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Vic taxi drivers discuss police concerns -

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Vic taxi drivers discuss police concerns

Reporter: Rachael Brown

ELEANOR HALL: The Victorian Government's promise to improve safety measures for taxi drivers was
enough to clear a city blockade. But will it satisfy drivers in the longer term?

As we reported here yesterday, 1000 cab drivers brought central Melbourne to a halt yesterday
morning with a protest triggered by the stabbing of a 23-year-old Indian driver.

The government has now promised to authorise prepaid fares and to help fund the instalment of
safety screens.

But, as Rachael Brown discovered when she took some cab rides last night, many drivers are still
concerned about the way the police deal with their complaints.

BHUBINDER KUMER: We are in danger every night.

RACHAEL BROWN: Would you be in support of protective screens?

BHUBINDER KUMER: If we get a screen, they can't like touch us. This screen would be a bit
uncomfortable to drive, as well as to passenger, but the safety is first, I think.

RACHAEL BROWN: Time will tell whether such screens will be the safety fix that taxi drivers like
Bhubinder Kumer (phonetic) fought so vehemently for, in their blockade yesterday morning.

The New South Wales Taxi Drivers Association doesn't think it will.

President Geoff Coates says only about one per cent of Sydney drivers still use screens.

GEOFF COATES: The drivers are generally happy with cameras only.

Screens are very horrendous as far as customer contact, fresh air, road noise.

RACHAEL BROWN: Many migrant drivers say passengers aren't the only cruel ones, arguing that police
are ignoring them and their complaints.

UNNAMED DRIVER 2: One guy here, make accident here on the corner, and he said, "No blood. Sorry I
can't come."

RACHAEL BROWN: No blood?

UNNAMED DRIVER 2: Yeah.

UNNAMED DRIVER 3: A guy broke my rear window. First of all, I called for the police. I wait 25
minutes, 30 minutes, half an hour, nobody came.

RACHAEL BROWN: Last night, both Victoria Police and the State Government refused to be drawn on the
issue.

CEO of Victoria's Human Rights Commission, Dr Helen Szoke, hasn't received any driver complaints
about racial discrimination by passengers or the police.

HELEN SZOKE: It's very hard for the taxi drivers to utilise the complaint option because they would
have to be able to identify the passenger.

RACHAEL BROWN: Well then, we're left with the same problem aren't we? Because that's the same
problem they're facing when they take their complaints to the police. Police are sending them away
as well.

HELEN SZOKE: We need a strategy that has many different strands and improved driver training;
better protection against that kind of antisocial behaviour and that indeed seems to have been the
outcome of this blockade.

The other thing I don't think we should underestimate is that once you begin a program of actually
raising awareness about the scrutiny that's given to vilification, and how that impacts on people
like the taxi drivers, that will start to have an effect as a deterrent.

RACHAEL BROWN: What parties do agree on, are the headaches drivers will be spared thanks to prepaid
evening fares.

Sukhchain Singh (phonetic) says most drivers have about two fare evaders every week

SUKHCHAIN SINGH: Last month I pick up a girl from the same rank over here in Collins Street and
dropped in South Yarra.

She told me, "Can you wait for a minute? I'm having some change in my home."

I'm waiting as a fool for 10, 15 minutes, she don't come back. When I go there and knock on the
door, she say, "Go away from my house. Otherwise I will call the cops. You are disturbing me" and
all that. What the bullshit is this?

ELEANOR HALL: Taxi driver Sukhchain Singh ending that report by Rachael Brown.