Taxi: Commonwealth Film Unit (1972)

The taxi industry has a long and proud history in Australia. At the end of the Second World War, returned serviceman founded long-standing organisations such as RSL Cabs, and many "mum and dad" investors established businesses that have played an important role in Australian society since that time.

I have written elsewhere about the impact of the ride-sharing, and also about the compensation provided to taxi licence owners, resulting from changes to what has been a long-standing regulated monopoly.

A major policy concern is that taxis provide an important community service, and despite the digging up and bandying about of the term "level playing field" in the recent point-to-point transport policy debate, taxis continue to fulfill a community service obligation (CSO) that ride-sharing organisations do not.

This week, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia has released a series of historical films focused on public transport. The film above entitled Taxi depicts a day in the life of Jim McKenzie, a Perth taxi driver, in 1972.

The film highlights a number of major changes over the years. It is hard to imagine smoking in a cab and not using seat-belts or child restraints in the back seat! And who would think to take a taxi for a tour of the city or for a wedding procession in an Australian capital city?

But what hasn't changed is the community service role provided by taxis.

So next time you pay a few dollars less for a point-to-point transport trip, think about who pays for the CSOs that tend to fly under the radar. And these are not new obligations. Indeed, taxis have been providing a service for the less fortunate members of our community for decades.