16 Dec QLD TAXI DRIVERS TARGETED FOR UBER-LIKE BEHAVIOURS
A “Christmas crackdown” by the State Government on point-to-point transport operators is aiming fire at cabbies for engaging in the very same behaviours that underpin the business model of rideshare drivers like Uber.
Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter, who has long defended the disregarded benefits of the taxi industry, said Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey’s clampdown on besieged cabbies was the pinnacle of cruel ironies given the industry’s recent history with which he has been closely associated.
The unequal playing field between ride-share operators, whereby the long-established and tightly-regulated cabbies must comply with requirements to which ride-share operators are exempt, has been the central complaint of taxi industry protests since the State Government legalised Uber and semi-deregulated the industry in 2016.
Mr Katter said the targeting of cabbies, above and beyond the regulatory focus placed on ride-share, was rubbing salt in a festering wound.
He said, unlike New South Wales, Queensland cabbies were still desperately appealing to the State Government for a compensation package and a plan moving forward to return stability to the passenger transport.
“The shocking state of passenger transport in Queensland is a consequence of the State Government’s actions,” Mr Katter said.
“Instead of writing inflammatory and misleading media releases that cabbies are en masse trying to rip people off for the sake of it, the Premier and Transport Minister needs to look at this situation as part of the broader impacts of the Government’s decision to semi-regulate the industry and their ongoing failure to address the consequences.
“When ridesharing was legalised six years ago, it was meant to encourage competition, but today, we’re worse off than we started.
“The uneven playing field sparked by rideshare, combined with COVID-induced driver shortages and skyrocketing fuel prices, have brought the industry to its knees.
“In Uber’s first five years, taxi trips in Queensland plummeted by 60 per cent.
“In April this year, 408 taxi service licences in Queensland did not have a registered taxi vehicle attached to the licence.
“And now the community is wondering why they can’t get a lift when they need one.”
Despite the insurmountable challenges taxi drivers, many of which are ‘mum-and-dad’ small business owners, kept their fares unchanged through regulated pricing, continued to adhere to safety standards and service levels including mandated security cameras and disability access.
They have also kept taxis on the road 24/7, all the while working 14-hour days, seven days a week, and still making less than their pre-Uber income.
“Meanwhile, rideshare drivers shouldered none of these responsibilities and could pick the low-hanging fruit – flooding the market on busy nights and price surging when taxis can’t,” the Traeger MP said.
Mr Katter said there would always be some shonky operators who needed to be addressed, but when the taxi industry and members of the public had made repeated calls for help to address the unsustainable conditions, the onus was on the Government to take action.
“Six months ago, I backed taxi industry calls for the Queensland Government to immediately address the lack of a metered fair rise for taxis to combat higher fuel and operating costs to ensure the viability of all taxi operations, especially those in rural and regional Queensland,” Mr Katter said.
“This followed the KAP previously calling for legislation to create a non-politicised body to enforce fair regulations, and later calling on the Queensland Transport Minister to negotiate a fair compensation package for taxi licence-holders, all to no avail.
“The Government needs to realise it is, and has long been, the problem here.”
Interestingly, in June this year, taxi industry representatives commented that the cycle was starting again, with pressure from rideshare drivers to protect their wages, which would essentially spell the rebirth of the old taxi industry.
“Rideshare could have coexisted peacefully with taxis, but its laissez-faire implementation has rendered a chaotic result,” Mr Katter said.
Meanwhile, Queensland cabbies are continuing to fight for compensation, demanding the State Government match the New South Wales Government’s $905 million compensation package to the NSW Taxi Council.
In late 2021, the High Court ruled mediation between taxi licence-holders and the Queensland Government, but to date no satisfactory outcome has been achieved.
Caption: Robbie Katter MP with Glen Corliss from Mount Isa Taxis.