100. The Olympic Games 2000 and the Taxi Industry.
My letter in October 1997 to the then Minister for Transport Mr.Brian Langton [AOl] sought details of the existing government policyon the taxi industry for the forthcoming Olympic Games in 2000. Mr.Langton was removed from his portfolio shortly after, in part, forhis failure to manage the taxi component of his portfolio. Theacknowledgement to my letter came in December 1997 from the newMinister Carl Scully's Communications Officer who promised to raisethe matter with the DOT and give it "close consideration". [AC2]However no further response has been received. This may be in partbecause a separate letter was sent in December 1997 to Ron Christie,the Chief Executive Officer of the Olympic Roads & TransportAuthority (ORTA). Mr. Christie's letter in response was a politeexample of managerialism where "discussions with the Taxi Council inearly 1998" constituted ORTA's forward planning schedule.
The important fact here is that neither public official would addressmy questions on the deficiencies or otherwise in regards the currenttaxi fleet and its ability to meet the Olympic challenge in terms ofstandards and capacity. Not even a whisper of the 500 extra taxisthat are now being introduced onto the road from August 1998 to thedetriment of the existing drivers' living standards/income levels inthe middle of a recession and the "fall-out from the crisis in Asia".
This "gift" of $300,000 times 500 cabs = $150 million (approx.)handout to the Taxi Council" affiliates should be of major concern toICAC. It smells! It was first rumoured over 12 months ago under thedisgraced Langton rule but was stopped dead in its tracks bysubmissions from taxi drivers. It has been revived under Scully atthe insistence of the "Taxi Council" and is a direct result ofvarious media "spin doctors" (e.g. Executive Director of the FederalAirports Corporation), politicians and media personalities (e.g LeoSchofield, etc.) engaging in a persistent campaign of "cabbiebashing" with the cry of ``what are we going to do during theOlympics when we can't cope now'' and "we need more cabs at theairport" type comments. The cosy relationship between the FAC and theTaxi Council can be seen from other correspondence as well. [T7-8] isdemonstration of the antagonistic attitude of the "Taxi Council" todrivers on airport ranks. [T9] is a misguided reply by the FAC.
None of these media attacks were addressed in the officialcorrespondence to me mentioned above. Nor was any defence of theexisting fleet mounted by pointing out there already exists a surpluscapacity of vacant taxis on the road with the Taxi Council itselfadmitting that during an average shift the taxi is vacant for 65% ofthe time and engaged for only 35% of the time.
Further to this, there is no evidence of excessive demand for theextra 400 wheelchair access taxis to be phased in on a monthly basisbetween now and the Olympics. Most of the 145 existing specialpurpose vehicles are plying regularly for non-handicapped business,commuter or tourist fares at the airport ranks and elsewhere. Clearlythis decision, introduced with no discussion or survey of needs, hasbeen motivated by political considerations (e.g. attempts to persuadethe International governing body of the Para-Olympics that Sydney isa "user-friendly" city and therefore should secure the contract?)Evidence for this assertion can be found in a letter from theExecutive Director of Transport Services who in March 1998 revealedin response to a question on the extent of monitoring to ensure thesevehicles "served their intended purpose"[AG-2]. The only detailsoffered was-to point out that a reminder note had been sent to thosedrivers saying they -are required by law to "always give preferenceto the transport needs of disabled people". [AG-4].
Thus it would appear that the DOT has not done any surveys witheither the drivers or through Disability organisations to ascertainwhether demand meets supply, is insufficient, or exceeds it.
It is now up to ICAC to uncover the real story. Has the inboundtourism industry - airlines, hotels, etc - threatened to withdrawsupport from/politically blackmailed (?) the Carr Government unlessit further impoverishes the Sydney taxi drivers by flooding the roadswith another 500 under-utilised taxi cabs? What of the rumours ofthe "Taxi Council" donation to the Carr Government's re-electioncampaign? Do they have any substance? What of the role of theTransport Workers Union (TWU)? Is their silence on the destruction oftheir members livelihoods an accident? Does their Secretary (SteveHutchins) position as President of the NSW ALP constituteof "conflict of interest" here? And what of the role of thegovernment-funded Tourism Task Force where its head (John Brown) wasrecently singing the praises of Carl Scully's "taxi reforms" to ahighly partisan and sympathetic "sports journalist" from the ABCRadio's PNN Network (Saturday 3.7.98)?
Source: Sydney Taxi Corruption