Question asked by Troy in Parliament
Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:00): My question is to the Minister for Transport. In the government's $5.2 million financial support package for the taxi industry, why has the government offered financial support for metropolitan taxi operators but not regional taxi operators?
The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (15:00): I do thank the member for Mount Gambier for his question and note that he would have received some emails from Perry Rasmussen in the same way that I and a number of other regional operators have.
Essentially, to answer the question, we have a $350 million economic jobs fund. It is there to try to help industries that are COVID-affected through this difficult time. It is not a fund that can help ensure that every job and every business continues during the difficult global pandemic, but it helps us provide ways to be able to reimburse, especially where government is a significant cost component of businesses in the way that they operate.
In constructing something for the taxi industry, where we know that in metropolitan South Australia we have seen about a 60 to 70 per cent reduction in the amount of service that is provided, the government and the Treasurer specifically took a decision around a $5.2 million package that essentially helps to provide $4,300 per taxi to the operator to essentially cover off on the government fees that exist in that space, whether they be accreditation or licensing fees and CTP and a range of other things.
We essentially put together a package that made it easier for us to provide an ex gratia payment to those operators, as opposed to having to do something through the TRUMP system. It was just an easier way to be able to account for it. The reason we limited it to metropolitan taxis is because of the severity of the impact that they felt, given how affected they are by tourism in metropolitan South Australia. Also under a restricted environment especially for access cabs, we have seen a reduction in the amount of work there. Given the important work that the 100-odd access cabs do, we needed to make sure that they were included as part of the package.
There is a very large difference between the fees and the cost structure that metropolitan taxis pay compared to what regional ones do. Regional areas don't have a capped plated taxi system; it is essentially a far more lower cost, deregulated system that would certainly have been impacted by COVID, but not in the way that metropolitan cabs have. So, given the complete difference between those operating models, we made a decision to do what we did.
We have also announced—and it came off the back of the good advocacy of the member for Kavel, who, in the Adelaide Hills, has been pushing to try and open up things to ride share where ride share may have been operating outside of the borders—and we have now put in place, a lower cost again mechanism that we are encouraging ride-share operators, as well as existing regional taxi operators, to take advantage of because it helps them to lower their cost of doing business even further than it is now.
As part of the regulations, we also increased the age of the taxi fleet from 6½ years to eight years, although again I note that in regional South Australia the vehicle specifications are actually different again and more generous than they are in metropolitan South Australia. There is quite a big difference between the operators and the situations that they face, and hence the reason for the difference in response, but that does not mean that there isn't an opportunity for those regional operators to take advantage of the $10,000 Small Business Grant, potentially taking advantage of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, as well as a range of other federal and state-based support packages.
There is still very much opportunity for businesses to get involved, but for the reasons I have outlined we felt that the taxi industry specifically, or the metropolitan taxi industry with the high regulatory burden that it has, needed a greater added response.