Greens MLC Jan Barham delivered an impassioned speech in parliament this week on the difficulties facing disabled people who rely on special taxis to get to and from work.
The speech highlighted the findings of a recent report by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC), which showed that while the costs of taxis in NSW has escalated dramatically, the maximum rebate given to disabled people under the NSW Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) has remained static at just $30 per trip since 1999.
On May 23 Ms Barham moved a motion that called on the government to increase funding to a maximum of $50 per trip, as was recommended to the previous government in 2010 by a select committee inquiry into the New South Wales taxi industry.
But her motion failed to get support and her question without notice to the minister was held over for a reply, which must be delivered within 21 days.
On Wednesday, Echonetdaily reported that disabled workers at Byron Bay Herb Nursery can pay up to $80 per day on taxis to and from home and the subsidy voucher only covers them for up to $30 of the fare cost.
Ms Barham pointed out that the Victorian taxi subsidy for people with a disability is ‘twice as generous as New South Wales’.
‘Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double NSW’s TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million,’ she told the parliament, adding that ‘in 2008, Victoria increased its Multipurpose Taxi Program subsidy from $30 to $60, an amount that it is double the current New South Wales subsidy.’
‘New South Wales could once boast having the most generous taxi subsidy scheme for people with a disability across the country,’ she said. Sadly, it has now been left well behind.
While New South Wales has not acted on the committee’s recommendations and has gone 14 years without an increase to the subsidy, Victoria moved in 2008 to double its Multipurpose Taxi Program subsidy from $30 to $60.
‘Victoria’s scheme also assists many more people with Victoria’s scheme having 156,000 members compared with only 72,000 in New South Wales. It seems clear from these figures that Victoria’s scheme is more equitable and does more to meet people’s transport needs,’ she said.
But Victoria is not the only state to better NSW in this area of inequity.
‘South Australia’s scheme gives a 75 per cent subsidy on the first $40 of a fare,’ Ms Barham said.
She added, ‘the reality is that taxis will remain a significant mode of transport across the state for many people with a disability. The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has been neglected for too long and until the subsidy level is increased and the scheme revised to ensure it will be updated as costs continue to rise it will become harder for people to engage in their everyday lives. I hope that the upcoming budget will see an appropriate investment to fix transport subsidies for people with disabilities.’