The Palaszczuk Government will review the proposed powers of Queensland’s first Personalised Transport Ombudsman (PTO), as it continues to work with the taxi and rideshare industry to respond to COVID-19
The appointment of Queensland’s first PTO was expected in March this year.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the impacts of COVID-19 prompted the delay of the process until 2021, to allow the industry to focus on recovery.
“By May 2020, over 1000 taxis and limousine licence holders had de-registered their vehicles to reduce costs during the COVID-19 emergency,” Mr Bailey said.
“There has been some re-registration of vehicles, but around 700 taxi and limousine licence holders remain without an operational vehicle at the end of last month.
“While many in the industry have been hit hard by COVID-19, a lot of operators have continued operating.
“That’s despite the obvious challenges, particularly in major markets like Brisbane, where the industry has advised decreases of up to 90% in rank and hail business and about 70% of booked trips in Brisbane.
“Now is not the time to focus on more regulation and that’s why, since April, we’ve announced two industry support packages.
“That includes $23 million specifically for the taxi and limousine that provided one-off payments of $3,500 per vehicle to taxi and limousine operators and one-off payments of $1,000 per licence to taxi and limousine licence holders.
“We’re seeing the green shoots of recovery in industries across Queensland but there’s no doubt taxi, rideshare and limousine operators will continue to feel the impacts of COVID-19 for some time.”
Mr Bailey said delaying the establishment of a PTO would allow the government more time to work with industry to ensure the new Ombudsman role meets the requirements of both the industry and government following COVID-19
“We know the PTO needs to be independent and empowered to investigate and mediate individual complaints and we will look at what additional powers it might need in the post-COVID world.
“While the role of the Ombudsman is intended to complement the work of other agencies at both a State and Federal level, we’ll undertake a policy review of the powers of the PTO.
“That review will include consulting widely with industry.”
Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) CEO Blair Davies said postponing the establishment of the Personalised Transport Ombudsman’s office was a very sensible policy adjustment in the current circumstances and one that just had to be made.
“We completely agree with Minister Bailey on this issue,” he said.
“Like a lot of plans for 2020, COVID-19 has forced massive changes in our industry’s priorities and establishing the Ombudsman’s office was simply competing for resources that are much better directed elsewhere.
“TCQ expects the Personalised Transport Sector to rebound slowly but strongly as COVID-19 restrictions ease and the Queensland economy reboots.
“It is very likely that the sector will look and feel substantially different to the one that entered the pandemic and so the role of its new Ombudsman will probably change as well.
“We look forward to working with the Government next year on that, tweaking and adapting the Ombudsman’s mission accordingly.”
Minister for Transport and Main Roads
The Honourable Mark Bailey
The appointment of Queensland’s first dedicated industry Ombudsman was supported by the Personalised Transport Ombudsman Bill that passed through Queensland Parliament in September 2019.
The PTO will be appointed by the Governor-in-Council under the PTO Act, for a term of not more than three years.
In June, the State Government announced a $23 million financial assistance package for the taxi and limousine industry.
It followed approval of a $54.5 million package in April to help Queensland transport operators continue running services despite the patronage downturn resulting from COVID-19.