Legislative Council

GREENS BILL: Bill to end the $1 Passenger Transport Tax opposed by Lib/Lab

November 29th, 2017

On the 29th to 30th November, Mark brought his Private Members Bill - Passenger Transport (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2017 - to a vote. With the combined opposition of the Labor Government and the Liberal Opposition, the Bill was defeated.

A copy of the Hansard transcript of the debate is below.  

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 31 May 2017.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (23:59): I rise to make some remarks in relation to the bill, which amends the Passenger Transport Act, principally to address matters of concern to the honourable member in relation to the dollar point-to-point transport service transaction levy.

The amendments do a number of things. One of them places a sunset clause of six years to cover costs of compensation to the driver's package. He also seeks to clarify the amount of money held in the Metropolitan Taxi-Cab Industry Research and Development Fund and how it is spent, particularly targeting transparency in reporting and some amendments to the Passenger Transport Standards Committee membership.

I apologise to honourable members in advance. I may well have needed to put amendments to this, but in relation to these my understanding is that the amendments to the Metropolitan Taxi-Cab Industry Research and Development Fund are clause 4 of the bill. The matters to do with the ministerial appointments to the Passenger Transport Standards Committee are clause 5, and the sunset clause is clause 7. So, the Liberal Party's position is that we support clause 4, we do not support clause 5 and we do not support clause 7.

I will be seeking to vote accordingly and I will hurriedly seek the advice of the Clerk in a moment as to whether we formally need to move that way or whether we just vote that way in committee. With those remarks, if we are unsuccessful in amending them, then obviously we will not be supporting the third reading.

The Hon. T.T. NGO (00:01): I rise to speak on behalf of the government to say that we do not support this bill because none of these measures will advantage either the industry or consumers. These measures will not simplify the administrative processes associated with the collection of the levy or the disbursement of those funds which will be used to benefit the industry and consumers. Furthermore, none of these measures have been informed by or are consistent with the findings or recommendations of the 2016 independent review of the taxi and chauffeur vehicle industry.

This bill falls short of what is wanted, required or expected by the industry and the public. That is, the amendment to introduce an expiry date of 1 May 2023 for the point-to-point transport service transaction levy would result in the revenue expected to be collected over a six-year period to fall short of the cost of the initiatives it is intended to deliver.

The levy will support the industry assistance package, reduction in annual fees and charges across the passenger transport industry, increase compliance resources, as well as the introduction of a lifting fee for people with disabilities who are confined to a wheelchair and consequently must travel by accessible taxi. The levy will fund compensation payment to taxi licence holders and lessees, help offset the cost of fee reductions across the industry, and fund additional compliance and enforcement resources.

Surplus funds from the levy will also be directed to adopting new technologies that will facilitate the delivery of a more sustainable and efficient South Australian Transport Subsidy Scheme. If the amendment to impose an expiry date on the levy were to pass, then it will be the industry and the community that will be the losers. Industry will be hampered in their efforts to deliver better, responsive and cost-effective services to all consumers, particularly those who rely on access taxis and the South Australian Transport Subsidy Scheme.

Furthermore, the bill introduced by the honourable member requires the funds from the levy to be paid into the Passenger Transport Research and Development Fund, which cannot be used to provide for measures such as industry assistance payments, the lifting fee or removing or reducing the cost of accreditation for drivers and operators.

The state government is fully aware of the challenge facing the industry in the 21st century and the need to be able to respond and adapt to the evolving needs of consumers and has introduced its own bill in the other place, which was passed and is currently before this house for its consideration. The government's bill is far more comprehensive than the one proposed by the honourable member and makes amendments that will provide substantial long-term benefits to both industry and the public.

The government's bill does not tinker around the edges but has been designed to ensure that the Passenger Transport Act 1994 remains relevant in the face of significant technological innovations that have and are continuing to reshape the passenger transport industry. In particular, the government's bill introduces measures to ensure taxi centralised booking services, which will become transport booking services, are responsible for the collection of the $1 levy.

This initiative will support the efficient and effective collection of the levy which, honourable members will recall, funds the industry assistance package, reduction in annual fees and charges across the passenger transport industry, increased compliance resources, as well as the introduction of a lifting fee for people with disabilities who are confined to a wheelchair and subsequently must travel by accessible taxi.

With that, the government bill will deliver what is wanted, required and expected by the industry and the public. For those reasons, I urge members of this chamber not pass this bill that was put forward by the Hon. Mark Parnell but instead throw its support behind the government's proposed legislation.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL (00:07): I thank the Hon. Tung Ngo and the Hon. Michelle Lensink for their contributions. In relation to the Hon. Tung Ngo's remarks, it goes without saying that once you have raised a permanent tax you can always find good things to spend it on, and that is clearly the case here.

The government has now identified a range of worthwhile initiatives that a permanent $1 transport levy can be applied towards, but that was not the point. The point was that the levy was initially introduced to compensate the taxi industry. We calculated that six years would be enough money to recoup all the compensation required for taxi licence plate holders and lessees, and it is at that point that this bill provides that that tax will come to an end.

The Hon. Tung Ngo said that, if this bill were to pass, the industry would be the big losers. Well, they do not know their own self interest because the industry is right behind this: both taxi and Uber want this tax to come to an end. You can normally back self interest in these things, but the government clearly knows better than industry about what is best for industry, because industry does not want this tax to last forever.

The third point that the Hon. Mr Tung Ngo made was that members should get behind the government's bill rather than the Greens' bill. Last time I looked, the government's bill was not on the priority list; it is not going to happen. It was not one of the orders of priority for today and, unless there is a change of heart, it probably will not be tomorrow, so members are being urged to get behind a bill that is going nowhere.

I thank the Hon. Michelle Lensink for her contribution. There are some aspects of the bill that the Liberal Party have said that they will support, but the call that I will make is that the main game was clause 7 and that is not one that the Liberal Party can support. Clause 7 was the sunset clause, the six-year clause, so I am disappointed that that is not going to get through. As a result, I will not be dividing on the second reading and I do not imagine that we will get into committee, so I will let the bill go into the sunset, including the sunset clause.

What I will say, in conclusion, is that we are already starting to get emails and correspondence from Uber drivers and Uber passengers, taxidrivers and taxi passengers, and I think members of all parties should expect that this will be an election issue. We have many thousands of people who rely on these services and who are unhappy about the permanent nature of this tax.

Members of all parties should start to expect to get correspondence from constituents asking them whether they will agree to ending this tax when it has done the job that it was raised to do. I am disappointed that the bill will not be advancing any further tonight. I look forward to being proven wrong tomorrow as to whether the government's transport bill will in fact be debated.

Second reading negatived.

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