​Uber attempts to fine Palaszczuk after drivers rack up AU$786k worth of penalties

The Australian chapter of ride-booking service Uber has launched a campaign to 'fine' the Queensland premier after drivers accumulated almost AU$800,000 worth of infringements in the state.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

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

The Australian chapter of the Californian startup is running advertisements featuring a link to a website which enables the public to create infringement notices addressed to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for "fining people for providing safe, reliable, and affordable rides".

Uber Queensland general manager Sam Bool said the company's campaign gave Queenslanders the opportunity to tell Palaszczuk why her government should respect their right to chose how to get from A to B.

"It's time for the government to listen to the people of Queensland, by embracing ridesharing and the people it supports," Bool said.

Earlier this month, 51 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.

"While the Queensland government welcomes innovation in transport, passenger safety will always remain our number one priority," Queensland's Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said of the operation.

"Our transport inspectors must have the appropriate tools to ensure that they can uphold the current and any future regulations."

The Brisbane blitz came after the state government last month passed new legislation to crack down on Uber drivers, which included increased fines and more powers for traffic enforcement officers.

Under the new legislation, fines have jumped from AU$1,413 to AU$2,356 for drivers, while Uber itself could be fined up to AU$23,560. Uber has previously said that it will operate as normal, and will challenge the fines in court.

Since the new laws came into play, 370 infringement notices have been issued to Uber drivers, including 331 fines for using a vehicle that was not a taxi. Another 28 fines have been issued for defective vehicles, some of which had bald tyres and inoperative headlights, a transport department spokesman confirmed on Friday.

Uber said 61 of its Queensland drivers would challenge fines with the transport department.

Palaszczuk indicated last month that she was fed up with waiting for an independent review that will spell out how ride-booking services like Uber are to operate in the state, saying she wanted it brought forward.

The Uber ban did not align with previous comments made by the state government -- Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said in July she would not rule out the coexistence of taxis and Uber services on the state's roads.

"Other jurisdictions have made a place for Uber without diminishing the importance of the taxi industry that's already established," she said at the time.

Earlier this week, the Victorian government agreed to deliver its own answer on Uber, with a group of upper house Victorian MPs appointed to investigate how to regulate ride-booking services.

The group is expected to deliver an answer in December, despite promising last year it would do the same, with Premier Daniel Andrews announcing in April 2015 he expected a plan on Uber "quite soon".

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the December deadline is too far away.

"We'd be wanting to make some announcements and responses on the ridesharing issue much earlier than that," Allan told reporters on Thursday.

Uber Melbourne general manager Matt Denman said it was disappointing there had been no action on the ride-booking service despite the expert panel handing over its advice in 2015.

"We have made repeated requests to meet with the premier and the minister. Those requests have been declined," Denman said.

"If this sub-committee isn't talking to us about ridesharing and isn't listening to the thousands of drivers and half a million riders in Melbourne, we are perplexed about who it might be consulting."

Denman said a ministerial committee making decisions behind closed doors did not sound like transparent, evidence-based policy making.

Earlier this month, an Uber driver from Melbourne won his appeal against a conviction for operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence.

The decision handed down by a Victorian County Court judge effectively legalised the ride-booking app in the state.

Nathan Brenner was found guilty last year by a magistrate of two counts of operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence, and one count of driving a commercial passenger vehicle without driver accreditation.

Brenner was originally fined AU$900 without conviction in December following a sting operation involving undercover taxi compliance officers. He was charged after an undercover officer used the Uber app to travel.

With AAP

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