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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1124

Mr JARMAN (DEAKIN, VICTORIA) - I address my question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. Has the Minister ridden in a taxi in Canberra recently? Is he aware that residents and tourists in Canberra can wait up to 2 hours after ringing for a cab and up to half an hour at a taxi rank? Also, is the Minister aware that licences for a single taxi change hands at approximately $25,000 per licence? Does this not suggest an unhealthy monopoly situation? Will the Minister do something about it?

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for the Northern Territory) - Although I have not ridden in a taxi recently, I have ridden in taxis. May I thank the honourable member for expressing the concern that I think is implicit in his question because what he raises is a subject for concern. It is nice to think that this concern can come from the Opposition ranks. It is my understanding that taxi plates are now fetching an average of $22,000 or $23,000 in the Australian Capital Territory. I heard a report of a price paid - perhaps this was the asking price - of about $25,000. There are approximately 80 taxis operating in Canberra. If one does some simple arithmetic one can calculate that about $2m is invested in taxis in Canberra. One can relate that fact to the criticism that is often levelled at governments that they should try to create proper public transport systems. It is always said that one cannot do this because it would be too expensive. I believe that we should all bear. in mind that the community pays in a different way for a privately operated public transport system. If $2m is tied up in a privately taxi service made up of 80 taxis, something is wrong.

Mr Whittorn - You need more taxis.

Mr ENDERBY - That is right. I will have something more to say about that. Under the previous Government - and I come back time and time again to this - taxi plates were allocated free of charge. These plates are distributed on application. If there is more than one applicant the allocation is determined by ballot. That means that after a short period of time the person who has a taxi plate has something to sell worth $25,000. I think that that idea gives offence and that this was implicit in the question asked by the honourable member. No-one denies anyone a wind fall or a bit of luck; but, when it ls being paid for by the community in the way in which a system such as this makes the community pay, it gives offence and it is time that something was done to stop it.

The system of taxi plates which has been encouraged in the Australian Capital Territory operates in other areas. If the honourable member and the House will bear with me on this matter, I am minded to say that it operates in Canberra's milk distributing system, where vendors, who are operating on a part-time basis and running 2 or 3 jobs, put themselves into hock to finance companies and are obliged to pay high rates of interest trying to create for themselves something which they like to call 'goodwill' but which is not really goodwill, much as the premium for a taxi plate is something that could be called goodwill. But, in the long run, the community pays and there is created a system, whether it be for transport services or milk distribution services, which is fragile, which does not work, which breaks down immediately it is subjected to any sort of pressure and which requires a comprehensive and unwieldy system of control. I have told my Department that I want a full report on why we should not employ people to drive taxis, as we employ people to drive buses and Commonwealth cars, and in that way achieve a better result. But I agree with the honourable member that the system is in urgent need of review, and I am indebted to him for raising the matter.

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