Ordered that second-reading speech, except for statement under section 85(5) of the Constitution Act 1975, be incorporated into Hansard on motion of Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills).
Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — I move:
That the bill be now read a second time.
Incorporated speech as follows:
The bill will implement legislative changes needed to implement the first stage of reforms announced by the government on 23 August 2016.
Globally, the commercial passenger vehicle industry is changing as technology emerges. But this bill is not just a response to the emergence of ridesharing.
The reforms will result in Australia’s first fully open and competitive commercial passenger vehicle industry — a major step toward an industry that competes on a level playing field and puts passengers first while protecting the existing industry.
Significant numbers of new service providers are expected to enter the market. Some have already announced their plans, others are keenly awaiting the passage of this bill. The government is in no doubt that the reforms in this bill will lead to new investment and new jobs.
New services will provide greater consumer choice and increased competition will drive improvements in service quality as well as placing downward pressure on fares.
The bill will enable rideshare vehicle owners to apply to the Taxi Services Commission for a hire car licence without having to pay excessive licence fees. By providing for the regulation of ridesharing in this way the bill puts in place a regulatory framework to ensure the safety of ridesharing passengers.
This bill establishes a $2 per trip levy to fund the financial assistance to be provided to the existing industry and provides for improved services to be provided to the mobility impaired.
The bill will completely abolish annual taxi fees of up to $23 000 and hire car licence fees of up to $40 000, making it more simple and affordable for new providers to enter the market and operate a vehicle. These financial barriers to entry into the commercial passenger vehicle industry have impeded the supply of services, competition and innovation in the industry for decades.
The consumer will be the main beneficiary of these changes, without any need to accept reductions in regulatory standards. All of the regulatory requirements that really matter, those that relate to public safety, will remain in place.
Commercial passenger vehicles are subject to roadside safety inspections at any time and all will continue to be required to undergo an annual roadworthy inspection.
Drivers of commercial passenger vehicles will still need to undergo criminal background checks before being permitted to drive and data sharing between the Taxis Services Commission and Victoria Police will continue to ensure that drivers found guilty of disqualifying offences are removed from the industry so they do not pose a threat to the travelling public.
These requirements will be vigorously enforced. As will the requirement for the providers of booking services to be accredited.
The bill changes the definition of booking service so that all providers of booking services are required to be accredited, regardless of whether they are providing bookings to taxis or hire cars and regardless of whether booking services are provided through traditional phone and message services or through electronically automated means.
Accredited booking service providers are required to maintain prescribed records and make these available to the Taxi Services Commission on request. Accredited booking service providers are also required to implement complaints handling systems that comply with the requirements of the prescribed Australian standard. This includes the requirement for service providers to respond to all complaints received and to take action to address service failures, for example, by taking disciplinary action against drivers.
Unclear and fragmented accountabilities for service delivery and service quality in the taxi industry have led to the poor service outcomes that make taxi businesses vulnerable to the commercial threats resulting from new competition. The taxi industry must take responsibility for addressing these problems. However, the government recognises the significant nature of the structural system and cultural adjustments existing taxi and hire car industry participants must make.
The bill will establish a levy equivalent to $2 per commercial passenger vehicle trip to help fund a fair and reasonable transition package for the taxi and hire car industry, as well as the continued provision of accessible services for members of the community who are mobility impaired.
The cost savings to taxi and hire car operators resulting from abolition of taxi and hire car licence fees and the introduction of competition and flexible fares means the levy may not necessarily be passed on to consumers. Booking service providers and trip providers will absorb or pass on the costs of the levy as they see fit in the new competitive environment.
What is clear from the assessments that have been undertaken on behalf of the government is that there will be significant net benefits for consumers from reform, despite the introduction of the levy. Other reforms to follow will further reduce red tape, enhance regulatory efficiency and effectiveness and deliver more benefits to consumers over time.
The bill requires providers of commercial passenger vehicle services to lodge returns on the number of trips they provide. Returns can be completed using trip record information that is already required to be kept at the same time as business activity statements are completed. For these reasons, compliance costs are expected to be low.
The bill makes the commissioner of state revenue responsible for the collection of the levy. The bill also provides that the Taxation Administration Act 1997 applies to the collection of the levy.
There are already extensive powers made available to the commissioner of state revenue under the Taxation Administration Act 1997 to collect and enforce the levy. These will be complemented by new offence provisions and new powers made available under the bill.
Failure to comply with payment of the levy can result in:
interest and penalty tax being applied;
prosecution of offenders resulting in significant financial penalties; and
removal of accreditation, which provides the right to participate in the industry.
Continued operation without accreditation can result in the enforcement of injunctions and the imprisonment of persons who do not comply.
The $2 trip levy enables financial assistance to be provided to the existing industry. Existing commercial passenger vehicle licence-holders have been impacted by the changes in their industry. The government acknowledges that the value of licences have reduced significantly in recent years and the revenue that can be obtained from licences has likewise declined. The levy is required to provide the revenue to fund financial assistance to the existing industry.
The bill puts in place the first building blocks for a new act that will provide for the regulation of the commercial passenger vehicle industry in the future. A second bill, subject to the passage of this bill, will be introduced in mid-2017 to complete the new Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act 2017 and repeal the existing parts of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.
I will now provide an overview of the bill.
Part 1 of the bill deals with preliminary matters including purpose, commencement and definitions, including the new definition of booking service.
Clause 6 makes it clear that the clauses that provide for the imposition of the commercial passenger vehicle service levy are to read together with the Taxation Administration Act 1997, because that act will provide for the administration and enforcement of the levy.
Clause 8 provides for the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act to have extraterritorial operation in circumstances where part of a commercial passenger vehicle service is provided outside of Victoria and when a booking service is provided wholly or partly outside Victoria, whether in or outside Australia. The clause recognises that booking services may be provided from anywhere in the world and makes it clear that the act applies outside Victoria to the full extent of the extraterritorial legislative power of the Parliament.
Part 2 provides for the imposition of the commercial passenger vehicle service levy.
Clause 10 specifies legal liability for the levy.
For a booked commercial passenger vehicle service, the provider of the booking service is responsible for the payment of the levy.
For an unbooked commercial passenger vehicle service, the provider of the service is responsible for the payment of the levy, noting that if the provider of an unbooked commercial passenger vehicle service has an affiliation agreement with the provider of booking services, then the booking service provider will complete returns and pay the levy on behalf of the affiliated trip provider for unbooked services provided in the return period. If the accredited trip provider does not pay the levy payable to the person the provider is affiliated with, then Clause 19 provides that person with the power to recover the levy payable from the affiliated trip provider as a debt due in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Clause 11 provides for the levy to by collected by the commissioner of state revenue.
Clause 12 sets the levy at $2 and provides for indexation of this amount over time. Clause 12 also provides for regulations to be made in the future to reduce the amount of the levy to a figure that is less than $2. This is intended to enable the levy to be reduced when revenue generated through the levy recovers the cost of the government’s transitional assistance package.
Clause 13 specifies that a return is required for each financial quarter (‘return period’), noting that regulations may be used to change the frequency of returns. Clause 15 specifies that a return must be lodged within 30 days of the end of the return period. Clause 16 specifies that payment is also due within 30 days of the end of the return period.
Clause 14 specifies that persons liable to pay the levy must be registered with the commissioner of state revenue. Clause 17 provides the commissioner with the power to cancel a person’s registration by notice to the person. Clause 18 specifies that a person who no longer expects to be liable to pay the levy must give notice to the commissioner of state revenue with the effect of the notice being to cancel the person’s registration.
In accordance with clause 6, part 2 is to be read in conjunction with the Taxation Administration Act 1997. That act:
obliges persons liable to pay the levy to keep proper records;
provides the commissioner of state revenue with the powers to make assessments and undertake investigations;
makes it an offence to not lodge returns, provide false and misleading information, wilfully destroy records, deliberately omit information and commit tax evasion;
specifies the rates of interest and penalty tax and when they apply; and
specifies when objections, review and appeals may be made.
Part 3, division 1 of the bill implements the government’s licensing reforms by making amendments to the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 to:
remove the requirement for the payment of specified taxi and hire car licence fees;
abolish restricted hire vehicle and special purpose vehicle licence types;
streamline the application process for taxicab and hire car licences;
provide for existing restricted hire and special purpose licences to be taken to be the hire car licences when the licensing reforms come into effect;
provide for existing perpetual licences to be revoked and for licence-holders or, where relevant, licence assignees, to be issued with new taxicab licences when the licensing reforms come into effect; and
repeal redundant provisions relating to the establishment of trading arrangements for the transfer and trading of taxicab licences.
Part 3, division 2 provides for the new definition of booking service specified in part 1 to be inserted into the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 to replace the term ‘taxicab network service’. A number of consequential changes are made to replace all references to taxicab network services with a reference to booking service. The effect of these changes is that providers of booking services to hire cars will need to be accredited. This includes body corporates such as Uber because rideshare services are commercial passenger vehicle services and Uber provides booking services to enable rideshare services to be undertaken.
Part 3, division 2 also provides:
for the creation of a new offence to accept a request from the provider of a booking service where the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the provider is not accredited or has had its accreditation cancelled; and
a new power to seek an injunction from the Supreme Court to prohibit a person from engaging in a broad range of activities that could lead to a contravention of the new offence.
The new offence and the new injunctions power are intended to support the enforcement of accreditation requirements for booking service providers.
Part 3, division 3 provides the Taxi Services Commission with power to take administrative action against persons if satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, the authority holder has contravened a requirement relating to the commercial passenger vehicle service levy. Administrative action undertaken by the Taxi Services Commission may be needed to support the enforcement of levy requirements specified under part 2 or under the Taxation Administration Act 1997.
Part 3, division 4 makes amendments to support the efficient and effective administration of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 prior to the commencement of the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act. Key amendments include providing the Taxi Services Commission with the power to grant exemptions in specified circumstances and the imposition of a new duty on Victoria Police to notify the Taxi Services Commission when accredited persons, including drivers, have committed offences and to provide the details of the offences committed. This information is needed by the Taxi Services Commission to fulfil its functions in relation to the accreditation of drivers and other persons. Victoria Police has already been providing this information on request. The new duty makes it clear that this data sharing must continue to support the integrity of, in particular, the driver accreditation system.
Part 4 of the bill provides for related amendments to be made to other acts.
Clause 70 amends the Transport Integration Act 2010 to reduce the administrative burden on transport bodies when issuing, granting, giving or renewing certain specified transport authorisations under transport legislation.
Clause 71 makes a further amendment to the Transport Integration Act 2010 to enable the government to appoint a third person to the Taxi Services Commission. This amendment will enable the government to appoint a person to the commission who is dedicated to improving the delivery of services to the disability sector.
Clauses 72 and 73 make amendments to the Bus Safety Act 2009 to remove uncertainty and the potential for regulatory duplication by ensuring that taxicabs that are physically similar to buses are regulated as taxicabs.
Clause 74 amends the Road Safety Act 1986 to give employees of the Taxi Services Commission and persons authorised in writing by the Taxi Services Commission the power to inspect motor vehicles and trailers and issue defect notices and fines. Officers of the Taxi Services Commission already have the power to inspect commercial passenger vehicles and prohibit defective vehicles from being used as commercial passenger vehicles. However, officers of the Taxi Services Commission do not have the power to outrightly prohibit the use of vehicles that are found to be unsafe. This is counter to the aims of protecting the safety of other road users. The amendment will address the gap in powers.
Division 4 of part 4 of the bill includes amendments to the Taxation Administration Act 1997 that are consequential to the establishment of the commercial passenger vehicle service levy.
I draw the members’ attention specifically to clause 79 of the bill. This clause of the bill proposes to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Accordingly, I provide the following statement.
Section 85(5) of the Constitution Act 1975
Ms TIERNEY — I wish to make a statement under section 85(5) of the Constitution Act 1975 of the reasons for altering or varying that section by this bill.
Clause 79 of the bill inserts a new subsection (6) into section 135 of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 to provide that it is the intention of sections 5, 12(4), 18(1), 96(2) and 100(4) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997, as those sections apply after the commencement of clause 79, to alter or vary section 85 of the Constitution Act 1975.
A purpose of this bill is to bring the commercial passenger vehicle service levy under the Taxation Administration Act 1997. This bill provides that for the purposes of the Taxation Administration Act 1997, part 2 of the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act 2017 and any regulations made under that act for the purposes of that part is a ‘taxation law’.
Part 2 of the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill, if enacted, will impose a levy equivalent to $2 per commercial passenger vehicle service provided on those that are responsible for undertaking commercial passenger vehicle service transactions.
Section 5 of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 defines the meaning of ‘non-reviewable decision’ in relation to the Taxation Administration Act 1997, which will also apply to the commercial passenger vehicle service levy. No court, including the Supreme Court, has jurisdiction or power to entertain any question as to the validity or correctness of a non-reviewable decision. Sections 12(4) and 100(4) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 provide that certain decisions under those sections are non-reviewable decisions. Those decisions might relate to the commercial passenger vehicle levy.
Section 18(1) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 prevents proceedings being brought in the Supreme Court for the refund or recovery of a tax except as provided in part 4 of that act. As the commercial passenger vehicle service levy is a tax for the purposes of section 18(1), proceedings for its refund or recovery would be similarly limited.
Section 96(2) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 prevents a court (including the Supreme Court) considering any question concerning an assessment of a tax except as provided by part 10 of that act. As the commercial passenger vehicle service levy is a tax for the purposes of section 96(2), proceedings in relation to assessments of levies would be similarly limited.
It is desirable that the legislative regime under the Taxation Administration Act 1997 applies to a commercial passenger vehicle service levy in the same way as it does in relation to any other tax. However, section 85 of the Constitution Act 1975 confers unlimited jurisdiction on the Supreme Court. Accordingly, in order to ensure that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is limited in relation to such levies in the same way as it is in relation to other taxes, it is necessary to provide that it is the intention of sections 5, 12(4), 18(1), 96(2) and 100(4) of the Taxation Administration Act 1997 to alter or vary section 85 of the Constitution Act 1975.
Incorporated speech continues:
Without the passage of this bill rideshare service providers will continue to not comply with regulatory requirements and the safety of ridesharing passengers will be at risk. Without the levy, there will be less opportunity to improve services for people with a disability and there will be no transitional financial assistance for the existing industry.
I commend the bill to the house.
Debate adjourned for Mr O’DONOHUE (Eastern Victoria) on motion of Mr Ondarchie.
Debate adjourned until Thursday, 16 March.