Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (16:55:42) — I am very pleased to rise to speak on the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Amendment (Further Reforms) Bill 2017. This is something I have taken a great interest in really since I was first elected into this house. This bill is establishing a new and modernised regulatory regime for the commercial passenger vehicle industry. It is replacing the existing systems. It is not trying to latch onto existing systems; it is not trying to extend or amend existing systems. This really is introducing a new regime. This will be for taxis, for hire cars or for whatever term you would like to call commercial passenger vehicles. I think this is a very good approach. A lot of other states have taken a much more modest approach, a much more conservative approach, to this. I said earlier, when we were going through the first tranche of commercial passenger vehicle legislation, that these were not really a light touch, as we have seen in other jurisdictions in Australia.
I know governments do not like to be called this, but I feel that this is actually quite brave legislation and that these are fairly expansive reforms and I think ones that will see us through to the future. These are reforms that are looking to a future market in a very quickly changing technological revolution and information revolution that we are going through. Only five or six years ago no-one would have imagined something like Uber. No-one would have imagined something like UberEATS or that type of ridesharing. No-one can probably foresee, although we are starting to consider, what the next generation of commercial passenger vehicles will be. They may be autonomous buses; they may be autonomous vehicles of another nature. We do not know, but I think this bill is embracing the innovation and is developing legislation that will not become obsolete as new technology emerges. This bill will enable us to go forward in an industry that will look very different in five years time, the same way it looks very different to what the industry was five years ago.
I do not think it is a perfect bill, and I think there are some areas that could be improved. When my amendments are ready to be circulated, possibly during the committee process, I feel that I will have introduced some amendments that will help with the main purpose of this bill, which is to establish a new and modern regulatory regime for commercial passenger vehicles that focuses on safety and the provision of consumer protections. These are paramount issues, and I think the most important is in those anonymous unbooked services.
This is typically known as your rank and hail work, when the consumer does not have the security of prebooking the service, when the consumer does not have the security of the applications and knowing who that driver is, knowing whose car that is, knowing what the fare is going to be, and does not have that protection that we are now becoming very accustomed to through the new ridesharing apps and through taxi companies introducing their own phone apps and computer applications.
When we were briefed by the minister on this bill the briefing notes stated that, amongst other things, there could be regulation around rank and hail services being metered. We were also given assurance back in June that this tranche of legislation would also provide for the provision of CCTV cameras in rank and hail services, as we see currently in our taxis. In reality neither of those things are the case under the existing bill. They could be provided for by regulation, but they are not a feature of this legislation, and I think that is an oversight. We do need to continue to have greater protection around those unbooked rank and hail services that are still going to be offered. I think that should be statutory protection, not just through regulations, which is why I am proposing amendments that will address this.
Metered fares and CCTV cameras are the two best consumer protection and safety mechanisms that are currently available for anonymous services. When we jump into a cab at the end of a late night here we know that that trip is being recorded through CCTV and we know that we have a fair idea of what the fare is going to be because of the metered service. That is not the case under this current legislation, so I believe we need to incorporate these in such a way that is not too prescriptive and in a way in which it can evolve with technology because, as I repeat, I think this bill is robust enough to evolve as technology evolves.
I am proposing that there be a capped fare rate on unbooked services. In times of competition a deregulated market will benefit the consumer, no doubt, but where a driver has the ability to set their own fare this may not be the case in an uncompetitive market.
I was looking at the scenario of it being 2.00 a.m., pouring with rain and we are down in Mr Purcell’s area of Warrnambool. It is raining and there is only one cab to be seen.
Mr Purcell — It wouldn’t be raining.
Ms PATTEN — ‘It wouldn’t be raining’, says Mr Purcell — of course it would not be raining. Now the driver tells you it will cost you $100 to get home, where it would normally be $10 or $20. It is take it or leave it under the proposed legislation. Or consider the scenario where customers, rather than queueing, are mobbing a taxi rank at Melbourne Airport and are saying, ‘Mate, I’ll give you $100’, and another guy says, ‘I’ll top that at $150’. This legislation does not provide any protection to the consumer in those sorts of scenarios, and I think they are both quite realistic and could be expected to occur in those unbooked rank and hail scenarios.
As a safeguard I am proposing that there be a metered fare cap, an upper limit that a provider or driver cannot increase the fare above. This would be done through the commissioner. They would develop the fares with the industry, as they do. The fare would be reviewed on an annual basis, and this would be working with providers and with all levels of the commercial passenger industry. This is a sensible amendment, and I will be very happy to speak more about it in the committee process. These are just ways to protect the consumer to ensure that as we transition with these new technologies, as we transition in this new and exciting industry, we ensure that this bill keeps its first objective, which is to focus on the safety and provision of consumer protections. Rank and hail commercial passenger vehicles should have meters, CCTV and a maximum fare rate to avoid exorbitant quoting or exploitation of vulnerable customers.
I would encourage all members to support these amendments. Otherwise, I do think that this is a forward-thinking bill. This bill does go farther than other jurisdictions, and so it should. Taking the bull by the horns, as it were, and holus bolus introducing regulation that does not tack onto old regulation, that creates a whole new safe space and that creates a level playing field for the industry as a whole is a forward-thinking and sensible way to address the emerging commercial passenger vehicle industry in Victoria. I am excited about the changes that it will make. I am excited about how this will affect the way that we travel, so that instead of using taxis it may be that vehicles as a whole will become available to us. I am excited about what ridesharing entails and the congestion that that may reduce for us in the future.
This bill provides us with a very good basis and platform for the future of our commercial passenger vehicle industry. I commend the bill.