Queensland taxi council gets mad over 'dishonest' RACQ Uber campaign

The RACQ's confession that it may in future consider entering the ride-sharing market has stripped it of its credibility in campaigning in favour of Uber, the Taxi Council of Queensland has said.

Queensland's peak motoring body, the RACQ, has been calling on the state government to reform the taxi industry in order to clear the path to enter the ride-booking market itself, according to the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ).

The RACQ abused its position as a motoring body to run a "dishonest campaign" in favour of ride-sharing companies like Uber, which were last week legalised in Queensland as of September 5, the TCQ claimed.

"It's a big deal, because the RACQ's so-called 'independent' voice carries weight with the media and public who assume it speaks from a public benefit perspective, not from commercial self-interest," said TCQ CEO Benjamin Wash.

"Tens of thousands of small business people associated with the taxi industry across Queensland who operate honestly, pay their taxes, and abide by regulations will rightly feel betrayed, and many will have membership and insurance with RACQ.

"We call on all within the taxi industry and all other Queenslanders to immediately send them a message by cancelling their membership and insurance policies and changing to companies that support local business and display integrity."

RACQ executive Paul Turner retorted that the RACQ, which has 1.6 million members, has no plans of becoming a player in the ride-share market alongside Uber and in opposition to taxis. According to Turner, the RACQ supported Uber because 80 percent of the 1,009 RACQ members it surveyed advocated legalising ride-sharing companies.

"I'm a bit fired-up about this one. It is unfounded," Turner said.

"In our submission to the government, we said, 'at some time in the future, the RACQ may or may not consider entering ride-sharing or car-sharing'. We wanted to be transparent ... but we have no plans.

"The Taxi Council has taken those comments and turned them into something they are absolutely not."

As of September 5, ride-booking services will be legal, provided that drivers have a valid driver authorisation in the new category of Booked Hire Taxi and have their vehicles inspected every year. The legalisation is forecast to deliver a net economic benefit of approximately AU$474.1 million for the state.

In compensation for the taxi industry, the Queensland government has given taxis exclusive access to rank and hail and will provide a $100 million adjustment assistance package -- AU$40,000 as a one-off payment to taxi licence holders and AU$10,000 to limousine licence holders; a AU$26.7 million hardship fund; AU$4.3 million in waived fees over the next 12 months; AU$5.6 million to ensure wheelchair-accessible taxis remain an option; and AU$3.75 million for business advisory help.

A second stage to the reforms will also see the state government introduce a new compulsory third-party insurance category, as well as capping electronic payment surcharges at 5 percent and looking into vehicle security camera requirements.

"Emerging technologies are shaping customer expectations in the personalised transport industry, which is why we need to transition to a new regulatory framework that will make the entire industry more agile, sustainable, and competitive," Queensland Minister for Transport Stirling Hinchliffe said.

The reforms were made in response to the independent Opportunities for Personalised Transport Review, which was commissioned by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in April, following the state's ban on Uber.

In May, Uber protested the government's imposition of almost AU$800,000 in fines on its drivers -- during one long weekend alone last year, 51 Brisbane drivers racked up more than AU$120,000 worth of fines within 78 hours.

The Australian Capital Territory, meanwhile, legalised ride sharing almost a year ago provided drivers undergo vehicle safety checks and driver history checks; both Western Australia and New South Wales deemed Uber legal in December; the Victorian court system ruled in favour of an Uber drivers in May this year; and South Australia legalised the service as of July.

The Northern Territory government is continuing to refuse to allow Uber to operate, however.

With AAP


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