​NSW transport task force to review taxi industry

The NSW government has launched an independent task force to work with customers and the taxi industry to examine the impact of emerging technologies, and opportunities to update existing regulations.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The New South Wales government has introduced an independent task force that will examine the future of the state's taxi and ride-sharing industries.

The task force will be headed by professor Gary Sturgess, who will be assisted by Tom Parry.

According to the government, the task force will work with customers, the taxi industry, hire car companies, and other stakeholders to examine the market's sustainability and competition, the impact of emerging technologies, the importance of customer safety, and the burden of current taxi regulations.

At the same time, the task force will take into consideration the possible impact of any changes to regulation on existing investors, and, if necessary, make recommendations on a possible adjustment package. The government said this would include an anti-gaming clause effective from Wednesday, to prevent any manipulation of the current licensing system.

The task force will also look at the transport services available for people with disabilities and other groups who rely on community transport and taxis.

The task force will have until the end of October to report back to the NSW government with recommendations on a range of issues facing the industry.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said the task force will look into how the taxi industry has changed, particularly since the introduction of unregulated ride-sharing apps.

"We also want to examine the sustainability of the industry in regional NSW, where operators are under increasing pressure from hire cars as well as from courtesy transport and community transport.

"If we want to see a strong future for the taxi industry and make services more attractive to customers, the next step is to look closely at current regulations to ensure there's a more even playing field," he said.

Ride-sharing app Uber has welcomed the establishment of the task force, noting that it is a "victory for competition, consumers, and choice". It also said it will be actively involved in assisting the task force.

"The announcement is a recognition of the overwhelming popular support for ride sharing, and the need for outdated regulation to catch up with changing customer choices," the company said.

The establishment of the task force follows the Labor opposition's launch of a discussion paper earlier this year that examined Australia's sharing economy and the benefits of the peer-to-peer market, as well the potential regulations that may be implemented.

In the paper, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh highlighted that the federal opposition supports sharing economy apps such as Uber, but believes that existing regulations are in a grey area that needs to be addressed.

Leigh said the sharing economy raises issues around public safety, workers' rights, tax, and accessibility.

"Labor wants to see Australians share the benefits of the sharing economy. But we also want to make sure we have the right rules in place to protect workers, consumers, and the public good as they do so," he said at the time.

The NSW government added that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal's (IPART) normal annual review of taxi fares and licences will be deferred until after the task force has reported back and a response has been formed.

Uber has been facing similar regulatory difficulties in France, with two of its bosses, director general Thibaud Simphal and director for Western Europe Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, to go on trial in September over the company's allegedly "illegal" ride-booking practices, after violent protests by taxi drivers against the app.

The investigation by French police is targeting the UberPop service offered by the company, in which clients are put in touch with cheaper, unlicensed drivers who are generally everyday people trying to make extra money.

UberPop has been illegal in France since January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce, and it continues to operate.

With AAP

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