Thursday, June 13, 2013

Australia: Angry taxi drivers gather at Parliament to protest proposed laws

Taxi drivers protesting about changes to short-fare queue system at Melbourne Airport
DOZENS of angry taxi drivers and licence owners have gathered at Parliament House, where about 15 police are standing guard.

Driver and licence owners told the Herald Sun they are angry over proposed laws about to be voted on in Parliament.

Some said they would go broke, while others pleaded with MPs to listen to their concerns.
One said that there would be repercussions from the industry if laws went through Parliament because, if you “back a dog into a corner”, there’s only so much they can take.

The new laws cabbies are protesting about have passed the Legislative Assembly and will now go to the Legislative Council, where the government holds a majority.

The angry drivers and licence owners said they had contacted their local MP but most had said the changes were fair.

About 50 people are braving the rain to protest.

Police are standing by and blocking the entrance to Parliament House to drivers who wanted to have their say inside the chamber.

Meanwhile, five taxi drivers furious over the axing of Melbourne Airport’s short-fare system went on hunger strike today.

Cabbie Nazar Yousif said he and four other cabbies started the radical protest about 10am today.
Drivers have been protesting since Tuesday about changes to the short-fare system last month.
They are angry the airport scrapped a queuing system that let them avoid the main queue on return to the airport after receiving a short-fare.

Mr Yousif said drivers felt there was no one representing them.
“We are on a hunger strike. We are trying to get our message (across),” Mr Yousif, a taxi driver of 11 years from Ascot Vale, said.

“It is going to go forever because we feel humiliated and no one wants to come to speak to us.”
Melbourne Airport called in five tow trucks to the protest at 12.45pm.

Airport spokesman Matt Francis said taxi drivers lifted their blocked and left about 2.05pm.
He said there had been no towing or police intervention and expected  normal taxi operations to resume shortly.

About 30 cabbies protested at the top of the taxi feeder line.

Mr Francis said earlier today that management had reminded drivers who had left cars unattended they were breaching the terms and conditions of operating and the airport and federal laws.

“We can’t tolerate any further disruption to the operations of the airport,” Mr Francis said.
“We don’t see any justification for this protest and we hope they conclude it quickly. I would like to think they will disperse quickly and we can get  the operations back to normal.”

Mr Francis reiterated the protest was being held by a minority of drivers and some of them had been in meetings with airport management and the Victorian Taxi Association after the short-fare system was changed.

Airport spokeswoman Anna Gillett said airport management were aware of the hunger strike.
“Our focus is on running our airport and making sure our passengers can get where they can go as quickly as possible,” Ms Gillett said.

“My understanding from media reports is the hunger strike will go until we reintroduce the short fare system.”

The airport said it scrapped the short-fare system because it was being rorted up to 200 times a day.

More than 300 cabbies responded by protesting near the arrivals terminal, forcing police officers from the Critical Incident Response Team and federal officers to be called on.

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