Mr DICKSON (Buderim—LNP) (1 Dec 2016 5.14 pm):
I never thought I would ever see the day in Queensland when we would be in parliament talking about how we are going to compensate a business in this state so unfairly. If the government decides it is going to put a road through somebody’s property there would be a valuation done on that road and fair compensation would be paid. In this particular instance I think it is ironic that we are going to try to buy people off with $20,000 for a taxi licence. It is not enough. It is not even close to the mark.
This situation has had a real impact on real people. That is the salient point here today and I am going to tuck straight into it. Many of the 3,000-plus taxi licence holders in Queensland will be impacted. Many live in my area. I will mention just a few. I will start with Steve Cryer in Inala, the Premier’s electorate. His taxi is his only source of income. He cannot work due to ill health. He is applying for the pension. He was self-funded. Then there is Ramazan Yildirim in Clayfield. He is an owner operator. He has no home, his income has dropped and his wife is sick. He cannot sell his taxi licence. These are real people. John and Helen Scott in Beerburrum are owner operators who cannot retire due to loss of income. They are working past retirement age. They have paid off their taxi loan. It is their sole personal asset that they rely on to continue to feed their family. Then we have Greg Short, a Noosa taxi owner, recently returned to driving a taxi after he retired. This is what he has to do to survive, to make ends meet.
In my electorate there is a bloke by the name of John Byrne. He has a couple of mates and they own taxi licences as well: Jack Manca and Noel Spain. I will talk about John Byrne for a start. He is a family man. He brought his kids up on the coast. He got out of the military a few years back and he thought, ‘I’ve served my country. I’m going to now buy a taxi licence. I know that it is secure. The government give these licences out.’ Actually they did not give them out they sold them. An ex military personnel officer bought one. He could only afford half the taxi licence so he borrowed the rest of the money. He put his house up for mortgage. What is that taxi licence worth to the government today? $20,000. How far is that going to go? I am taking John and his mates out for lunch next week because I want to drill down and find out what impact this legislation will have on their families after it goes through. I can tell members that they are not happy. These are grown men who are crying. This is what the government is doing to them. They are destroying the lives of potentially 3,000 families in this state. John’s two young boys grew up in our local area. They played soccer at the local soccer club. They are slowly moving through life and they see what a government does to their family. Does that give people confidence in a government? I think the answer to that is no.
We are seeing this happen all over the world. We are seeing it happen in the United States and we are seeing it happen in the UK. We can see the push back and it will come here. I can guarantee that at the next election these taxi drivers will probably not look at all of us too kindly. As I said, there are 3,200 of them driving around the state and I am sure they are going to show us a whole lot of love when the time comes.
In earlier contributions some of the Labor MPs said that if these people can keep their licences this $20,000 will keep them going for a long time. I give the minister this dare: he earns $320,000 a year; how about he gives that money up and I pay him $20,000 for the next year and then next year we will see how it is going. I ask the minister to take that away with him when he thinks about what he is doing to these people. These licences are worth $475,000. I do not think it is fair and I do not think the minister thinks it is fair either. This is not what Queenslanders do to Queenslanders.
I will quote from a letter that was sent to all members of parliament—the minister will love this quote; this gets better and better as the day goes on—
Dear LNP members and members of parliament,
Please consider this statement when in parliament: my best man from my wedding works for Uber and he tells me he pays no tax. This is a black economy and he collects some Centrelink government payments. What a joke! How does he get away with this? Apparently easy. Uber treats him as a contractor/sole trader. He has no ABN, thus no tax declaration and pays no tax. How do you identify a Uber vehicle or a Uber driver?
I do not think the Uber company Google is an Australian based company. I believe it is based overseas. They probably do not pay too much tax, either. They are treating us like fools. We are accepting something that we should never have accepted. Where will it go next? Does old Johnny set up a grog shop in his garage? Will that be okay if he calls it an Uber shop? We will not need to have bottle shops anymore. That goes for any other industry we could look at. Is that good enough and would we allow that to happen? We sold permits to give people confidence. Where has that confidence gone? It has flown out the window, 3,200 times. It is extremely disappointing.
Many taxi drivers have come to talk to me. Some of them are upstairs. A bloke by the name of Clark Chappel is an absolute saint. He goes out to bat for the taxi industry every single day. He loves the industry and has been involved in it for a long time. He tells me very clearly that the difference between a class 1 and a class 3 is a $5,000 impost on taxis to provide the same service. There are camera issues. It costs the industry $3,000-plus to maintain, replace and audit cameras, and there are fines for cameras that are not functioning. The integrity of the images is vital and lowering the standards is not an option. Training standards for English assessment have been moved to cater for Uber.
We have to think about what we are doing. We are moving the goalposts all the time for this company, yet most of its drivers do not pay tax. The money is going overseas. We are taking the legs out from underneath good Queensland people who have bought licences in good faith. Let us think about those 3,200 licences. The owners of those licences may have wives and kids; they all have families and friends. I am sure that they will talk to those people, if they can ever afford to go to a barbecue again. They will probably be eating sausages and mince for a very long time to come, because they cannot afford to buy steak anymore. They will talk to people about how popular the Queensland Labor government is. They will say, ‘They are the people who brought about our financial ruin.’
How proud must be the minister. How proud must be the defenders of the working man, that is, those on the opposite side of the House. Proud? My God! It is an absolutely gutless act to go out there and say, ‘Here is $20,000.’ In his reply speech, I would love to hear the minister answer my question. Would he give up his $320,000 and cop $20,000 for the next 12 months, to see how that goes? That goes for everyone sitting on the other side of the House.
The implications of the bill are very interesting. The government is being so generous with its $100 million package to the industry! What is the real value of the industry? When we talk about taxi drivers for disabled kids whose mums and dads benefit so much from the service they provide, we should remember that we are also talking about voters. This is not just about the taxi drivers and their families; it is also about the people they drive around. I can see those 3,200 taxi drivers motoring around Brisbane and South-East Queensland. I do not think their cars will have signs on the back advertising Myer. They will have signs that say, ‘Don’t vote for the ALP.’ That is an absolute tick in the box, so members opposite should get ready. That is not coming just from me. They may have to declare that as a bit of an add-on to their election campaigns, not that it will help them too much. I think it will be a bit of a negative, but perhaps they should declare it anyway because they have put the industry in this position; they have assisted it.
There are a couple of other taxi drivers that I would like to talk about. They are good people. The driver of the year in a conventional vehicle is Malcolm Lamb from Yellow Cabs Rockhampton. Malcolm was the first person to bring Silver Service vehicles into the fleet. Since then, he has provided exceptional service to his clients. He won that award. Bill, he is one of yours. Maybe the minister can explain to him what the government is going to do. The driver of the year in a wheelchair accessible vehicle is Paul Williams of Mackay. The Whitsunday taxi driver is described as being the best driver in the job. He won an award. The Whitsunday electorate is one of ours. While we might be in a bit of strife there, I do not reckon they will be voting for the current member for Mackay.
Members know what is going on here. We are giving the taxi industry a good kick in the guts. Members opposite need to really think about what they are doing, because $20,000 is not enough. Members opposite can yell out if they want to take the money off them. Would the minister give up $320,000 and live on $20,000 a year? I do not know how he could afford that. That would probably only cover the insurance, just as it costs taxi drivers that much for their insurance and the fees and charges that they pay to this government.