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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Uber to be legalized in Canberra

Taxi driver protest in Perth 

Uber and other ride-sharing services will be legal in Canberra from 30 October after reforms to ACT legislation.  Changes will also reduce costs for the existing taxi industry to ensure they remain competitive. Understandably, tempers are frayed as future sources of income are under threat.

Suspected Uber car in Madrid

A new booking service will replace Canberra's traditional taxi network and will cover services like Aerial, Uber and GoCatch. The new legislation will allow hire car drivers to carry passengers through services such as Uber if their vehicles meet certain conditions.

Uber drivers will be unable to collect passengers at traditional taxi ranks or stop in taxi, bus or loading zones and drivers must meet certain conditions and submit to drug and alcohol tests.

In Canberra, a government-issued leased taxi licence plate that currently costs $20,000 a year will drop to $10,000 on 30 October and then halved again the next year to $5,000.  Hire car drivers who currently pay $4,600 a year, will pay just $100 a year.

But things are different in Sydney and I feel a bit sorry for owner-drivers who have mortgaged their home to buy a taxi licence plate. Despite the perception that ownership of licences is dominated by a few powerful groups, figures show that the majority of plates are owned by private people who own just one.

Last year the cost of a Sydney taxi licence dropped to its lowest level in six years -  $375,000 - but in 2011, it reached a high of $425,000

In 2014, a hire car driver made a "citizens arrest" of a UberX driver outside the Sydney Casino. The man told him he was breaking the law and called police.  Within minutes, Glen O'Sullivan, operations manager of Uber Sydney, arrived to offer assistance to the driver and the next day he was back on the job.

"I got sick and tired of going to interviews" the driver said. "Everybody said I'm over 50, unemployable, I was joking around with the kids about how dad was unemployable, and then I saw an ad on Facebook."

You might expect Uber to be unhappy about this latest development, but they're not.  Australia's General Manager said "We've been calling for over a year now for regulations to be put in place...we expect to be regulated and we want to see regulations, insurance etc" he said.

"We've been bringing examples of that from other parts of the world but unfortunately Australia has been pretty slow with it, but Canberra has set the tone we hope spreads across Australia."

"The emphasis is making sure the drivers have appropriate background tests done, the vehicles are inspected and there's insurance in place" he said.

So it looks like the ACT government is prepared to take on the problem that other states have been avoiding for years.  Well done Canberra.