Dad’s future on a precipice

UNEASE: Wodonga cabbie Neil Cullen has slammed the Victorian government’s decision to buy-back taxi licences for what he says is an unfair price as it prepares to legalise ride-sharing services such as Uber. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

UNEASE: Wodonga cabbie Neil Cullen has slammed the Victorian government’s decision to buy-back taxi licences for what he says is an unfair price as it prepares to legalise ride-sharing services such as Uber. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

Father of four Neil Cullen is working 80-hour weeks to cover a loan on his taxi business after the Victorian government revealed it would buy-back licences to make way for ride-sharing services such as Uber.

“In the last few weeks, I’ve started to crash and burn,” he told The Border Mail.

“When I first bought my taxi, I had a work-life balance.

“I used to coach a local rugby league team in Wodonga, which my youngest son played in, but I had to give that up.

“And my drivers that I had driving for me, I had to find them other jobs so I could take over the shifts.”

In response to the rise of Uber, the government plans to streamline registration to cover all taxis, ride-sharing services and rental cars under one system. 

It’s put aside $378 million to help taxi licence holders such as Mr Cullen transition to a new legislative framework, forking out $100,000 for each licence and $50,000 for a second licence.

But Mr Cullen, who co-owns Wodonga Taxis, said the amount the government was offering was grossly undervalued, and that he worried for his children, who all still lived at home.

“Why should I lose the total value of my taxi to get drip fed $50,000 over eight years? It’s $17 a day,” he said.

“My repayments are far more than that. It was virtually the value of a house,I’ve got 10-plus years of repayments in front of me.”

Aside from emblazoning their vehicles with placards attacking Premier Daniel Andrews, Wodonga Taxis has also launched an advertising campaign, calling on the community to send a message to the Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan.

Nobody gets replies from Jacinta Allan. She sends back a formal letter saying 'these are the new regulations, goodbye'. - Taxi driver Scott Cowie

Mr Cullen’s colleague Scott Cowie said the government should either pay taxi operators more for their licences or make Uber drivers buy licences, just as they were expected to.

“Nobody gets replies from Jacinta Allan,” he said. 

“She sends back a formal letter saying 'these are the new regulations, goodbye'.”

North East commuters could be slugged an extra $2 for every taxi or ride-sharing trip they take from 2018 under a proposed levy to assist in the industry’s changes, whereas NSW residents would pay only $1 extra.

Uber is tipped to be legalised in Victoria by Christmas.

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