I don’t have time to read all of this!
With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket
This ticket looks like a Druery special, with 12 different parties appearing in the top five, ranging from the Australian Liberty Alliance and the Batty Battlers to Animal Justice and Health Australia. LDP, the Sustainable Australia, Shooters and Fishers and Hinch’s Justice Party. I really can’t see any rhyme or reason in this, ideologically speaking, especially as some of these parties also appear in the bottom five.
The one thing that is absolutely consistent on Transport Matters’ ticket is that Labor is always last, for reasons that will quickly become evident, unless there are ungrouped independents around. The Liberals and the Greens are always right before Labor, with the Liberals usually, but not always, higher than the Greens. The other most frequent flyer at the bottom of this ticket is Fiona Patten’s Reason Party.
The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations
Let’s just start by saying that Transport Matters is a political party founded by the Taxi lobby, and they really aren’t trying very hard to hide it. On their Facebook Page, you learn the following under ‘Our Story’:
Rod Barton and André Baruch (both long time operators in the Victorian hire car and taxi industry) are the key stakeholders in the newly formed Transport Matters Party. As the events of the past few years came to the effective culmination of the deregulation of the Victorian taxi and hire car industry in August 2017, the executive of the Transport Matters Party decided it was time to speak up and do something proactive for the industry and this is exactly what Rod and André are doing.
Rod Barton said, “We have chosen to take this action after the devastating way our members and colleagues have been treated by the Andrews Labor Government. It is clear not only to us, our families, friends and customers but also the Victorian public that this Government does not like to consult.
I think anyone who has spent any time in a taxi or on Daniel Andrews’ Facebook Page in the last few years is aware that the taxi industry is seriously pissed off with the Andrews government for repealing (expensive) Taxi licenses and letting Uber come here and compete with them. Their frustration is understandable. It’s their livelihood. So it’s not surprising that they have formed a political party to fight for their concerns.
It’s not great that they have picked a party name that will make anyone who isn’t paying attention think that they are all about public transport, but I have to say, even if I hadn’t been told by multiple people that this was a taxi lobby party, I would have twigged to this when I looked at their policy pages, which cover many forms of transport extremely briefly – but go on for pages and pages and pages about taxis.
It’s transparency of a sort…
Transport Matters’ slogan is ‘Because you matter’. The subtext is ‘vote for us, because we care about you’. It tells us nothing about what they actually want to do, but it invites us to recognise them as being on our side. So that’s nice.
OK, let’s take a look at some policies
I’m lumping in a lot of policies together here, because they are all quite short.
Transport Matters wants to close public transport gaps, particularly by incorporating shuttle buses to link shopping centres and precincts to railway stations.
They want new buses to be hybrid or electric and high-capacity, and they want more of them, especially in the outer suburbs. I’m a little astonished by the statement that ‘bus networks help to ease congestion on Victoria’s roads’, because that’s certainly not been my experience – I mean, maybe compared to trams, but really, if you are worried about congestion, trains are the way to go.
Fascinatingly, they support the rail link to the airport, and are also in favour of high-speed rail links between Melbourne and regional cities.
Trams… don’t exist in their world…
They want better timetable synchronisation at interchanges, and more public transport options in regional Victoria.
They want the government to buy back public transport, and to make it free for children and the elderly, and gold coin only for everyone else.
Essentially, they are pro-public transport, mostly, as far as I can see, because it will ease traffic congestion.
Planning and infrastructure
Transport Matters wants to make sure that public transport is considered when new urban developments are built, and so it should be. They are really worried about the strain that high density residential development places on local infrastructure, and want developers to contribute to a Density Fund to pay for local infrastructure improvements.
That is actually an extremely good idea and I’d like to see it adopted.
They are worried about road congestion, and want a congestion tax on cars in or around the CBD between 7am and 7pm, as well as a cap on the number of ride share vehicles on the roads (did you see how they just slipped that in there in passing?).
They support the building of North East Link and East West Link, but they do not support extended tolling of existing toll-roads to pay for new toll-roads. They also want want more truck lanes for heavy vehicles, and better road maintenance generally.
And speaking of truck lanes, Transport Matters is worried about the working conditions and pay of truckies, and particularly about fatigue management and safety.
This is another short policy, but it’s nice to know that the taxi drivers care about cyclists at least a little bit. They want safe bicycle parking facilities at public transport interchanges, bike lanes and bike traffic signals to be considered in planning (including in regional Victoria), and more programs encouraging bike riding at schools. No new bike paths, but did we really expect them?
Safety and Social Justice
Transport Matters wants free parking at public hospitals. They are concerned about safety on public transport, and whether the government is getting value for money on public transport infrastructure. And they want to bring down the cost of electricity for electric vehicle users.
Public transport drivers should all have an award that includes holiday pay, sick pay, superannuation, workcover and overtime. This is a good policy. Also, if they are including taxi drivers and ridesharing under public transport drivers, that’s a cunning way to scuttle Uber’s business model.
Also, I love how social justice is mostly about public transport, but we do need parking in hospitals…
Obviously, better public transport and electric cars will help the environment. I have no beef with this.
Taxis and Car Hire
All of these policies have been pretty good, but very brief – around 100-250 words. Now, however, we are getting to the part that Transport Matters really cares about, and you can tell, because this section gets over 1000 words all to itself.
Transport Matters understands that the taxi industry performs a vital social and community role. It is an integral part of Victoria’s essential services and public transport mix. Taxis play a key role in covering the transportation needs of the elderly and those with disability; and are often used for ‘first and last mile’ trips, that is the trip from home or work to the nearest public transport access point.
It is no longer acceptable for those in the taxi industry to work under a set of conditions that would be unacceptable to the vast majority of Victorians. We want to create an industry where driving a taxi is seen as a profession; a profession that drivers can be proud of and, more importantly, one where they can achieve a sustainable and fair income – whether their work is done as a driver/operator or drive for someone else.
They are very, very angry about the ‘appalling treatment’ of past taxi and hire car licence holders by the Andrews Government, and the uncontrolled release of minimal cost licences to new drivers, which has severely impacted driver income and ‘ruined many small businesses and made many other unviable; unfairly causing financial harm to thousands of Victorian families’.
First, up, they want redress.
Taxi and hire car licence Holders need to be fully compensated for the compulsory acquisition of their property (licences). This should be based on an independent valuation of the taxi and hire car licence plate market values, prior to Uber illegally entering the Victorian Transportation Market.
They want all taxi licences to have the same value, and not be means tested.
They want a distinction between traditional “Hire Car” and “Taxi” categories and “On demand vehicles”.
All classes of vehicles need to have permanent visible signage saying what they are. I note that this is a handy way to inconvenience part-time Uber drivers who want to use their cars on occasions when they are not working as drivers, but never mind that.
They want all these classes of vehicles to pass regular roadworthiness certifications, which is fair enough, and for the government to subsidise a move to an all hybrid or electric fleet, with free charging points for taxis which are hybrid or electric.
Taxis should also be exempt from tolls.
Finally, Transport Matters wants the taxi, car hire and ride share industry to fall under the jurisdiction of the public transport ombudsman.
Overall, I’m not sure what I think of Transport Matters as a party. It’s pleasing to see that they are better on public transport and on the environment than I would have anticipated (they really, really love their hybrid and electric cars, evidently), and I do think they have a justifiable beef with the Andrews government about the taxi licenses.
So yeah. I’m ambivalent about this group. I feel as though their party name is misleading, but given that they really aren’t making any real attempt to disguise their priorities, and they do clearly support public transport, I’m less inclined to hold this against them than I thought I would be.
I’m less sure about what looks to me like an attempt to make ride sharing businesses unfeasible in Victoria. As a passenger, I feel a lot safer in an Uber than I do in a taxi. In the last four years I’ve felt unsafe enough in taxis on three separate occasions to change my drop-off point and walk the last kilometre or two home, and I only take taxis (or ride share) once every couple of months. Having said that, I don’t like Uber’s business model. And Ubers don’t offer discounts to people with disability cards.
I don’t know the best solution to this, but I think pushing either Taxis or Ubers out of the business of transport would be a bad idea.