NSW transport taskforce pushes for regulatory framework changes

The Point to Point Transport Taskforce has called for changes to the current regulatory framework to reduce red tape and level the playing field for the taxi industry and other point to point transport services.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Point to Point Transport Taskforce has recognised that changes need to be made to the current regulatory framework, which is mainly being governed within the Passenger Transport Act 1990.

In its discussion paper [PDF], the taskforce said the existing regulatory framework is "difficult to enforce", and therefore not as effective as it could be. It said this is consequently causing unnecessary burden for the taxi industry, including high costs; ultimately causing higher fares for customers and making it difficult for them to compete with hire cars and other point to point transport providers.

"Point to point transport providers have already begun to adapt, and government regulation must follow," the taskforce said.

The taskforce went on to say that under existing taxi arrangements, obtaining a taxi licence in most parts of the state is very expensive, and that any changes made to the regulatory framework need to take the cost into consideration.

"It is possible that if the government decided to make changes to the regulatory framework, there could be an impact on the value of taxi licences depending on how the industry responds," it said.

"If this is the case, the government may also decide to offer financial assistance to licence owners through an industry adjustment package."

The Point to Point Transport Taskforce was launched by the NSW government in July, and headed by Professor Gary Sturgess, who was assisted by Tom Parry. They were tasked to work with customers and the taxi industry to examine the impact of emerging technologies, and opportunities to update existing regulations.

Point to point transport includes taxis, hire cars, tourist services, community transport, ridesharing services, and courtesy buses.

The taskforce also clearly noted that ridesharing services "appear to meet the criteria of a public passenger service" under the 1990 Act. This is despite the fact Uber has consistently reaffirmed that it is not a taxi service, and as such, should not have to operate under existing taxi regulation.

Since mid-July 2015 the taskforce has met with with hundreds of people in NSW representing more than 140 organisations, including controversial ride-sharing firm Uber.

Professor Gary Sturgess said the feedback so far has been that the existing regulatory framework is not able to adequately deal with all of the recent changes.

"The taskforce is reviewing what can be done to create a level playing field for the industry so it can respond better to change and ensure customers' needs are met," he said.

The paper also highlighted that technology is partly responsible for the way point to point transport services are being delivered to customers. It suggested that new entrants in the transport market have been quicker to anticipate and respond to customer expectations than traditional taxi and hire car businesses.

The taskforce also examined safety and security, as well as the requirements needed to ensure customer and driver safety, and consumer protection.

The taskforce is now seeking public comment on its discussion paper up until September 25, 2015, before it reports to the NSW government on findings in October.

Earlier this month, Uber filed documents with the Federal Court against the Australian Taxation Office to overturn a directive that requires Uber drivers to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

However, an Uber spokesperson told ZDNet that it believes the ATO's guidance should not have been issued, given that a federal tax review is currently under way.

"To be very clear, we believe all our driver-partners should pay their appropriate share of tax and meet their tax obligations," the company said.

"However, we feel they have been unjustly singled out by the ATO for different tax treatment than truck drivers, bike messengers, Airbnb hosts, or any other participant of the sharing economy."

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