May 01 2016
Fare refusal or cherry picking work is a blight on our industry. At a time when we need to clearly demonstrate how far we have come as an industry over the last few years and our commitment to service standards, this issue still dominates complaints and customer dissatisfaction. If this behaviour was eliminated it would take with it a very large proportion of the complaints we receive. It is unacceptable behaviour not just because it is illegal, but also because of the damage it does to the public’s perception of our service.
I recently had to deal with another complaint from Uncle Jack Charles, a prominent and well respected Aboriginal Australian. As we have explained publicly on behalf of the industry, we are extremely disappointed about the experiences reported by Uncle Jack Charles. Regardless of whether or not it was racially motivated, it is completely unacceptable.
Taxi drivers in Victoria cannot refuse a passenger for anything but a very small and specific set of reasons. These rules are clearly set out in the regulations – essentially if the passenger is violent or otherwise offensive, carrying something which cannot be safely transported or is unable to demonstrate a capacity to pay the fare if asked by the driver (see box).
To refuse a fare for any other reason is completely unacceptable, but to do it on the basis of race as alleged here, is abhorrent and will not be tolerated by the taxi industry in Victoria.
Over 85% of Victorian taxi drivers come from culturally diverse backgrounds and we know often have to deal with these issues themselves on a day to day basis. For this reason, amongst others, it is an issue we take very seriously. We do not accept this behaviour as acceptable in any way.
We are in the process of making contact with Mr Charles to discuss these matters in more detail and look at possible ways to proactively ensure such behaviour is stamped out. I have also been in touch with the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) to discuss the matter. I can assure you that the incident in question is being investigated and taken very seriously.
There are a number of other processes being put in place to try and ensure that this type of behaviour is eliminated. I have said repeatedly that this is not the prevailing attitude of anyone in the taxi industry - including the vast majority of our drivers. They are equally concerned and appalled by allegations of this nature.
Racial profiling of this nature is something we have openly and publically condemned - both as it applies to our divers and our customers. It is something we will not stand for. When contacted by media we will continue to openly condemn the behaviour.
Victorian taxi drivers undergo the most rigorous training and testing in Australia. The question that looms in my mind is whether or not this type of regulated approach is in fact the best way to ensure positive outcomes. It would appear, despite this highly regulated regime, there are still too many instances of fare refusal. In my view service failings like this need to be dealt with in a far more expedient and effective fashion.
Transport (Buses, Taxi-Cabs and Other Commercial Passenger Vehicles) Regulations 2005 - except
Regulation 36 Passenger behaviour
(1) The driver of a taxi-cab may refuse to carry, or to continue to carry, a person in the taxi-cab if, in the opinion of the driver—
(a) the person is violent, noisy, misbehaving, filthy or offensive; or
(b) the person is in possession of an item which is not able to be safely and securely accommodated within the taxi-cab.
Regulation 41 Capacity to pay
(7) The driver of a taxi-cab may refuse to carry, or to continue to carry, (as the case requires) a hirer and any person accompanying the hirer if the hirer—
(a) does not demonstrate to the driver's reasonable satisfaction that the hirer is able to pay the amount of the estimate of the fare for the hiring; or
(b) does not pay a deposit required under subregulation (4) or (5).
Chief Executive Officer