Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Emergence of the "Taxi Council".

3. The Emergence of the "Taxi Council".

In the late 1960s the Full Bench of the Industrial Commission, echoing the Justice Edwards Report from the 1940s, pointed out that the taxi companies exercised an unfair advantage over their bailee drivers to the extent that they were able to avoid their legal responsibilities to the drivers. A number of recommendations were made for industry reform. To head off these recommendations the taxi companies decided to embark upon a major public relations campaign.They hired a well-known public figure (and former politician) Sir Asher Joel to investigate the industry and then produce a report entitled "Sir Asher Joel's Motivational Survey Report". The Joel Report supported the major finding of the Industrial Commission concerning driver exploitation. In his final recommendations he argued for the establishment of a "Taxi Advisory Council" (TAC) comprised of "representatives of the taxi industry (drivers, owners, etc), Dept. of Transport, Police and a Consumer group". [0-2]

The Taxi Advisory Council was established in the 1970s to "advise theMinister". Whatever its shortcomings the TAC at least provided some vigorous debate amongst the taxi industry stake holders. The TAC was abolished in 1988 by the incoming Liberal Party Transport Minister Bruce Baird. This created a vacuum whereby there was no longer a community or industry-wide input into the formulation of the official taxi industry policy. This vacuum was filled by the heads of the employer body (TIA) creating a "non-registered body"[Q2], with "no status under the law" [Q6]. The TIA called this body "The Taxi Council".

The "Taxi Council" was established in the early 1990s and unilaterally assumed the multi-pronged role of industry spokes person, government adviser and media public relations, when in effect, it was nothing more than a self-appointed mouthpiece for a small coterie of individuals drawn from the Boards of Directors of the major Co-operatives. In reality it came down to three people calling the shots - Reg Kermode, Bob Morrow and John Bowe. Perhaps fearing that their claim to legitimacy may become questioned, the "Taxi Council"announced in the November-December 1991 edition of their own publication "Taxi" that, "…. The operation of the NSW Taxi Council ceased on the 31.3.1990 and thereafter was carried on by the NSW Taxi Industry Association". The sensitivity of this misnomer became apparent when the "Taxi Council" appeared before the Hylde Rolfe Inquiry in the 1993. Submissions by worker representatives to Hylda Rolfe asked the question "Who is the Taxi Council?". The issue of the status of the "Taxi Council" was raised again three months later before the Federal Industrial Commission. For unknown reasons theTIA/"Taxi Council" appeared here under the name of the "Taxi Industry Council".

However, once the heat was off, (i.e. following the Minister forTransport, Bruce Baird, filing and burying the positive recommendations of the Hilda Rolfe Report), the bailors lobby resumed the use of the name "Taxi Council" in their public relations documents and newsletters. The "Taxi Council" again claimed to be the industry. They recommenced their duplicity and regularly issued biased public statements as though they were the entire taxi industry. Before long, letters announcing pending changes in theindustry were again being circulated to owners and drivers jointly countersigned by the Minister and the "Taxi Council".

Driver reps continued to question, via correspondence to government departments, the legitimacy of the "Taxi Council" to speak for one and all. Thus in one reply, written in the closing days of the Baird administration, (on the 25th November 1994), a letter from Pamela Sayers, Director Vehicle Transport Policy Development, acknowledged that the "Taxi Council" was an organisation "made up of taxi co-operatives, companies and owners" and was only "accountable to its members", and therefore, was not accountable to bailee drivers, nor the travelling public, nor any other users of taxi services. [02] Despite this clarification as to the very limited nature of the composition of the "Taxi Council" by this senior departmental bureaucrat, the "Taxi Council" itself, continued to purport to speakon behalf of the whole industry.

In a separate letter to the Taxi Industry Services Association/T.l.S.A. (an organisation representing non-owner driver interests) in February 1995 Sayers refined her argument. She maintained that the "Taxi Council" was not "appointed" as a "co-regulator" of the industry. It was merely a case whereby "Government Departments consider the views of representatives of industries affected by Government decisions". She argued that ". ...licence holders and their Networks are accountable to the Department for the standards of taxi service delivery especially in relation to radio booking services and vehicle presentation." [0-9] One could ask here why weren't the "Taxi Council" or "Networks" made "accountable" for frequent breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act and PublicTransport Act. There has never been one prosecution by the Department.

A revealing letter indicating exactly how the "Taxi Council" had co-opted both the Ministry and the bureaucracy to do its bidding was issued by the incoming Labor Party Minister for Transport, BrianLangton, (on the 3rd of August 1995). [06] In his potted history on the issue, evidently drafted from within the bureaucracy, Langton maintained the Taxi Advisory Council (TAC) was replaced by the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) in 1990 which was renamed the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) in early 1994. He claimed that the shift from TAC to JIC and then JCC represented "no qualitative change inthe consultative relationship that has existed between the Department of Transport and other taxi industry stake holders".[Q6]

Yet on further reading, the Minister's letter revealed there was indeed ``qualitative change'' in the ``consultative relationship''between ``industry stake holders". He identified the "Taxi Council"as "a member" of the JCC which had "opportunity to make representations on behalf of its members" (identified earlier as "taxi licensees and operators", i.e. bailor/owners). He further argued it was "appropriate" for his department "to seek the views ofsuch a body when considering regulatory options affecting the taxi industry". All of this flowed, he also revealed, because the new "consultative mechanism" under the JIC in 1990 was one of "co-regulation under the Passenger Transport Act, 1990".[Q6]

The Minister and his Department are essentially saying they have an obligation to consult with the "Taxi Council" - i.e. Kermode and Bowe - because the Department (under the JIC) "co-regulates" the industry with the "Taxi Council". Indeed, as a letter to a taxidriver, concerned with the issue of the privacy of departmental computer records, revealed, "co-regulation" extended as far as a contractual arrangement between the Dept. and the "Taxi Council': one governing the release of personal files from the Department to theTaxi Networks. John Stott, the Acting Director General of the Dept.of Transport in his reply to this driver stated: ".. ..The Dept. ofTransport and the NSW Taxi Council negotiated a contractual agreement whereby the Dept. may grant a very limited "view" access to certain records contained in its database of public transport drivers andoperators [T6].

But the contradictions are everywhere! The Stott letter fell withinthe same time-frame as Minister Langton's letter assuring everybody there was no "special relationship" between the Taxi Council and the Department. If this was the case why weren't other "stake holders"informed or consulted over contractual arrangements governing the release of private computer database information on individual taxidrivers and owners? A more thorough examination of this issue would reveal that misuse of private data on individuals is a common practice throughout the industry. Neither the TWU, TISA, the Privacy Committee, other concerned individuals were allowed a say onthis "co -regulatory" contractual arrangement, were they?

The Minister further contradicts himself by arguing "the changes brought about by the implementation of the Passenger Transport Act1990", (by this he means "co-regulation" of the industry withthe "Taxi Council), have "no effect on the individual rights of taxidrivers". Clearly these changes do. The driver's union and other representative bodies are excluded from the consultative processunder "co-regulation". Under "co-regulation", the 1990 "Code ofConduct" (for drivers), made it an offence for drivers to do or say anything that was "detrimental to the (taxi co-operative) network".Even writing this submission to ICAC is a breach of the "Code of Conduct" for which the punishment is the possible withdrawal of the privilege of driving for the network. Even if the network is guilty of breaking the law, it is still an offence to publicise law-breaking by the network because it is by definition "conduct detrimental". [01-8].

I0t should also be noted here that the Minister [06 & AM2] and hisDepartment [09] have argued that all financial arrangements between owners and drivers "do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Dept(DOT)." but fall under the Industrial Relations Act. Clearly the "Taxi Council's" "co-regulatory" power was responsible for the $40 a day increase in pay-ins after the announcement of the $1 flagfall rise in June 1996 by the Minister for Transport. This was self-evident from the Minister's press conference where he was seated between the Taxi Council and Bus & Coaches Association spokes people (both employer groups) without any presence or acknowledgment of involvement by the TWU or bailee groups. His Director General went as far as issuing a directive for the immediate imposition of this flagfall increase which the' Taxi Council" in turn used to justify a $40a day rise in driver pay-ins totally outside any consideration by the Industrial Courts.

The extent to which the "Taxi Council" dictates policy for the industry as a whole was self-evident from a comprehensive article in the Australian Financial Review (FR24.4.98, p.18). [FRA]l clearly demonstrated the extent of the "Taxi Council's" influence in the taxi industry. Their President, Reg Kermode's statement concerning competition in the taxi industry was a case in point. Even though seven of the eleven (radio) networks existing in Sydney are under MrKermode's influence, (through his control of the TCS Radio Network) he still maintained that "competition is strong" in the industry. Really? The Australian newspaper (15.6.98) and the Sun Herald(22.6.97) tell a different story about the Sydney taxi industry.[TAA]. These articles show the performance of the NSW taxi industry compares unfavourably to all other capital cities. Not surprisingly the fleets of the other cities are peppered with ex-Sydney drivers who have voted their lack of confidence in the Sydney taxi establishment with their feet. [See also NPA1, NPA2 and NPA3].

Source: Sydney Taxi Corruption

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