Point To Point Transport (Taxis And Hire Vehicles) Bill 2016

22 June 2016

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG: All harmless banter aside, the pace of change in innovative technology has often left our legislative and/or regulatory framework behind. In seeking changes to this framework, our primary questions should be fundamentally: What are we regulating for? How does it improve economic and social outcomes? What type of regulatory model should we consider? Who is best to manage the regulatory framework? Governments should not necessarily be the first and only port of call. It had always been my view that regulatory changes to the taxi and hire vehicle industry should focus on promoting fairer competition between new and existing participants, protecting safety standards for drivers and passengers and putting in place minimum and fair working conditions for drivers. I note that this bill and future regulatory changes have gone some way to addressing these issues. A number of members have already articulated these points, and I do not want to repeat them.

Today I will focus on the issue of market failure, which is greatly influenced by the lack of market information. This is an important point on the issue of the estimated $250 million to be raised through the levy and distributed accordingly. As elected representatives, we should be slow in asking the public for money but we should be quick in justifying how this amount was chosen and how it is objectively and transparently going to be distributed. There are arguments for the implementation of compensation regimes to address drastic issues of market change which cause permanent and considerable disadvantage to affected participants in the market. However, on this occasion, there is a lack of market information from the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and how the proposed $250 million was chosen is being kept from us. To me, that represents market failure because our proposed outcomes may not achieve the best possible outcomes for the industry, for participants, for taxidrivers and, of course, for the consumer and our economy as a whole.

Without market information it is not possible for us to come to an evidence-based conclusion on whether the proposed levy and its allocation plan is adequate. If the amount to be raised is insufficient it could be argued that it is unfair to those most affected. If the amount is too much it could be unfair on consumers and on our economy. But we do not know because of the lack of market information. There is a taxi rank just outside my electorate office. Every day I am reminded of those taxidrivers, the families and the small-time investors who have made sacrifices to invest in an industry that is regulated by government and I think of them and their livelihoods.

Markets want clarity and consistency in the decision-making process. That requires the disclosure of market information because we need to substantiate what it is we are trying to do. Market signals are important because those who are affected need support to understand why these decisions are being made. For example, we need to know the value of the market asset of the taxi plates. Are they tradeable? How much are they worth in this secondary market? How much has their value decreased because of these changes or because of the new entrants? What are the advantages of the asset that young families have invested in? How much are these assets worth now with these changes? Without market information, we cannot substantiate the decisions we have made.

The consequence for the market economy as a whole is that if we are taking money out of the economy then the multiplier effect to our economy is reduced. If we are taking too much out of our economy it means that the ability for people in our communities to spend, which would stimulate jobs and activity, could be reduced. But we do not know that, nobody knows that, because there is a lack of market information. Market assets and market values are important because that is the way trading and economic efficiencies are achieved. We want the best and fairest outcome for everybody who is involved, particularly for those who are greatly disadvantaged. The principle of justifying the things we do in this House is fundamental in our roles. We cannot do our jobs properly if we are lacking the most fundamental ingredient of the decisions that we make, that is, justifying to our communities, the drivers, families, investors and consumers why we are taking this decision.

I urge the Minister to be more transparent in his decision-making process around how this figure was chosen because it has an impact on markets. We do not know what it is going on. The distribution process needs to be objective and transparent because people need to know what is fair, what is harsh and who is going to receive the levy that is raised. In general, I think all Australians believe in fairness; it is a strong part of our ethos. The raising of any levy—whether it is a flood levy or a gun levy—is justified through public policy debate. But that can only be done if the market information is readily available, and then people can have discussions and be able to justify what they are trying to do.

I am concerned that the lack of market information will lead to market failure. We are sending insufficient information and justification to the market and the signals are concerning. They set a precedent. The words I quoted of John F. Kennedy in his commencement address to Yale are relevant. Without market information for all of us to analyse, assess and debate, we are enjoying the comforts of our opinion, whereas as public representatives we should be seeking the discomfort of thought. That discomfort of thought can happen only if we are given the information and detail to debate a fair outcome. We should seek as a goal the discomfort of thought. I ask the Minister to explain how the figure was chosen so that we can justify the outcome to the electorate, to the drivers and to the consumers who use ridesharing platforms. It affects us all. Market consistency and clarity are the way a good market economy works. The absence of the important ingredient of market information represents market failure.