​War on Uber escalates to physical violence

As the war between Uber and the taxi industry heightens, two Uber drivers were assaulted on Monday, with the ride-sharing company fearing it could be part of attacks against its operations.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong on

Two Uber drivers were assaulted by a group of men in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley and Kangaroo Point early on Monday morning.

The ride-sharing company fears the attacks could be part of an intimidation campaign against its operations.

The drivers were attacked by a group of men as they sat in their cars. Both drivers were punched and their cars damaged, while one had his mobile phone stolen.

Uber is "very concerned" about the attacks, adding the safety of its drivers and passengers was a priority.

"The taxi lobby and its associates have long used fear, misinformation and intimidation in its campaign against ride-sharing and it would be a very worrying turn of events if these alleged assaults happened as a result of this campaign," a spokesman said in a statement.

"We call on Taxi Council Queensland to condemn this type of behaviour immediately."

The Taxi Council Queensland has called for political leadership from the state's government following the attacks, stating in a tweet that it fears "rogue individuals may take the law into their own hands if illegal taxi services are allowed to continue operating".

"I think Uber coming into any jurisdiction, operating based on a set of rules that they determine, ignoring the rule of law, and just expecting everyone to come on board leaves them exposed to some degree of culpability," Taxi Council Queensland CEO Benjamin Wash said on Tuesday.

A Brisbane taxi boss has reportedly gloated about the incident on a public Facebook page.

Queensland police say the attacking group, who haven't been found, also targeted a third motorist who didn't work for Uber.

Last week, the ACT government became the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise ride-sharing, such as UberX, as part of new reforms to take effect from October 30, 2015. As part of the new regulations, UberX will be able to operate under similar conditions that taxi and hire cars face.

The Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, said that the taxi industry reform is part of broader reform to public transport, with belief it will give customers access to safe, flexible, and affordable ride-sharing services, while also reducing costs for taxi drivers, owners, and passengers.

The Victorian government is also gearing up to make the same move, and regulate Uber in the state by working on a regulatory regime that addresses passenger safety, driver and vehicle standards, and insurance issues.

However, in New South Wales 40 Uber drivers were recently issued suspension notices, as the state government continues to crack down on the illegal operation of ride-sharing services.

In late August, the NSW government launched the Point to Point Transport Taskforce, which called for changes to be made to current regulatory framework in order to reduce red tape and level the playing field for the taxi industry and other point to point transport services.

Other state governments have also drawn their attention to the ride-sharing industry. The Queensland government said it would be reviewing its taxi strategy later in the year, and has not ruled out the co-existence of taxis and Uber services on the state's roads.

Similarly, in Western Australia, the state's Department of Transport released its still-open green paper in July, which centred on regulating the transport industry and ensuring consumer safety. Minister of Transport Dean Nalder said he hopes the outcome would "simplify this with a single piece of legislation".

Earlier this month, Uber found itself in court with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), arguing during the first directions of Uber B.V v The Commissioner of Taxation of the Commonwealth of Australia that UberX drivers do not fall within the same definition as taxi and limousine drivers, and therefore should be required to pay the Good and Services Tax (GST).

With AAP


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