Five local taxi drivers share some of their concerns about the present situation in the industry. They express their frustration with the government's treatment of the taxis and their ongoing struggle to make ends meet.
I make as much money as I did in 1994. Do you know how much the economy has changed since then? It’s changed maybe 400 times more and we are still making the same. The jobs are still there, but there’s a lot of competition.
The courtesy buses being run by the clubs are a huge problem for taxis. The people are still spending the money, regardless. When the people went to the club in ‘93/’94, I remember they used to say to me;
"Oh, this is my last ten dollars, I kept it for the taxi."
But, now, do you know what that last ten dollars goes to? It goes to the poker machine or the drink. They know that the courtesy bus is outside for them. They know they can drink the last penny they’ve got, or gamble the last penny they’ve got. I reckon they've taken no less than 50% of our work on a Friday or Saturday night. Then you’ve got the Free Buses running around; who’s going to get in a cab then? There’s a lot of competition.
There’s a lot expenses added to the cabs. Before, we used to be able to make a living and pay our mortgage. Then, every couple of years, you’d be able to save some money and go on holiday. But now, you are struggling just to pay your bills. You work to live. There is no luxury.
The people need to understand that we’ve tried to make a living. They think “Ah, it’s okay, it’s busy on a Friday and Saturday night, they’re making $300 or $400!” But do you know how many hours I do every Friday and Saturday night? Minimum 18 hours. So if you divide it up, most of the time I’m making ten dollars to twelve dollars an hour. Someone working at KFC makes more than me. My daughters make more than me. And that’s at a busy time. Not even on a quiet day.
It’s getting harder to make an income and it’s getting harder with the amount of unemployed people around. We get a lot of people not paying. People use faulty cards and say “I didn’t know I had no money”. The taxi lifestyle is not getting any easier.
Taxi, it is the same as fishing. Sometimes you catch a small fish or a big fish; small fare or big fare. That's normal for a taxi. But driving a taxi is not the same as any other job in Australia because every other job in Australia has superannuation and safety. Taxi has no safety. No medical. No paid leave.
The government doesn't like the taxis. They're charging the taxi [industry] too much money. A green slip is $6700, for what? It's the same as a normal car. Everything for a taxi is expensive.
Please Note: Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of interviewees.