Uber given the green light in New South Wales

From midnight on Friday morning, Uber will officially be legal in New South Wales with the state's transport and infrastructure minister introducing a driver authority to oversee the point to point transportation industry.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

As of midnight tonight, ridesharing services such as Uber will be allowed to operate in New South Wales, with the state government officially recognising the service as legal.

Speaking in Sydney on Thursday, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said he believes the decision is a landmark one that will create a level playing field for the point to point transport industry in NSW.

"NSW is going to have a new transport economy," Constance said. "People will have more choice, better services, and better value when it comes to the point to point market."

A new regulator and commissioner will oversee the industry in the state, with a transition period in place over the next few months where ridesharing drivers can obtain the correct accreditation to drive legally on the state's roads.

Constance said he is looking forward to working with the taxi industry as NSW transitions into the new arrangement.

"I want to see innovation flourish, I want to see competition flourish, I want to see consumers get the real benefits of this reform," he said.

It is not all bad news for traditional taxi drivers on Sydney's roads, with Constance confirming that under the new model, taxis will continue to have exclusive access to rank and hail jobs.

Additionally, Constance said the government recognises the potential impact such reform will have on traditional taxi and hire car drivers, and as a result has announced a AU$250 million industry adjustment package for taxi and hire car licence plate owners, which the minister said will help licence owners adjust.

According to Constance, the cost of this reform package will be met from consolidated revenue, along with a temporary levy on all point to point transport providers, equivalent to AU$1 per trip for a maximum of five years. Adding this levy to a fare is up to the driver, he said.

Costs for taxi and hire car operators will also be reduced, Constance said, with lower licence fees and other "cost heavy regulations" to be removed, which will equate to AU$30 million of "red tape" saved annually.

Thursday's announcement to mark the service as legal in the state will see NSW join the Australian Capital Territory as the only regions in the country that allow Uber to operate.

The ACT became the first Australian state or territory to class Uber as legal in October, with the Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, saying that taxi industry reform is part of broader reform to public transport, coupled with a belief that it will give customers access to safe, flexible, and affordable ride-sharing services, while also reducing costs for taxi drivers, owners, and passengers.

The NSW opposition leader Luke Foley introduced a private member's Bill in June to regulate ride-sharing services. A month later, the state government launched a task force -- now known as the Point to Point Transport Taskforce -- to work with customers, the taxi industry, hire car companies, and the like to probe the state's readiness for the startup.

The taskforce in August called for changes to be made 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.

More than 5,000 submissions were made to the discussion paper [PDF] that was published in August, with Constance saying they played a large part in today's decision.

Constance also said that the NRMA made it very clear in their submission that they were expecting to enter the ridesharing market.

Uber has had a tumultuous history with regulatory bodies in NSW, with the vehicles of 40 suspended UberX drivers deemed unregistered and uninsured if they were found on NSW roads after October 1, 2015.

Following the suspension warning, a NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) spokesman said that taxi and hire car services must have authorised and accredited operators, as well as a licensed and insured vehicle.

The RMS has been hot on Uber's heels for a while, issuing court attendance notifications to Uber's Sydney drivers earlier this year.

RMS will no longer have any jurisdiction over Uber drivers.

In a blog post, Uber's Australia and New Zealand general manager David Rohrsheim thanked the state's drivers and riders for supporting the startup.

"The government has recognised your right to choose how you get around your city and to access flexible work that fits around your life," Rohrsheim said.

"We applaud the government's leadership in listening to the people of New South Wales and embracing the future. Ridesharing is not only revolutionising the transportation status quo but also helping make Sydney a more economically vibrant, better connected and more sustainable city."

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