Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Department of Transport.

*Department of Transport.

The issue of the `double standards' of the Department of Transport was raised in a letter to Jock Murray, the DIG of the DOT, in March 1998. [AL1-2]. It referred to correspondence from the Minister's Parliamentary Secretary admitting there had been no prosecutions of bailors under the new uniform requirements but "100 prosecutions of drivers". My letter pointed out that the taxi networks/co-ops were favoured by the DOT by the issuing of free licence plates (e.g. Nexus series) that were "not to be traded", but subsequently, were indeed traded for profit without any DOT policing or prosecution. My letter questioned why the DOT gave financial assistance to the TIA members in this manner but never extended the same privilege to the TWU orits members. The reply from Jock Murray did not address any of these concerns.[AL3-4] See also [AH1-3].

Numerous complaints were forwarded to the DOT documenting breaches of the regulations of the PTA/90. In every case the response was a bureaucratic fob-off where the issues raised were either ignored or promises of action against bailors were never followed through to prosecution stage. [AJ1-3]. (See also [AI1 2],[AF1-3],[AB3-6]).

Following reports that taxi plates issued by the DOT were being used in unauthorised ways, a letter was forwarded on the 30th January 1998 to Brian Scarfe, the Regional Manager of the DOT, requesting details of "the number of taxi plates (free of charge and conditional) given to taxi networks and/or companies by the DOT". [AG-1] The letter also requested information on how much revenue was paid by those networks to the DOT for usage of those taxi (plates). Other questions were raised as to how many of the taxis were traded on to other bailors and for what amount. A further series of questions focused on the "never to be traded" (pre-1995 issue) plates and whether the DOT had lifted the restriction on these plates. Other questions were raised as to the number and monitoring of the disabled/wheel chairaccess taxis and their conditions of release. Finally there was aquestion on whether the DOT kept a register of taxi owners/operators that would be accessible to bailee drivers to ensure their authenticity. [AG1-2J

Scarfe passed this letter on to his superior John McL.oughlin, the Acting Executive Director of Transport Services who replied on the 3rd of March 1998. His letter contained little of substance apart from revealing there were 227 wheelchair accessible taxi licences on issue in NSW with 145 of them being in the Sydney metropolitan area. All other information sought was denied. In the classic bureaucrat's stone-walling journalese McLoughlin wrote " As to all the detailed information you have sought, I am afraid that much of the informationis not held by the Department, and that the expense that would be incurred in collating the remaining information from Departmental files could not be justified" [AG-4].

Is the DOT serious? 'Do they expect people to believe that they don't have ready access to the numbers and types of the taxi plates released onto the Sydney Metropolitan Network area? Are they really ignorant of who the actual beneficiaries of these plates are? Of course, if they are saying they are ignorant on whether the Nexus/"Never to be traded" plates (and others distributed for free or for peppercorn leases), are now being used illegally, that is a different issue. If they don't know what is happening to these public assets are they willing to investigate? Are they negligent in not investigating? Or are they in the know and protecting the financial beneficiaries for reasons known only to themselves?

It would appear that only ICAC has the power and resources to get tothe bottom of this rather fishy pond which has profound implications for the projected 500 new `conditional' and `special purpose' plates that are about to enter the- market and, is therefore, of urgent concern to all players within the industry at the moment.

But obfuscation and stone-walling were not the only tools of the DOT.

When all else fails try bland assertion. A letter to the Second-in-Command of the DOT, Jock Murray, asking for a justification and actual breakdown of the revenue distribution following the $1 flagfall hike [AH-i] received the reply from Third-in-Command John McLoughlin " The package was introduced with the industry's full support and operators were granted an increase in the flagfall to recover the initial and recurrent costs of the reforms. It was considered that $1 .00 per trip would adequately cover these costs."[AH-3]

But McLoughlin did not reveal who's done their sums to come up with the nice round magical figure of $1.00. It could not have been theIndustrial Commission, because Commissioner Connor stated (September1996), he was just rubber-stamping what the Minister had announced publicly three months prior (June 1996), and as for theTWU/TIA "parties to the proceedings", they had only agreed to it in the interim period?. (see [V11.5] & [V12].

Using DOT logic here, the mathematical magician must have been the Minister. Why? Well, McLoughlin's letter reiterated, (after doing his sums?), the Minister recently announced that the Government has decided to reduce the taxi flagfall by $1.00 from 31 July, 1 998."[AH-3]. Again, this decision could not have been a TIA/TWU/Industrial Commission one, simply because these parties have not as yet met to even discuss the close off date for the flagfall drop ! ( [AH-3], note well para. 3 of the McLoughlin letter saying it should be amatter for the DIR !).

But Mr. McLoughlin you have left the initial questions directed to you unanswered:
What was the formula used for such an increment? What was the projected revenue? What was the actual revenue? What was the projected revenue for bailors/bailees after the so-called 80%/20% split? What was the actual revenue? What was the impact on the price of taxi plates? The impact on taxi network/radio network fee? The justification of radio fee rise linking with flagfall rise? How much of this money was actually spent on safety reform? What was the projected spending on safety reform? Of course neither the government nor the DOT can release the real figures because it would expose theTaxi Council as having used its influence to compel drivers to milk the public of over $100 million dollars most of which went straight into the owners bank accounts or was used to meet the rising Network fees rather than the intended purpose of improved driver safety.

Source: Sydney Taxi Corruption

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