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The $5 million government job that will be dumped before it can be filled

Politics

Complaints about taxis, limos and Ubers prompted the Palaszczuk Government to create the role of Personalised Transport Ombudsman. Now, the role is being abolished.

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The role had been discussed for years before it was established through a special bill that passed through the Queensland Parliament in September 2019.

“The Personalised Transport Ombudsman will impartially investigate individual complaints from drivers, passengers and operators of personalised transport services,” Transport Minister Mark Bailey said at the time.

Someone was expected to be appointed to the role early last year but that was delayed by the pandemic. Social distancing rules then hit the industry hard, prompting Bailey to reconsider the regulatory approach.

“We know the PTO needs to be independent and empowered to investigate and mediate individual complaints and we will look at what additional powers it might need in the post-COVID world,” Bailey said in September last year.

By last month, however, Bailey had decided to ditch the ombudsman altogether in favour of existing government complaint-handling services.

“That review found the number of complaints about the industry were currently low and what was really required was access to independent mediation services to assist the industry to resolve complex matters,” Bailey said.

While the Governor-in-Council would have decided the ombudsman’s remuneration, the government had expected to spend $5 million over three years on his or her work.

The legislative reforms required to abolish the role were tacked on to a resources bill that is now being considered by a parliamentary committee.

The committee has heard that both the Ride Share Drivers Association of Australia and Taxi Council of Queensland had warned the government that the ombudsman was a “toothless tiger” that would deliver no benefits and waste taxpayer funds.

In a letter on Monday, Taxi Council CEO Blair Davies said the government had reportedly spent $429,800 up to April 2021 “on the non-existent ombudsman’s office” and the committee should investigate where and how the money was spent.

Instead of mediation, the Ride Share Drivers Association called for “a truly independent statutory authority who can act totally independent of TMR and with the authority to make binding decisions that all parties are bound to”.

The Limousine Association Queensland, meanwhile, wants its members to be treated differently to book hire and ride share vehicles.

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