Minister, with respect to elderly people and people with a disability who have been greatly impacted by the availability shortages in the taxi industry, as well as disruptions to the Taxi Subsidy Scheme, what planning has this government done to ensure that these people can travel when they need to?
Minister for Transport and Main Roads:
I thank the honourable member for the question. This is a very important issue. People with disability need access to transport and particularly personalised transport in the form of taxis. We have a range of measures in place. For instance, we have a comprehensive framework for personalised transport in Queensland now in place that provides greater choice while strengthening safety standards and ensuring accessibility.
A number of years ago we supported the industry with a $100 million Industry Adjustment Assistance Package and we have assisted the industry a couple of times during the pandemic with, firstly, a $54½ million essential transport package and an additional $23 million in support payments for taxi and limousine operators. We also have a $21 million wheelchair accessible taxi program, which is basically a fifty-fifty subsidy from us to replace old wheelchair accessible taxis with newer ones.
I am aware, as the member has mentioned, that currently there have been instances where people have been waiting for longer than acceptable times for a wheelchair taxi. I was concerned about that. I have had a meeting with the taxi operators and peak body about a month ago and raised this specific issue because it concerns me greatly that people with a disability may be waiting for inordinate times or may be missing medical appointments and that sort of thing. That is not something that I want to see.
The taxi companies have committed to try to improve their processes. They say one of the factors is simply the availability of drivers at the moment. With the jobless rate so low they are finding it very hard to recruit new drivers to get the kind of coverage that they can potentially have with the number of units that they have. Some of those units are not always on the road because they literally cannot find the drivers.
We have asked them to do everything they can to improve that and internally their communications systems and incentives for drivers can be improved so that we do not see that happening on the ground. I know, for instance, the taxi subsidy increased by $5. A few years ago we brought in the $20 lift fee to give drivers an incentive because sometimes it takes a bit longer to load someone in a wheelchair. We brought in that $20 lift fee to give drivers more of an incentive to pick up people.
We are attacking the problem in a number of different ways. I do share the honourable member’s concerns and I am hopeful that the taxi industry, which is responsible for providing these services, can improve their service delivery in the very near future.
Disability Taxi Services