Uber Labor accused of lack of will

first_imgAs hard-hit taxi operators fight for a level playing field, the Victorian government is dragging its feet over ride-sharing and turning a blind eye to Uber’s flagrant disregard for the law. So says Mr George Kapnias, managing director of one of Melbourne’s most respected hire car companies.“Legitimate operators, who comply with the laws and are licenced and insured, are being decimated by this government’s lack of will to simply impose the existing rules.”Mr Kapnias, of Southern Cross Chauffeur Drive, is one of many industry figures who are registering their growing impatience over the government’s introduction of a regulatory framework that can deal with the impact of Uber.“UberX has been allowed to flourish exponentially during this government’s tenure,” said Mr Kapnias, “and it’s simply not good enough.”“What we want to see is the laws that were enacted in 2014 to be applied equally to operators of commercial passenger vehicles throughout Victoria.“Legitimate operators, who comply with the laws and are licenced and insured, are being decimated by this government’s lack of will to simply impose the existing rules.”Just 11 Uber drivers are facing court action so far for operating without a commercial passenger vehicle licence; charges that date back to August 2014 when the Liberal Party was in government.“This is old news and represents a drop in the ocean, as that number has grown during the term of the Andrews government to many thousands,” said Mr Kapnias.The Southern Cross chief resorted to writing to Minister Jenny Mikakos asking for clarification of the government’s position on ride-sharing , after what he described as “fruitless” efforts to gain a response from Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan’s department.Mr Kapnias said he entered into correspondence with Ms Mikakos as, prior to the 2014 state election, she had expressed “passionate displeasure” at how the previous Liberal government had allowed the Fels review recommendations “to erode the capital held in licences by existing industry participants”.As a result of the review, new laws were enacted that meant anyone operating a pre-booked commercial passenger vehicle service had to acquire a Pre-Booked Only (PBO) licence – available from the Taxi Services Commission at $36,000.“Since that time, we have witnessed the explosion of UberX – a pre-booked commercial passenger vehicle service that has – in contradiction of the law – been allowed to operate without the requirement of carrying a PBO licence on each vehicle.”In her written reply, Ms Mikakos said the government was aware of the concerns in the taxi industry, but that there was support for ride-sharing “from many within the community”, before adding that the government would “work through this issue” and “seek to ensure that a level playing field is required”.Opposition leader Matthew Guy continues to be unequivocal in his view that Victoria must embrace Uber and has urged the government to allow it to further integrate into the state’s public transport sector.“We have a situation where Uber is operating,” Mr Guy said. “Uber is here and here to stay.”“What we need from the Andrews Labor government is a clear direction forward about how Uber is going to be embraced as part of the operating transport movements of this state.”Meanwhile, Mr Kapnias said the Liberal leader’s statements contradicted his party’s previous policy.“The problem with Mr Guy’s position is that it runs contrary to the legislation that was enacted as a result of the Fels review, which was commissioned and passed by the government, of which he was a senior minister.“Ride-sharing isn’t new. It’s what the industry has been doing for years. It’s a flash marketing term,” said the Southern Cross MD.“What we need to concentrate on is ensuring the travelling public is safe and insured, and that the law applies equally to anyone offering a taxi or hire car service – irrespective of the technology used to book that service.”Meanwhile, Minister Allan told Neos Kosmos this week that the emergence of ride share services like Uber “needed careful consideration, not only of the needs and wants of customers, but also the safety of the public, conditions placed on other taxi and hire car services, and how a new ride share market would fit into this mix.” Ms Allan said a working group of the Taxi and Hire Car Ministerial Forum would report back to the forum in July.In a backgrounding statement also provided by her department, the government accepted that UberX did not comply with Victorian law, saying, “its vehicles are not licensed and many of its drivers are not accredited”. The statement added that UberX was “an illegal hire car service” and that the outcome of the current court action against the 11 Uber drivers would “inform the timeline and nature of any government action”. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more