Blood money

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The 31st of May 2012 will be remembered as the day of greed and self interest.

It is the day the Fels’ Taxi Industry Inquiry’s draft report was released. The report has proven to all doubters that the Inquiry was only set up to serve the Liberal Government’s financial needs. It was titled Customers First instead of Government First.

If the report is to be adopted in full, then the Baillieu Government is set to make an excess of $1.2 BILLION mainly from licence owners that invested their life savings in what was once a stable industry. Many retirees and widows will turn to the Federal Government to collect the old age pension and countless young operator drivers will almost certainly go bankrupt. We can only label the $1.2 billion BLOOD MONEY.

We have to ask ourselves, why is Premier Baillieu doing this?

To answer this question, I have to go back to the 1st of December 2008 when I met Baillieu and Mulder behind closed doors while they were still in opposition. A few operators and drivers were also present, seeking help from the duo in stopping the then Brumby Labor Government from increasing the taxi fleet by 530.

That night, I handed a submission of 45 points to Baillieu and his clan of five.

One point of the 45 points fascinated the opposition leader, and that was how much money the taxi industry could generate to government coffers. I then put the figure of the sale of the licences at $200 million.

The liberals went on using the $200 million figure in the media bagging the Labor Government of being blood sucking greedy monsters.

Baillieu became obsessed with the idea of making the taxi industry a main source of income for his government if he ever was to become a Premier.

On the 1st of December 2010, and exactly 2 years after our meeting, the opposition leader was confirmed to be our new Victorian Premier.

After 2 weeks of celebrating the election win, the government started the Christmas holidays. By the end of January when cabinet was about to meet for the first time, floods hit the Victorian countryside. Many towns were overwhelmed with floods forcing families to abandon their homes. Roads were cut off. Cabinet meeting was pushed towards the second half of February as Baillieu and his ministers had their hands full running around the countryside comforting and aiding the flood victims. The Premier never had the chance to think TAXI during his first two and a half months in office.

The floods put a lot of pressure on the government’s purse. On the way driven back to Melbourne, the newly elected Premier had one thing at the back of his mind, his piggy bank, the taxi industry.

By the end of March, the Baillieu Government had already put together a whole team to help it pursue its financial dreams. They called it “The Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry”.

In order to guarantee loyalty and the desired outcome, the Government appointed some of the Inquirers to lucrative jobs at the successor organisation, the Taxi Industry Commission. The Commission will replace the Victorian Taxi Directorate (VTD) once the Inquiry is concluded. Such action undoubtedly compromises not only the independence of the Inquiry and its integrity but also renders it to soap opera status.

This is unheard of. Is Victoria really part of the Western World?

It is also worth mentioning that some members of the Inquiry Team were recently working for the VTD in senior positions. These members were key policy makers. Amazingly, the same people took part in savagely criticizing their previous employer in the draft report.

To add salt to injury, the government was and still advertising in the main stream media the availability of the draft report on its website. We taxpayers are actually forking out tens of thousands of dollars to guarantee the government’s success in buying out the media, and in turn the public opinion.

We need a Royal Commission or perhaps an Inquiry to investigate the Inquiry.

It took the Inquiry Team 14 months to come out with the 600 page report, but they only gave the taxi stakeholders 6 weeks to reply. They didn’t release any data. In order to get the data required to reply to the report, the stakeholders must apply to the authorized officer at the Taxi Industry Inquiry pursuant to the freedom of information act in order to get the figures and the modelling used by the Inquiry Team, which will take at least 45 days, long after the deadline is gone, GET THE PICTURE.

The Taxi Inquiry reminds me of the Spanish Inquisition. The victims always had 2 chances to be cleared. It started by slashing the accused across the bare back with a big sharp knife. If no blood came out, they were cleared. If they bled, then they would be hung upside down and dipped in the river for a long time. If they drowned, they were cleared. If they didn’t drown, then they were presumed guilty and burned at the stake.

The Government seeks to replace the investors by leasing licences directly, thereby raising money directly from the operators.

If the government implements the open entry policy, its actions will be akin to a thief smashing a $250 car window to steal a $50 from the dashboard.

The Professor is disingenuous in his suggestions that all additional revenue will be returned to the industry.

The Taxi Licence value will reach a big fat ZERO within 3 to 5 years regardless to what the professor claims in the media that the licence value will only lose half its value and drop to just $250,000. Many old retired drivers are living off the weekly return of their licences they once operated themselves.

When queried by the media that these old hardworking people will lose their single investment and ultimately their superannuation,Fels replied “you have to break a couple of eggs to make an omelette”. What a cook!

Hosni Samaan

hosni_samaan@hotmail.com