Wednesday, 16 March 2016
I rise tonight to again raise concerns on behalf of the Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families Group about the operations of Uber in Australia. It has been disturbing to hear that a recent Senate inquiry revealed that Uber, with has a capitalised worth over $60 billion, paid just over $403,000 in tax in Australia over a three-year period. Moreover, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 25 per cent of each Uber transaction in Australia is routed through the Netherlands, bypassing Australia.
The Australian taxi industry is currently playing by a set of rules set by governments across the country. It pays insurance, it pays WorkCover, it pays taxes like the GST. These conditions do not apply to Uber. It is clear that the taxicab board and those associated with it, and the Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families Group believe that whilst Uber is allowed to exist in Australia it should be playing by the same set of rules as the Victorian taxicab board, the taxicab owners and those who drive the cars.
The Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families Group has welcomed the NT's decision to ban Uber. That is consistent with what a number of other countries that have done such—they have banned elsewhere. They are concerned, understandably, with the ACT, New South Wales and Western Australian state governments' decisions that have allowed Uber to become legal in those states. I understand that the Victorian government, as well as other state governments, is about to make a decision on the status of Uber.
The Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families Group would like the following matters to be raised by legislators before decisions are made about Uber. Firstly, if UberX is regulated then it must be classified as a hire car transportation vehicle and, thus, comply with all hire car rules and regulations. This means that owners of each vehicle pay either a $40,000 hire care licence or, alternatively, a $10,000 annual rental fee. UberX vehicles should also be required to install visible hire car number plates to ensure that all vehicles are properly regulated. Secondly, the group has also requested that the current knowledge test be reviewed as a matter of urgency so that drivers have more support to pass the test if they wish to be a taxi or hire car driver. UberX drivers should also be required to pass this test, as well.
Thirdly, it is vital, especially from a security and privacy perspective, that governments look at the Uber application—the app—to make sure that it is not taking and storing customer information. The Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families Group is rather concerned about the Uber app and its potential to access people's private information, including politicians and public servants who use Uber and use the app. We are not quite sure where that information is being stored. That does have security concerns for those who actually use this particular application. It has not been raised or dealt with by Uber, but it has been raised by taxicab drivers.
Fourthly, this group would like to see Uber drivers lose demerit points and be fined if they do not abide by Victorian hire car rules and regulations, as this would be the best way to properly regulate Uber and ensure that Uber drivers comply with the government regulations. It is also this group's view that, if UberX is made legal it must ensure customer safety. It is a key concern. It is like not having a safety check on a jet. In most states, there are police checks on taxi drivers and mechanical checks, and there are camera screens, GPS and emergency call buttons in their taxis. If UberX is made legal, then it is vital that it abides by all the hire car customer safety rules. As I have said, basically what they want is a level playing field. These are decisions that are being made in this field of new and emerging technologies.
One area that is of some concern to me as a legislator, and as someone who has dealt with the Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families Group, has had representations from Uber and has heard some of the arguments that are being put forward, is that I think there is a perception that they need not play by the rules and that they can pressure and force governments to abandon standards that apply to Victorian and national taxi cab and hire car families and groups and people that I knew.
Another thing that really concerns me is the methods that are used by those associated with Uber—whether ex-political staffers or not—to influence politicians. I say to them: listen clearly. If you continue to do this, I will drag you through this place. I will name you and I will name the tactics that you are using to influence legislators. We do not get influenced by force. We do not get influenced by intimidation. (Time expired)