Taxi owners line up for $1.5b action
TAXI licence owners are set to lodge a claim worth up to $1.5 billion against the State Government for legalising ride sharing in 2016.
Barrister John Ribbands said a statement of claim seeking compensation for plummeting licence values and loss of earnings was completed and could be lodged in the Supreme Court before Christmas.
The value of Queensland's taxi industry has plunged as much as 80 per cent since Uber and other ride-sharing companies disrupted one of the state's most regulated industries.
Licences that once sold for more than $500,000 are now struggling to attract a quarter of their original value with owners outraged after governments from both sides of politics had been promising for decades they would never deregulate the industry.
Across Queensland, average taxi licence prices have fallen 77 per cent from $380,941 in 2012 to just $85,676 this year.
In Brisbane, average prices dropped by three-quarters, from $417,309 in 2014 to $105,775 this year.
Mr Ribbands said taxi licence owners would argue it was unfair for the government to create a scheme that ensured the viability of operators, only to later deregulate the industry.
"What's happened is that by deregulating ride share, all of sudden the reason that these people had paid all this money for taxi licences evaporated overnight," he said.
Mr Ribbands said the total claim against the State Government could reach $1.5 billion including compensation for the licence owners' capital loss and ongoing revenue losses.
"This is not just about taxis," he said.
"This is just something that governments cannot do to ordinary people."
More than 100 licence owners attended a meeting with Mr Ribbands today in Cairns, with a further 85 logged in to a video stream. Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow in Brisbane.
Mr Ribbands said the meetings were a "call to arms" for the owners of 3300 licences in Queensland, as they had until December 14 to sign up to the legal action.
The administrative demands of finalising the parties to the claim, which is expected to reach about 1000, could delay the claim until early next year.
The State Government created a $100 million assistance package for the taxi industry, however payouts were limited to $20,000 per licence and capped at two licences.
Queensland Taxi Licence Owners Association chief executive Paul Scaini said the Government had also provided other transitional funds for taxi licence owners, however it had put too much red tape around those payments.
"How much of that money is still sitting in the bank?" he said.
Mr Scaini said banks were getting ready to foreclose on many licence owners who desperately needed the money now.
"The Government's not giving it out to people who are trying to help the licence owners," he said.