Taxi drivers vs Uber: Ridesharing drivers face heftier penalties under new Queensland laws
Drivers for ridesharing services such as Uber will face significantly higher penalties under a new law passed in Queensland Parliament overnight.
- Amended Katter's Australian Party bill passed with LNP support
- Higher fines for drivers and ride service administrators
- State Government can still legalise ride sharing
The bill also gives transport inspectors more powers to detect offenders.
Uber drivers now face fines of up to $2,356, while the administrators of illegal taxi services could be penalised up to $23,560.
A private member's bill was introduced by the Katter's Australian Party (KAP) last night and an amended version passed with Opposition support.
KAP MP Rob Katter accused Uber of damaging the taxi industry.
"That's why they're a $60 billion company worldwide. A lot of people have been soft targets, I hope we won't be in Queensland," he said.
Paid ridesharing services operate illegally in Queensland under current taxi regulations, however a review of those regulations is still underway.
Announcing the review last year, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said that while she found ridesharing "a bit weird" she understood that people were voting with their feet.
'They don't make the decision, we do'
Mr Katter said the changes sent a message to Uber and other multinational companies that Queensland would not be ruled by their business plans.
"They don't make the decisions, we do here. Someone has to be the a grown-up and say 'I'm sorry you might get a cheaper ride tonight but in the long run this does not serve the national interest'. That's the question that needs to be addressed, not the tide is coming. That's not a reason to do it," he said.
The Katter MPs had wanted to impose demerit points on drivers in a bid to force Uber drivers off the road, but the Government negotiated amendments to instead increase fines.
"While the Queensland Government welcomes innovation in transport, passenger safety will always remain our number one priority," Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe told Parliament.
"Our transport inspectors must have the appropriate tools to ensure they can uphold current and any future regulations."
Ridesharing could still be legalised in Queensland
The changes do not prevent the passing of further laws to legalise the services.
The taxi industry review is due to report back to Parliament in August.
Mr Hinchliffe said the Government was taking its time to develop its response to the rise of ridesharing.
"Queensland will have the advantage of taking a long-term view of how our personalised transport system will adapt to changes in technology and deliver the best service to Queenslanders," he said.
"I have spoken with the chair of the Independent Taskforce and we agree that these changes to the legislation don't affect the ability of the review to deliver the best outcome for the people of Queensland."
Several dozen taxi drivers sat in the public gallery of Parliament to observe the vote.
Uber spokesman Brad Kitschke said the company would continue with business as usual.
"I think the drivers will continue to sign up to become ridesharing partners and I think riders will take this decision to be a real betrayal of their right to choose how they get around Queensland," he said.
Yellow Cabs general manager Bill Parker said the crackdown would ensure Queensland's transport service stayed safe.
"It's about people driving around in their private vehicles without the correct insurance so anything that the Government introduces to ensure those laws are met for the benefit of the community is applauded by myself and the taxi industry in general."
Uber was legalised in NSW and the ACT last year and the service is due to be legalised in Western Australia and South Australia from July.
Source: ABC News