Although it's a widely-used service, Uber had not received official approval from the Victorian government until this week. New legislation will also see taxi fares deregulated to level the playing field.
To help support existing taxi licence holders, the government plans to buy back a maximum of two taxi licences per licence holder, which will be levied by a $2 fee for all commercial passenger vehicle operators per trip - which is expected to raise around $44 million per year.
$378 million will be allocated to providing assistance to current taxi licence holders to help them transition to the new framework, while a $75 million 'Fairness Fund' will help to provide targeted support to participants experiencing immediate financial hardship as a result of the new legislation - including $25 million to improve access to convenient, reliable transport for people with a disability.
Matt Denman, general manager for Uber Victoria, voiced the company’s support for the new legislation, and its commitment to providing a safe, reliable and cost-effective service.
“We welcome government’s recognition that ride-sharing is a positive for Victoria and its decision to formally recognise ride-sharing as part of the state’s point to point transport industry, with sensible, safety-based ride-sharing regulations,” he said.
“This is the direct result of the incredible way more than half a million Victorians have embraced ride-sharing as a safe, affordable and reliable way to get around, and the support from thousands of local residents who are sharing rides to earn extra income on their own terms every week.”
However, Uber isn’t raving about the proposed $2 levy which will help to fund the buying-back of taxi licences.
“Anything that makes transport more expensive is clearly not in the best interests of consumers. If the government asks consumers to fund payments to the existing industry then it should release the modelling it has based the decision on and be open about who will receive payments,” Denman said.
The path to Uber getting the green light in the Garden State was first paved by the Nathan Brenner court case in May, which saw the Uber ‘driver-partner’ win his appeal against a $900 fine imposed by the Victorian Taxi Services Commission in the Magistrates Court for “operating without accreditation”.
After backing off its anti-Uber campaign last year in favour of industry reforms, the Victorian Taxi Association has released its response to the government’s announcement.
“The VTA broadly supports the government’s approach to fundamentally reforming the regulations governing the commercial passenger vehicles (CPV) industry in Victoria,” it said in a statement.
VTA CEO, David Samuel, said the association accepts the times are changing, and that a fair playing ground is necessary for the taxi industry to survive.
“The VTA recognises the world in which we operate has and is changing at a rapid rate and taxi businesses should have the opportunity to compete fairly for customers into the future,” he said.
“The changes announced reflect an understanding and willingness to confront the major shifts that have occurred within the commercial passenger vehicle industry.”
As part of the reforms, the current taxi licensing system will be replaced by an all-inclusive registration scheme for all commercial passenger vehicles, from taxis to ride-sharing operators.
Other changes include the abolition of the current 'Knowledge Test' in favour of a system of industry accountability for all drivers, rank and hail work restricted to providers that meet stringent requirements like having cameras and fare metres, along with a dedicated Commissioner for disability services to the Taxi Services Commission.
Do you agree with the announced reforms to the commercial passenger vehicle industry? Let us know in the comments blow
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