Taxidriver Training

About this Item
SpeakersNagle Mr Peter; Langton The Hon Brian
BusinessQuestions Without Notice


Mr NAGLE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism. What is the Government doing to improve the training available to taxidrivers in New South Wales?

Mr LANGTON: I thank the honourable member for Auburn for his question.

Mr Photios: Tell us about the baby capsules.

Mr LANGTON: It is interesting that every time a Minister gets on his feet, there is a yap, yap, yap from the honourable member for Ermington.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will address the question.

Mr LANGTON: It would be nice to get a question from him but I have not had one this year. On 23 May this year I announced the beginning of a new era for the taxi industry in New South Wales. That announcement followed a call for action from groups which ranged from the Taxi Council to tourism industry representatives. As disparate as these bodies may seem, the message was the same: the taxi industry is an integral part of public transport in New South Wales, and it needs to be seen as such. For that reason the Government introduced a taxi industry reform package designed to make drivers safer, to improve service to customers and to make sure that the New South Wales taxi industry ranks among the best in the world.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for The Hills to order. I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order.

Mr LANGTON: The package included driver safety protection measures, the need for better communication skills, on-road testing of driving skills and locality knowledge, cleaner and safer taxis and better training. It is clear that taxidrivers seeking to provide a world-class service to their customers deserve world-class training to assist them. That has not been the situation for some time. In 1994 the former Government dissolved what was known as the Taxi Industry Training Board set up to promote and develop training in the industry. The former Government considered that such an organisation was no longer necessary. However, the public and the drivers beg to differ.

Between May 1995 and April 1996 more than 4,300 complaints against taxi services were received by the Department of Transport and the taxi complaints hotline. Almost 40 per cent of the complaints related to discourtesy, incivility or impropriety, while another 22 per cent related to driver incompetence or other driving categories. But it is unfair to expect a superior level of service if drivers are not properly trained to provide it. I am pleased to announce to the House today that the Government has moved to ensure that such training is provided. Following consultation with the Taxi Council and the Transport Workers Union, the Government has established a new taxidriver training committee to examine that very issue. The committee will comprise representatives of the Department of Transport, the New South Wales Taxi Council, the Transport Workers Union and an independent training expert.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I ask the honourable member for Port Jackson and the honourable member for Bega to remain silent.

Mr LANGTON: The committee will meet regularly to examine the adequacy of all current training procedures for taxidrivers, to identify problem areas and to develop a new curriculum. The most important brief of the committee will be to ensure that drivers are properly prepared for what is a particularly demanding job and that they are able to provide the world-class level of service that is vital to customers and the industry as a whole. For example, it is a matter of commonsense that a driver who cannot communicate with his or her customers, or who cannot locate the destination required, is most unlikely to provide a good service.

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Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the second time.

Mr LANGTON: The taxidriver training committee will be chaired by a noted expert in training systems for the various transport industries. Mr Adrian Denyer is the Executive Officer of the New South Wales Transport and Distribution Industry Training Advisory Board.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Badgerys Creek to order.

Mr LANGTON: Mr Denyer has the full endorsement of both the taxi industry's peak body and the Transport Workers Union. He has accepted the Government's invitation to assist the Government in his role as chairman. The new taxidriver training committee has already commenced its work to ensure the training curriculum is both tougher and more appropriate for the needs of both taxidrivers and their customers. Extensive public debate has taken place on the skills of drivers from non-English speaking backgrounds. Earlier I mentioned the importance that good communication plays in providing a world-class taxi service. Today I would like to highlight one initiative designed to improve communication and to provide a service not only to local customers, but to visitors to this State and to this city in particular.

The initiative by the New South Wales Taxi Council involves the provision of removable national flags and language signs for multilingual drivers in the Taxis Combined Services fleet. The signs provide a new way for international visitors to quickly and easily identify the driver best able to provide them with the highest level of service. They are also designed to assist local taxi passengers to recognise drivers who are fluent in another language - a talent of which we should all be justifiably proud, as should taxidrivers. A large range of languages are already available and stickers will be displayed in the appropriate taxis. Taxis Combined have already adopted the scheme. Other networks are being encouraged by the Taxi Council to follow suit. Taxis Combined has acted quickly in the spirit of reforms announced by the Government. I look forward to continuing improvement in the industry for both drivers and customers across the State.