The Victorian government has announced it would legalise ride-sharing services in the state and compensate drivers with a $378 million relief package.
This will be partially funded by a $2 surcharge on taxi rides in the state for the next eight years.
NSW has also announced a $250 million compensation plan for taxi plate holders in the nation’s biggest state, funded by a $1 surcharge on fares over the next five years. Queensland will have a $100 million compensation package for its licence plate holders. In WA it’s $27.5 million, and in SA it’s $34 million.
Now of course the taxi industry is a little bit different to many other industries in that the government controlled the plates and licences for operators (and enjoyed the revenue), but it won’t just be frequent users of taxis that will be looking on in horror – and I’m not just talking about anyone who’s had the distinct displeasure of getting a cab in Melbourne a few years back when the city’s taxis were notoriously dirty and poorly maintained.
People from many other lines of business whose industries have been upended by globally disruptive players just like Uber might well wonder where their handout is as well.
Perhaps we should also consider:
- A $2 surcharge on digital books to compensate booksellers whose businesses were destroyed by the arrival of Amazon;
- Surcharges on any item of clothing bought on the internet to compensate boutique store owners in high-rent areas who were put out of business by department stores first and then online retailers;
- A $20 a night hotel room surcharge to compensate B’n’B owners and hotel chains for the arrival of AirBnB;
- A $2 surcharge on every item bought at Bunnings to compensate Woolworths and its shareholders for the $1.9 billion Masters write-off. This could also be extended to back-pay former owners of small DIY stores who lost everything because of Bunnings’ success;
- A surcharge on using your mobile phone in the morning to read the news to compensate the media industry for its various redundancy packages and asset write-downs, past and future;
- Extra charges on every glass of wine and craft beer sold across the country to compensate industrial breweries for the shift away from mass beer brands, the lost revenue to pubs from earlier closing hours, and Australia’s long-term, general decline in per capita alcohol consumption, or
- A $50 misery tax for New Zealanders entering Australia to compensate Wallabies fans for the complete waste of their time watching Bledisloe Cup games in the hope of a win.
It’s nonsense, of course. But it does highlight the bizarre special hearing that Australia’s taxi lobby appears to get from politicians.