TAXI INDUSTRY FORUM
TAXI INDUSTRY FORUM
26 February 2003
The National Competition Council (NCC) indicated that the taxi
system was uncompetitive and as a result wanted to deregulate the taxi
industry. It asked the State Government to report on progress towards
deregulation. The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure was
concerned that deregulation had many potential problems, both for
consumers and drivers, but she was required to respond to the NCC.
The specific issue of buyback of taxi plates was a prime concern.
Buyback is the re-purchasing of taxi plates by the Government at a
price. While buyback had always been considered as part of
deregulation, this did not have to be the case. In the Minister's view,
buyback could deliver significant long-term benefits to the taxi
industry without the negative impacts that deregulation would bring.
She noted that while buyback needed to be deliberated, so too did the
question of what regulatory system should be put in place post buyback.
Additional issues that needed consideration included:
- Improving the understanding of customer needs;
- Improving specialised services;
- Industry funding and structure;
- Driver and passenger safety and training.
To enable informed deliberation of these issues, it was determined
to hold a Taxi Forum of industry and consumer representatives.
The Consensus Forum is a democratic process to engage all key
stakeholders in the development of policy and input to the decision
making process. The key issues are explored using 'open book'
information. Opportunities are given to thoroughly understand different
viewpoints and to deliberate in small groups. The focus is on the
search for common ground. The findings become integral to the decision
- To oversee the consultation process to ensure it is
representative, transparent and fair;
- To ensure proportional representation at the forum;
- To ensure the outcomes of the Forum are represented fairly in the
next steps forward.
Representation was from customers, taxi dispatch services,
owners/investors, owner/drivers, drivers - unrestricted, peak period,
wheelchair and non-metropolitan, and the Transport Workers Union. The
Minister's Parliamentary Secretary was the chair.
- To elicit the views of the taxi industry on competition policy
and industry structure;
- To determine the areas where consensus can be achieved and a way
to move forward;
- To develop focal points for further industry feedback.
Just over 100 key stakeholders participated in the Forum. The major
industry stakeholder groups, including major consumer groups as well as
regulators, were asked to nominate representatives to attend the forum.
In addition, taxi drivers and taxi plate owners were selected on a
random sample basis from the Department for Planning and
Infrastructure's databases, and were invited to the Forum. The Steering
Group had the task of ensuring balanced participation from each of the
The expressed outcome expected was: "to contribute to the future of
the taxi industry by providing fair returns to drivers and owner
drivers, while offering the public an efficient, economical and safe
service". The Minister indicated that the focus in identifying any
future changes to the industry was to ensure that there was clear
public benefit in any change.
The Forum was deemed to be the start of the process. To ensure the
public interest was fully represented, the Government committed to
undertake a survey of all interested parties. The outcomes of the Forum
would form the basis for the questions in the industry wide survey.
Following the Minister's address, there were introductions at the
small tables, with each person stating their name, the group they
represented and the outcome they wanted from the day. The facilitators
wrote the key expected outcome themes from the table and
reported to the plenary.
Participants had been placed purposefully at tables to ensure there
was a thorough mix of stakeholders. The next exercise, empathetic
was to understand the positions of the others at the table. There were
at least three voices to listen to and understand - taxi drivers, taxi
owners, and community users . Each stakeholder group had to describe
the issues and concerns of the other until the other indicated that
their issues had been understood.
To ensure the key issues under deliberation were understood, there
were four presentations. These were followed by an opportunity
to question the panel of presenters. Presentations included:
- National Competition Council position;
- Treasury position;
- Taxi Council presentation;
- The Northern Territory experience of taxi plate buyback and its
relevance to WA.
The following activity, station rounds, was used to
potential options for different issues, as well as the extent of
agreement with each of the options proposed. In total, there were 14
stations, each with an issue to be addressed.
The issues had been developed through a series of stakeholder
negotiations. At the Forum, each issue was described and Forum
participants had the opportunity to change the wording, add or delete
The final list of station issues were as follows:
- If Government were to proceed with purchasing taxi plates at
a price (buyback), how should a fair price be determined? What should
the government offer?
- If Government were to proceed with
purchasing taxi plates, then after buyback, how should we regulate to
cap licenses, who gets priority, what types etc?
- If Government does not
proceed with purchasing taxi plates (buyback), what ways could greater
competition, customer service, and driver returns be achieved?
- How could Government address other passenger transport industries
encroaching on 'taxi industry' business?
- How could Driver/Owner/User/Taxi Dispatch Service disputes best
- How could Government achieve and sustain the most appropriate
taxi driver entry standards?
- How could Government achieve and sustain the highest standard of
taxi industry customer service?
- How could taxi industry viability be improved?
- How could Government achieve and sustain the highest standard in
service to the outer areas?
could Government achieve and sustain the highest standard in service in
the peak periods? (If additional peak periods - what are
solutions/compensation for transferable plates and MPT plates)
- How could taxi driver & owner incomes be improved? (noting
- How could Government achieve and sustain the highest standard in
servicing people with disabilities?
- How could additional release of taxi plates be determined - how
many and what type? (and what price, to whom, what time limit)
- What issues need to be considered in getting a review group to
move ahead with the outcomes of this Forum?
Small groups proceeded from one station to the next. A scribe
remained at each station throughout the activity to describe the
options to each oncoming group. At each station, the small group
brainstormed options and determined whether or not they could live with
the options previously written by other groups.
Since there were too many stations for the teams to visit, after 5
rounds, groups could choose which additional stations they wanted to
visit. During the final round, each individual could choose one more
station where individually, they could submit their views. At the close
of the session, scribes read out those items that had the greatest
- Establishment of a Reference Group including representatives
from industry and consumers to help guide the process of the review;
- The Reference Group terms of reference were be based on the
Forum's consensus suggestions;
- Similar Forums would be repeated in country areas throughout
- The Reference Group was expected to submit a Report and
recommendations to the Minister by May 2003;
- The Minister would make a final decision about the way forward;
- All participants would be informed of the decisions.
This was a highly emotive issue. Given rumours of potential
'gate-crashers' and disturbance of proceedings, police were stationed
at the door and only invited participants were allowed into the Forum.
As it happened, the police were not needed. Although the day began very
emotively, by the time everyone had participated in the empathetic
listening activity, the mood in the room shifted to serious
The station rounds activity was a helpful method to seriously engage
in finding options and examining potential trade-offs. Ideally there
should have been fewer issues, ie stations, so each group could have
had the opportunity to contribute to each issue. However, the
participants did not indicate that this was of particular concern to
them. It had been a long day of concentration and deliberation, and no
doubt they did not want to extend it further.
Although a number of participants were wary of the results and
remained cynical about the political motives, overall, there was a
feeling of hope that at least their views had been heard and taken
More positively, the taxi forum did show that people with very
disparate views can move beyond the emotion, can understand each other
better, and can find the good will to work together on mutually
The learning from the metropolitan forum was invaluable for the
Departmental staff to continue with the forums in the regions. After
the lead facilitator helped with the first of the Regional Taxi Forums,
Departmental staff then ran the remainder most successfully, without
any outside assistance.