Cabbies to quit over compo

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times

Local taxi drivers are threatening to “hand over the keys and shut up shop” if regional taxi companies are not compensated under the McGowan Government’s “Uber tax” or taxi plate buyback scheme.

Under the scheme, metropolitan taxi operators will have their registration plates bought back by the State Government, but the incentive is not offered to regional taxi companies.

Busselton Taxis director Jeff Devenny said the WA Country Taxi Owners and Operators Association had sought a meeting with WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti and submitted a proposal outlining its requests for assistance, but so far had been ignored.

“They’re saying we don’t own our plates, which I don’t agree with,” he said. “When I bought our business with taxi plates 25 years ago it was highly regulated by the Government and we worked hard to build it up into a successful business with 12 taxis.

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“We need to survive as well.

“If they don’t offer us compensation, we won’t have a taxi service in Busselton, which is meant to be the events capital of WA.”

A spokesman for Ms Saffioti said the State Government understood the challenges faced in the regions.

“It’s important to note the on-demand transport reforms will bring significant benefits to regional operators,” she said.

“For example, vehicle authorisation is now much cheaper and the annual authorisation fees for booking services have been waived for the first 12 months for all services that apply before 1 July, 2019.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said there had been significant concern surrounding the issue since November, 2017, when the Government’s compensation proposal was introduced into State Parliament.

“It defied belief that regional taxi drivers would have to foot the bill and pay for an Uber tax for a buyback scheme that would not be available to them,” she said.

“This is an issue of fairness and highlights the concern that many people who invested in regional WA in the same way that their metropolitan counterparts invested in their plates are not receiving the same package of support from the Government.”

The spokesman for Ms Saffioti said more detail on regional support would be available after the Budget.

“The State Government is considering whether any further assistance could be provided to address transitional matters that may affect the operation of country taxi cars in the regions,” he said.

Mr Devenny said regional taxi companies “need the same, no more, no less”.

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