Taxi Services Commission

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Taxi Services Commission
Government Agency
Predecessor Director of Public Transport (second phase only)
Victorian Taxi Directorate
Founded 19 July 2011
Founder Government of Victoria
Headquarters Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Area served
Victoria
Services Conduct an inquiry into the taxi industry in Victoria (first phase) and regulate the taxi industry (second phase)
Taxis and trams in Melbourne. Taxis are just as vital to the public transport mix of Melbourne as the city's iconic trams.

The Taxi Services Commission (the TSC or the Commission) is the Government agency responsible for the regulation of the taxi and hire car industries in the State of Victoria, Australia. Before becoming a regulator, the Commission was responsible for conducting a major independent inquiry, the Taxi Industry Inquiry, into taxi and other small commercial passenger vehicle services.

The TSC was created as a statutory corporation by the Transport Legislation Amendment (Taxi Services Reform and Other Matters) Act 2011, which amended the State's prime transport statute, the Transport Integration Act 2010, and the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.

The Commission commenced operation in its initial inquiry phase on 19 July 2011. The agency became the State's ongoing taxi regulator in place of the Victorian Taxi Directorate on 1 July 2013, chaired by former ACCC Chairman and Australian businessman Graeme Samuel.[1]

Context[edit]

The TSC was established due to concerns about the ongoing poor performance of Victoria's taxi industry.

Initial announcement[edit]

An Inquiry into the taxi industry was announced on 28 March 2011 by the then Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu. The Premier advised that it would be headed by Professor Allan Fels, the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.[2]

Mr Baillieu said the Fels Inquiry’s key tasks would include improving disastrously low levels of public confidence, providing better security and support services for drivers and safety for customers, and ensuring drivers were properly trained and knowledgeable. The media release issued by the Premier announcing the Inquiry reported him as saying that -

The state of the taxi industry has deteriorated under the former Labor Government, failing both passengers and the industry. It is a troubled industry that needs significant reform to drive improvements in service.[2]

Taxi industry problems[edit]

The key problems with the current Victorian taxi industry listed by Mr Baillieu in his announcement were -

  • low customer satisfaction, with a sharp decline over the past five to six years
  • safety and security for passengers and drivers
  • insufficient support for drivers
  • too many poorly-skilled drivers with inadequate knowledge
  • a high turnover of drivers resulting in a shortage of experienced drivers
  • complex ownership and management structures
  • lack of competition
  • too much of the industry revenue not being directed to the service providers – the drivers and operators.[2]

Inquiry details and ongoing regulatory responsibilities[edit]

The Premier indicated that reforming the Victorian taxi industry would occur in two stages. In the first stage, the Fels Inquiry was to be tasked with undertaking a comprehensive inquiry into the service, safety and competition issues in the Victorian taxi industry. In the second stage, following Professor Fels’ investigation, the Taxi Services Commission was to take over the role of industry regulator with the powers and tools necessary to drive reform in the taxi industry. The Premier announced that the Taxi Services Commission was to be established as a statutory authority.

The Premier indicated that the previous taxi industry regulator, the Victorian Taxi Directorate (VTD),[3] was to operate as normal until the Taxi Services Commission was established as the industry regulator. Staff and resources from the VTD moved to the new body when it became the ongoing industry regulator.[2]

Main responsibilities[edit]

Inquiry phase[edit]

The Commission was initially responsible for conducting an inquiry into the taxi industry and wider commercial passenger vehicle industry.[4] The Commission was required to report on those matters including by making recommendations about how the commercial passenger vehicle industry should be structured and regulated.[5]

Regulator phase[edit]

In its second phase, the Commission was positioned as the Victorian Government's regulator of taxi services and other small commercial passenger vehicles.[6] This role requires the TSC to, among other things, administer licensing and accreditation schemes and conduct compliance and enforcement and other activities which apply to the taxi and broader small commercial passenger vehicle industries.[7] The TSC commenced as the taxi industry regulator on 1 July 2013.

Governance[edit]

Establishment[edit]

The TSC was established following passage of the Transport Legislation Amendment (Taxi Services Reform and Other Matters) Act 2011. That Act amended the Transport Integration Act 2010 to create the Commission alongside Victoria's other transport agencies. The Commission is a body corporate.[8]

Constitution[edit]

The Commission consists of a Chairperson and up to two Commissioners.[9] Professor Allan Fels was appointed as initial Chairperson to conduct the Taxi Industry Inquiry. Provision was made for staff to be engaged by the Commission.[10] The Commissioners in the Commission's initial inquiry phase were not transitioned to manage the Commission when it assumed its role as industry regulator.[11]

Transport Integration Act[edit]

The Transport Integration Act provides the TSC with a governance framework - the objects, functions and powers - which comprise the charter of the agency.

Objects[edit]

The Transport Integration Act provided that the object of the Commission in its initial inquiry phase was to:

"(a) pursue and promote major and enduring improvements in ... —
(i) the provision and accessibility of services in the commercial passenger vehicle industry;
(ii) competition in the commercial passenger vehicle industry;
(iii) innovation in the commercial passenger vehicle industry, including in the business structures, service delivery models, policies and procedures in the industry;
(iv) the safety of passengers and drivers of commercial passenger vehicles;
(b) promote public confidence in the safety of the commercial passenger vehicle industry.[12]"

Functions[edit]

The initial function[13] of the TSC when it conducted the Taxi Industry Inquiry included -

"(a) conducting an inquiry into—
(i) the structure, conduct, performance and regulation of the commercial passenger vehicle industry; and
(ii) ancillary matters related to the provision of commercial passenger vehicle services; and
(b) reporting on the outcome of the inquiry, including making recommendations about how the commercial passenger vehicle industry should be structured and regulated.[14]"

Desirable considerations[edit]

In performing its initial inquiry function, the Commission was required to consider the desirability of -

  • raising the standard of customer service in the commercial passenger vehicle industry
  • integrating the commercial passenger vehicle industry with other forms of public transport
  • improving efficiency in the commercial passenger vehicle industry
  • providing education and training to drivers of commercial passenger vehicles
  • ensuring that the commercial passenger vehicle industry is regulated under a performance-based regulatory framework
  • improving the financial viability of the commercial passenger vehicle industry
  • alternative regulatory frameworks and the potential costs (including externalities) and benefits of those frameworks
  • any regulatory framework that is recommended being consistent with relevant health, safety, environmental and social requirements
  • applying to the commercial passenger vehicle industry
  • achieving consistency in the regulation of the commercial passenger vehicle industry between States and on a national basis
  • reducing obstacles that prevent people from using commercial passenger vehicle services
  • improving the quality of commercial passenger vehicle services at State borders
  • promoting environmentally sustainable practices in the commercial passenger vehicle industry.[15]

Inquiry and reporting[edit]

Provisions triggering inquiry[edit]

It was not sufficient for the Commission to be established for it to conduct an inquiry. It needed to have matters formally referred to it by the Minister for Public Transport before it could commence that work. Accordingly, the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 made provision for the Minister to issue a notice specifying the matters to be investigated, the nature of the Commission's reporting on its investigations and other relevant matters.[16]

Conduct of inquiry[edit]

General[edit]

The TSC was generally able to conduct its inquiry in the manner it considered appropriate.[17] A number of requirements and signals were included in the legislation, however, which required initial discussions and ongoing consultations.[18] The Commission's procedures were informal - it was not bound by the rules of evidence and was able to inform itself as it considered appropriate.[19] In addition, the Commission was empowered to conduct hearings in public or in private[20] and could determine whether a person could appear at a hearing and be represented by another person.[21]

Powers[edit]

The Transport Integration Act provides the TSC with a range of general corporate powers.[22] More specific powers including those of a coercive nature are contained in the key support statute to the Transport Integration Act, the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.[23] Provisions include those enabling the Commission to require information and documents and those concerning the issue and tabling of reports.

Independence[edit]

The TSC was independent of Ministers and Government generally in its initial inquiry phase. No provision was included for the Commission to be directed during this period thereby enabling it to operate without interference. This changed during the second phase when the Commission became subject to the standard powers of direction available to Ministers.[24]

Other Victorian transport agencies[edit]

There are a range of State agencies responsible for the transport system in Victoria. The Department of Transport (DOT) oversees and coordinates the activities of the agencies which can be divided into three main types - statutory offices, statutory authorities and independent transport safety agencies. Together with DOT, the agencies provide, manage and regulate transport system activities in Victoria including -

Statutory offices[edit]

The statutory offices include the Transport Infrastructure Development Agent.[27] The agency is part of the Department of Transport but has a distinct statutory charter and powers.

Statutory authorities[edit]

The statutory authorities[28] are -

These agencies are structurally separate from the Department of Transport.[29] Agencies such as the Taxi Services Commission are subject to the same or similar provision.

Independent transport safety agencies[edit]

The Transport Integration Act provides for two independent safety agencies.[30] The Director, Transport Safety and the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety. The agencies are part of the Department of Transport but are functionally independent and report to the relevant Ministers.[31] The Director, Transport Safety has oversight of safety regulation schemes and industry performance under the schemes. By contrast, the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety is responsible for no blame or just culture inquiries and investigations in the transport sector.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.taxi.vic.gov.au/taxi-reform/video-of-taxi-reform-announcement?a=92798
  2. ^ a b c d Premier of Victoria, media release, 28 March 2011.
  3. ^ The VTD was an administrative unit which operates under the designated statutory decision maker for the taxi and small commercial passenger vehicle sector.
  4. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115F(1)(a).
  5. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115F(1)(b).
  6. ^ Transport Legislation Amendment (Taxi Services Reform and Other Matters) Act 2011, Part 3.
  7. ^ Transport Legislation Amendment (Taxi Services Reform and Other Matters) Act 2011, Part 3.
  8. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115B(2)(a).
  9. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115H.
  10. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115R.
  11. ^ Transport Legislation Amendment (Taxi Services Reform and Other Matters) Act 2011, section 121 adding a new section 115T to the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.
  12. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115E.
  13. ^ See section 173, Transport Integration Act 2010.
  14. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115F(1).
  15. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115F(2).
  16. ^ Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, section 191B.
  17. ^ Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, section 191E(2).
  18. ^ See, for example, section 191D(1) and (5) of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.
  19. ^ Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, section 191D(3).
  20. ^ Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, section 191E (1) and (2).
  21. ^ Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, section 191E(3) and (4).
  22. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010, section 115G.
  23. ^ This Act was previously named the Transport Act 1983. The renaming of the Act occurred under section 199(1) of the Transport Integration Act 2010.
  24. ^ Transport Integration Act 2010.
  25. ^ Note, some shipping matters are controlled by the Commonwealth under legislation such as the Navigation Act 1912. Other matters are within the jurisdiction of States such as Victoria through Acts such as the Transport Integration Act and other statutes like the Marine Act 1988.
  26. ^ Note, many air transport regulation matters are controlled by the Commonwealth Government. The Transport Integration Act would apply, for example, to planning controls at some airports and in respect of transport connections to other airports by road and rail.
  27. ^ The charter and powers of the Transport Infrastructure Development Agent are set out in Division 4 of Part 3 of the Transport Integration Act 2010.
  28. ^ See Parts 5 and 6, Transport Integration Act 2010.
  29. ^ The Act establishes these agencies as structurally separate bodies with their own legal personality. For example, section 81(4) of the Transport Integration Act 2010 establishes VicRoads as a "body corporate" which "may do and suffer all acts and things that a body corporate may by law do and suffer".
  30. ^ Part 7, Transport Integration Act 2010
  31. ^ Section 194, Transport Integration Act 2010.

External links[edit]