Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — I rise to speak briefly to the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Amendment (Public Safety) Bill 2016. I have to say that I am pretty cynical about this bill, and I also think that the community is very cynical about it. The bill has been touted, to use a taxi word, as a public safety bill. We have been told that it is urgent and that if we do not pass it immediately, we will have rapists driving taxis and public safety will be `at imminent risk due to section 159 — a section of the act that has been in there for over 70 years and that has not been noticed up until now. Now that it has been used as a defence in a ridesharing case, it is all of a sudden of urgent importance to repeal it on grounds of public safety and not of ridesharing.
Frankly the community does not believe that, and I do not believe that. This is actually about trying to stop ridesharing and trying to prevent it from being regulated. This bill will not stop ridesharing, but it will stop regulation. This does not provide a plan. In fact in all of this government members have not spoken at all about what they plan to do with ridesharing, except for supposedly trying to fine it out of existence and trying constantly to fine the drivers.
I had to take it with a grain of salt when the Taxi Services Commission (TSC) told me that it could not press charges against anyone ever. In fact the TSC said it could not even do its job of monitoring and ensuring that suspended drivers, or refused drivers, were not driving — that it could not do anything, that its hands were tied until this legislation was passed and that then it could get back to the job of monitoring and managing the TSC. At this point the commission has now closed the books and is not doing anything. Its inspectors are not going out and are sitting in the office with nothing else to do, because section 159 has not been repealed and, until we do so, the streets are not safe, and neither are taxis, hire cars or limousines. They are not safe until section 159 is repealed.
It is interesting to note that section 159 is historically part of a ridesharing part of the act. Ridesharing was very popular at the beginning of last century. In San Francisco in particular it was so popular that the streetcar owners felt that they were losing business to ridesharing. So guess what they did? They colluded with government to close down ridesharing, and it disappeared until World War II, when it was in the best interests of government to promote ridesharing because of rationing of petrol and the like, so it started putting up posters. The government was actively promoting ridesharing. There is one particular poster that took my eye which says, ‘When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler’. This was its promotion for ridesharing. After World War II the government again cracked down on ridesharing.
Mr Barber — Because Hitler was dead.
Ms Patten — Well, Hitler was finished; that is right. As I said, when it is in the government’s interests, the government is right behind ridesharing. In the 1970s governments actively promoted ridesharing. Because of air pollution and congestion on the roads, governments were trying to promote ridesharing. These are very good reasons for us to be supporting ridesharing now.
This legislation is not going to stop ridesharing, it is not going to protect drivers and it is not going to protect passengers. The bill I introduced yesterday will go some way to doing that, and it will go some way to defining ridesharing and to actively regulating who can be involved in ridesharing. For the government’s interest, I also hope it will carve out the definition of a rideshare facilitator so possibly they can be taxed. I suspect that once the government can get money from a ridesharing facilitator, its members will be much more interested in regulating ridesharing.
I would encourage people to look into the history of ridesharing. It is very interesting, and it is very interesting to see government’s involvement in it and support for it when it was in the interests of government. But right now, when the government does not know what to do about the taxi industry, government members are almost washing their hands of it. They are not supporting ridesharing, not supporting regulation and not keeping passengers and drivers safe, which they could do.
I hope that over the next couple of weeks in this conversation government members could see fit to support my bill, which does carve out and set up a framework so that we can regulate ridesharing in a very modern and progressive way, in a way that is different from the ACT and South Australian regulation and in a way that would uniquely match the needs of Victoria and would enable the government not only to regulate it but also to receive some income from it.