Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007
Parliamentary Record 17
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4840 the government to help ensure people with wheelchairs have better access to taxis in the Northern Territory. As they go about their daily lives, people in wheelchairs have a much greater reliance on taxis than most of us. With recent increases, 15% of our taxi fleet is now multipurpose taxis, or MPTs, capable of taking wheelchair passengers. However, Territorians with a disability have continued to point out that the service provided by MPTs is not meeting their needs. In the past, some passengers in a wheelchair have booked a taxi for an important event hours in advance and had no taxi turn up, leaving them stranded at home. Unfortunately, some drivers avoid wheelchair pick-ups, given the extra time it takes for a passenger to enter and exit the taxi. This is why I recently announced the commencement of a Taxi Lift Incentive Scheme. The scheme means that there will be a more reliable taxi service for passengers in wheelchairs. The scheme will give people in wheelchairs greater certainty of taxis arriving. Under the scheme, a $10 bonus compensates multipurpose taxi drivers for the time it takes to load and unload a passenger in a wheelchair and gives a real incentive to take the fare. The $10 goes directly to the driver, which will encourage drivers to provide timely and effective service to wheelchair-bound passengers. The scheme will commence in December this year. Madam Speaker, the scheme will be paid for by a small increase in taxi fares, 1.8%, and a 15% increase in taxi licences. A 1.8% increase means about an extra 40 on a $20 fare from the airport to the city. The government believes that the general public will be prepared to pay this small extra fare to ensure that people with wheelchairs have the same access to taxis as themselves. The government is currently working with MPT owners and operators to ensure the implementation goes ahead without delay or administrative difficulty. The operation of the lift fee will be done in conjunction with the administration of the Northern Territory Taxi Subsidy Scheme, which already provides financial assistance for taxi travel for people with disabilities who are dependent on taxis for transport. The government has decided both these schemes will be administered by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure rather than the Department of Health and Community Services where the Taxi Subsidy Scheme currently resides. It may seem an irrelevant issue as to the whereabouts in government the administration of these schemes reside; however, it is quite an important issue that has been raised with me by disability groups. The Department of Planning and Infrastructure has carriage of public transport, and providing transport options for people with a disability should be a responsibility of the agency. It is not appropriate that the transport needs of people with a disability be looked after by another agency. As I said, this is an important issue to people with a disability. The idea of a lift fee has been raised with me by many people, but there are a couple of individuals who were particularly passionate in arguing the case. Robyne Burridge, until recently the Head of the Integrated Disability Action Network (IDA), deserves a great deal of credit for this initiative. Mary Johnson is the Chair of the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Board and the Vice-President of IDA. She has been an advocate of such a system and, since the announcement, has talked about the difference it will make. With the new Lift Incentive Scheme, the Territory Subsidy Scheme, improved driver training and more MPTs on the road, I am confident that there will be real improvements in services for passengers in wheelchairs. Madam Speaker, I will be writing to all people eligible for the scheme to provide details of how the scheme will operate, and I will continue to work with the Taxi Council to ensure its smooth implementation. Mrs MILLER (Katherine): Madam Speaker, the minister is right; it has been a bone of contention with disability services for a long time, where people who have a handicap rely on an MPT for transportation have been severely hampered. It is a great incentive, especially around Darwin, to offer that extra $10 each way. As you were saying, if they come in from the airport and go back out to the airport, it is $10 each way, so that is really good. The operators are given an incentive to ensure that they provide a service to people with disabilities. One of the challenges in Katherine is that MPTs are very restricted. I assume this also applies to Alice Springs, although it has not been highlighted to me. Our MPTs tend to do trips out to communities because they can carry more passengers, so they are out of use for people with disabilities in Katherine for long periods of time. Is there something that the minister has thought about that might be an incentive for the operators to ensure that they do address the needs of the people with disabilities in the regional and remote areas? Is there an incentive for them as well?
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