling ‘compensation’, we want payment.”

A proposed $2 taxi levy will apply to every taxi, Uber or hire car trip in Victoria from 2018.

The government’s industry reform would also increase each year with inflation, and would be implemented over eight years.

The money raised would be used to compensate current taxi licence holders.

Taxi drivers say their licences will lose value once other ride-sharing devices like Uber are able to compete in the market.

David Singh from the Victorian Taxi Families Association said licence holders were being told: “your licences are worth nothing”.

“These are mums and dads, they have homes and bills. Deregulation will basically cause a lot of hardship,” Mr Singh said.

“For three years, we’ve negotiated with the government and they’ve come out with nothing.

“People still support taxis. We are small business operators, and bought these assets as investments.”

Mr Singh said the compensation offered was grossly unfair, given when members brought their licences they “had one choice to pay whatever the market price was.”

Mr Singh said a class action would be considered.

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