Transport Minister Dean Nalder has declared the deregulation of the taxi industry "probably inevitable" in comments that critics say have wiped tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from the value of taxi licence plates overnight.
And the minister said owners of taxi plates - which are regulated in number by the Government and until now have sold for up to $300,000 each - would "not necessarily" be compensated if the Government pursued deregulation.
After the Liberal Party's lay membership called for the Government to free up anti-competitive regulations in the industry at its weekend State conference, Mr Nalder flagged a shake-up, saying the "customer proposition" at present was poor.
"If regulations are stifling competition, we need to look at deregulating those to increase the level of competition," Mr Nalder said yesterday.
He said leasing taxi plates cost $13,000 a year and taxis were required to be fitted with security cameras, yet a small charter vehicle licence fee cost just $128 a year and had no such requirement.
Regulations prevent charter vehicles from accepting fares below $60 to prevent them from competing with taxis but some SCV drivers - especially those aligned with booking app Uber - are ignoring the rule.
Taxi Council chief Steven Gill blasted Mr Nalder's comments, saying he had "changed the ground rules with a single statement" and predicting the value of plates would plummet.
"Small-business people have invested their hard-earned money in good faith," he said.
"(No compensation) would be a huge concern for the industry and we don't think it's fair."
Treasurer Mike Nahan stopped short of calling for compensation but urged caution. "We regulate now and people, in good faith, have come in and invested huge amounts of money on plates, and we have to address their legitimate property rights," he said.