From Today’s Herald
“Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven is promising to take a leadership role in revisiting a controversial law that from Monday will see up to 400 bus and taxi drivers lose their right to transport passengers.
The livelihood of hundreds of bus and taxi drivers is being taken away as the new legislation precluding certain criminal offenders from holding a passenger transport licence comes into force.
The Bus and Coach Association and Taxi Federation say many of their members will be unfairly punished.
Bus and Coach Association deputy executive director, Dave Smith said there were a number of “fish-hooks” in the law that were clearly unfair to drivers.
For example, it was harsh that a bus driver who was convicted as a teenager for having sex with his girlfriend a few days before her 16th birthday more than 34 years ago was about to lose his job.
Mr Smith said homosexuality was an illegal act about 20 years ago, and in the past 14-year-olds who committed indecent acts such as exposing themselves were criminally prosecuted.”
Dave Smith is of course right. This highlights the principle that governments should be gathering information on convictions, but unless it involves a state employee, should have no say on how it is used.
The power of legislation is a very blunt instrument. In order to protect passengers from deviant drivers, he state has passed a law that will do a very real injustice to some drivers, with no benefit to passengers.
There is a real problem here. I drove taxis for several years and lost count of the times young women recounted tales of bad experiences with sleazy drivers.
So how would a free market approach improve the situation?
In a free society, taxi companies would hire staff, with full access to applicants conviction records. The companies would be liable for damages should one of their employees harm a passenger. To guard against this, each company would carry public liability insurance. Insurance companies and the taxi company would then have a real interest in assessing the risk posed to the public by any prospective employee.
The difference here is that this would all be voluntary and not be mandated by legislation. Every employee could be looked at individually and judged on their merits. If Fred had a conviction for unlawful carnal knowledge 40 years ago, but had led a blameless life since, he would be fine.
Conversely, in a free society, companies could make judgements even where no conviction had been entered. If Jim had no convictions, but had a reputation for sleazing on young women, he could be tossed out.
When I was driving, one of our people was found trespassing in the bedroom of a seven year old girl, while on duty. The parents didn’t bother prosecuting and no sexual act had been committed, so the company couldn’t sack him. In a free society, employment contracts could close this type of loophole.
Health and safety issues are far better handled by the insurance system, than by government legislation.
A free market approach to passenger safety would be far more effective and reduce the risk of the type of injustices, our current approach, clearly produces.