Protest in central Bendigo rallies against taxi industry changes


UPDATE, 1pm: Transport minister and Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan has said a state government compensation scheme seeks to support taxi owners, not penalise them.  

Ms Allan said on Sunday the government was making a range of reforms to keep up with changes in the commercial passenger vehicle sector, including the advent of ridesharing. 

Aside from paying owners $100,000 for their first taxi – and $50,000 each for the next three – a $50 million dollar fund will be raised to assist those for whom the changes have meant hardship. 

Responding to Taxi Action Group Victoria claims she had not heard out their concerns, Ms Allan said she consulted with many stakeholders in the past two years while trying to reform the industry.  

Ms Allan was in Gippsland announcing a $1.45 billion investment in regional rail while protesters marched from her office down the Mitchell Street footpath. 

The proposed changes still need to pass the Victorian upper house, and while she said the Liberal and National parties had “dealt themselves out” of the debate by refusing to consider reform, the government remained in negotiations with other crossbenchers.  

“I'm keen to see that passed,” she said, explaining it would mean compensation was made available sooner. 

UPDATE 12.15pm: More than 60 owners are rallying outside transport minister and member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan’s office in Mitchell Street.

Taxi Action Group Victoria is behind the protest, saying they want to "educate" Bendigo about how their MP had “lost touch with her roots”, painting Ms Allan and premier Daniel Andrews as the two central enemies to the taxi industry.

"Tell the truth … is all we've asked," action group spokesman Anthony Parisi said during his speech to protesters.

"Families are hurting, our health has been affected. It's become a mess."

EARLIER: Taxi owners from across the state will converge on Bendigo today, rallying against changes to their industry.

Police are expecting a bus of taxi owners from Melbourne to picket the office of transport minister and member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan.

It is not known how many protesters will take part.

Barriers are in place at the edge of Mitchell and Mollison streets, and at least nine police officers are on site.

Taxi owner Geoff Vawdrey came from Ballarat to tell Ms Allan her government's proposed $100,000 buyback of licences was insufficient compensation.

He paid $305,000 for his licence 11 years ago and believed it should be worth as much as $405k today, money he planned to use in retirement.

Instead he was left contemplating the sale of his home to make ends meet in older age.

"If they wanted to take your house to build a road, they would compensate you appropriately," he said.

Mr Vawdrey also said the buyback scheme did not reflect the importance of taxis' service in regional community.

"We're the lifeline for people getting to the hospital at 11pm on a Tuesday night," he said.

"We're a lifeline to people in the bush, getting them around."

Another owner, Doug Worrall, took aim at Uber, saying the corporation was "rotting the system" by flaunting laws which still made ridesharing services illegal.