Taxi drivers Vs Uber: Review to examine how ride sharing fits into Queensland transport industry
Passenger safety and fair competition will be the two key elements in a review of the Queensland taxi industry, but a report will not be handed to the State Government until next August.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad made the announcement on 612 ABC Brisbane on Wednesday, saying former transport department director-general Jim Varghese would head the review to examine how ride-sharing can fit into the existing regulatory framework.
Tensions have been building in the taxi industry over the incursion of the ride-sharing service Uber, with the issue coming to blows between drivers last Sunday.
Ms Trad said Uber is operating illegally under current regulations.
“It’s not a grey area at all. In Queensland, in order to run a taxi, you need a taxi license — no-one who operates an Uber car has a taxi license,” she said.
But she said there was no excuse for violence and that people who “take matters into their own hands and commit an offence will face the full force of the law”.
Ms Trad said she had ridden only once in an Uber vehicle at a friend’s behest when she was in Sydney, but that she “found it a bit weird to be in somebody else’s car that wasn’t a taxi”.
“But as much as we like to issue personal infringement notices and as much as we will rally against the fact that it’s operating outside the current legislative framework, we need to be aware that people are voting with their feet and Uber is growing in popularity.
“We want passenger opinion to be reflected in the review and we want community as well as industry input into how we look at the taxi industry or the personal transport industry going forward.”
Review should report back sooner: Uber
An Uber spokesman released a statement welcoming the “long-awaited” review.
“We are, however, disappointed that the current strategy will expire at the end of 2015 with nothing to take its place,” Uber said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders are choosing ride sharing to get around their cities and over 4,000 rely on it for a flexible income.
“These people deserve some certainty that their choices are respected by the Government.”
Ms Trad said the State Government wanted to ensure the state had a robust, competitive, level playing field for the taxi and personal transport industry.
“We think regulation should be responsive to what consumer and passengers are driving in terms of innovation and reform and we want that reflected in the review.”
Ms Trad said more than $1.7 million in fines had been issued against Uber drivers in Queensland.
“But we also know that in other states they are facing a similar problem — we know that it’s a national problem,” she said.
“It is on the agenda for the next transport and infrastructure ministers’ meeting in November.”
‘Review is about getting it right’
Ms Trad said she had received thousands of letters from Queenslanders on the issue.
“I have sat down with the Taxi Council on a number of occasions. I have sat down with Uber. I have listened to taxi drivers personally at community cabinet.
“I have perused letters from both Uber customers, Uber drivers, taxi industry representatives, taxi drivers.
“I know that this is a big, complex issue and it’s not about rushing it, it’s about getting right and making sure that everybody feels like they’ve got a place at the table.”
There has been a varied and complex approach to the matter in countries all over the world over the five years Uber had been operating, she said.