On Friday October 30, Australia's first legal, regulated Uber launched in the ACT. As yet, it is the only Australian territory to have legalised — and regulated — the controversial ridesharing service, yet UberX continues to operate in other states across Australia. With recent talk of federal politicians potentially being allowed to use Uber for business, it seems like Uber is here to stay.
The ACT's regulation and subsequent legalisation of Uber was a landmark for the ridesharing service in Australia, which came with reform for all taxi operators and hire car owners. Taxi registration fees have been halved as of October 30, and will be halved again at a later date. Hire car fees have also been slashed, and both taxis and hire cars will be able to offer their services through the Uber network if they so wish.
"I'm calling on other leaders around the country to look at the ACT model and put that in place across the country," said Chief Minister Andrew Barr, "because it will enhance productivity, it will support innovation and it will lead to better outcomes for Australians regardless of where they live." ACT is even seeing rival businesses OnTap and GoCatch beginning operation beside Uber.
This kind of regulation benefits both Uber and taxi drivers, and yet the taxi industry continues to protest against Uber, instead of calling for a reform of all licensing fees. This is especially evident today with the surfacing of a bizarre video allegedly showing an angry taxi driver attacking an Uber driver — while the authenticity of the video is in question, the current climate of the industry seems like it would lend itself to these kind of events.
Hostility against Uber continues
In Queensland, where 171 drivers have been fined for operating the service in the last six months, Uber has stepped up its system in order to avoid getting its drivers fined. A cease and desist order was issued by the state government in May of last year, yet the service continues to operate despite all challenges to its legality. In the last month there have been no fines issued to Uber drivers, however, which could be due to Uber's system now being able to recognise and block the phones of known inspectors from booking through its app.
"Now they want all your personal details so you can actually become a customer of Uber," says acting director of the Department of Transport and Main Roads for taxis and limousines, Noela Cerutti. "We've checked...the transport Inspectors aren't able to use a false name, they have to, in the line of their duty, provide accurate information, so they aren't willing to provide their personal card to actually do the covert investigations any more. We have been thwarted in our compliance."
This comes as a review into Uber and the taxi industry has been ordered by the state's Deputy Premier — although the results are not due until August next year.
In what could be one of the biggest developments in Uber's contested legality, Federal Labor has recently called for federal politicians and staffers to be allowed to claim back Uber fares for business travel — and thus save taxpayers money by utilising the cheaper service. "We look forward to competition leading to better outcomes for consumers and some of those consumers will be public servants," Andrew Barr told the SMH, while urging the federal government to follow ACT's lead in allowing and encouraging public servants to use services like Uber.
If Uber was adopted at a federal level, it could be a major step towards taxi reform and Uber being legalised across Australia.