Uber compensation package approved by Queensland government

In December, taxi and limo license holders in Queensland will receive a letter from the government detailing how they can be compensated for the legalisation of ride-sharing in the state.

A bill to compensate taxi drivers affected by the legalisation of ride-sharing companies like Uber has passed Queensland's hung parliament late Thursday evening.

In August, the government announced a AU$100 million assistance package including payments of $20,000 per taxi license, capped at two per owner, and AU$10,000 per licence for existing limousine service licence holders.

As part of the package, the government also said it would invest AU$26.7 million into a hardship fund for drivers negatively impacted by the reform, which came into effect on September 5.

Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe announced changes to the assistance package which include allowing compensation payments to trusts and companies that own taxi licenses, as well as sole operators such as drivers who lease a taxi off the license holder. Drivers classified as employees are excluded in the scheme.

"It is expected the government will be in a position to send invitations to eligible taxi and limousine licence holders regarding the transitional assistance in December to enable payments shortly thereafter," Hinchliffe said.

Taxis will retain exclusive access to rank and hail, and the fine for illegally stopping in a taxi zone will jump from AU$48 to AU$243.

During the debate, Liberal National Party members criticised the package for being inadequate, to which Labor's Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch responded by pointing to an analysis that shows the change to the industry would boost the economy by an estimated AU$474.1 million.

Under an amendment moved by the LNP opposition, the government will be required to outline its plans for the taxi industry within three months and have them implemented within six months.

Uber drivers in Queensland have been operating legally since early September under new transport reforms that were announced by the state government in August.

Uber launched a campaign in May urging Queenslanders to "fine" the premier for punishing drivers of the ride-booking service who were facing nearly AU$800,000 in penalties as a result of driving after the service was initially deemed illegal in the sunshine state.

Fifty-one Brisbane drivers racked up over AU$120,000 worth of fines during the Labour Day long weekend alone, with transport officers undertaking 78 hours of enforcement activity over the period.

Meanwhile in Tasmania, Uber has officially been launched nearly a month after receiving the legal green light.

About 70 people have registered as Uber drivers in the island state, Premier Will Hodgman said at the launch on Friday, with the number likely to increase to 100 in the near future as other drivers progress through the accreditation process.

Hodgman added it's important for tourists to be able to access innovative products like ride-sharing to which they've become accustomed elsewhere.

In July, the New South Wales government offered select taxi licence holders the chance to apply for grants of up to AU$20,000, as compensation for lost business due to Uber.

With AAP

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