THE taxi industry claims they are unsafe and ruining their lucrative trade but a government report has found Uber could save Aussies a lot of money.
One of the key findings from the Economic Policy Group’s (EPG) internal discussion paper is that Brisbane’s taxi market could be leaving Queenslanders $40 million worse off each year, the ABC reported.
The report was released under Right to Information laws to Uber and obtained by the7.30 program.
It said limiting the number of taxis on the road resulted in higher fares and bad service and that customers had the most to lose.
“Brisbane consumers were worse off by $40 million a year from restricting Brisbane taxi numbers with a dead weight loss to society of $3 million to $20 million a year,” the report says.
“Tourism is decreased due to the high cost and lack of availability of taxi services, reducing the ability for tourists to travel into and around tourist areas.
“The damage to the Queensland economy from this kind of over regulation is easy to see and will continue to cause significant economic costs to the Queensland people until the constraints on supply are removed.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Uber X, the paper argued it has helped address demand for more affordable services.
“Despite operating outside of the regulatory framework, Uber has increased competition in the Queensland taxi market, providing customers with the ability to choose an alternative to regular taxis,” the report says.
It also downplayed fears the ridesharing was unsafe.
Recently the Taxi Council of Queensland claimed Uber would become a “haven for sexual predators”.
“While passenger safety has been cited as a key reason for regulating ride-sharing applications, the safety risks associated with Uber are potentially minimal,” it said.
“Uber currently requires drivers to obtain a general DA [driver authorisation], which includes a criminal background, driver history and medical check.
Uber Australia’s General Manager David Rohrsheim spoke to news.com.au about the issue and is adamant using the service is safe.
“We start with background checks. We will not accept anyone with a criminal history, and that’s not the same for the taxi industry,” Uber Australia general manager David Rohrsheim told news.com.au. “And, unlike a taxi that’s picking you up from the street, you have the driver’s details — you know who they are.”
Uber also has a $5 million insurance policy against every trip. Asked if that policy has been tested, Mr Rohrsheim confirmed it has.
“The taxi industry is seeking to keep us in the dark ages and they’re the only ones speaking out against this,” he said. “We say to them that instead of spending your time spreading fear and intimidating Uber drivers and riders, improve your services. Customers are switching because they’re unhappy.”
Brad Kitchske, Uber’s director of public policy, told 7.30 the report proved there needed to be “immediate reform”.
“The answer to regulating isn’t to lock things down and restrict competition, it’s in fact to open it up and allow the market to provide better results to consumers,” he said.
The release of the report comes as the QLD government hinted it may allow Uber to operate.
A review of the state’s taxi strategy is due later this year.
Deputy Premier and Transport Minister Jackie Trad says the ride-sharing service and cabs are able to coexist in other countries.
“Other jurisdictions have made a place for Uber without diminishing the importance of the taxi industry that’s already established,” she told 7:30.
Queensland’s government hasn’t made its mind up about what to do about Uber, but has hinted the controversial ride-sharing service could coexist with taxis. The state is reviewing its taxi strategy later this year and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said there was a range of options to be considered.
Ms Trad says there could be a complete crackdown on Uber or further deregulation of taxis, but she would not rule out both coexisting in Queensland.
“Other jurisdictions have made a place for Uber without diminishing the importance of the taxi industry that’s already established,” she said.
In the meantime, QLD police continue to crackdown on Uber with drivers being issued with on the spot fines.
But states might be persuaded to legalise Uber if practices taxis use to win the best fares continue. A report published by the Herald Sun last month shows that customers in Melbourne will often struggle to get cabs, while up to 680 vehicles wait at Tullamarine airport for up to three hours hoping for a good fare.
But the Australian Taxi Industry Association believes this is a symptom of an oversupply of cabs. Chief executive Blair Davies told news.com.au the trend of taxis crowding at airports was a symptom of oversupply of taxis within the industry, and a problematic response to increased external competition.
“When you get an oversupply of taxis, what happens is they congregate at airports, and to a lesser extent CBDs, on ranks. This happens everywhere in the world,” he said.
Despite problems with customers finding a cab, inspectors are still looking to fine Uber drivers around Australia.
In New South Wales, inspections are expected to ramp up over the coming weeks, despite cases against 24 Uber drivers being dropped because of evidentiary issues.
“Drivers of ride share services such as UberX are breaking the law, it’s as simple as that,” Roads and Maritime Services Director of Safety and Compliance, Peter Wells told 7:30.
“They are not regulated, not authorised and are not subject to ongoing criminal checks like taxi, hire car and bus drivers are.
“It is only a matter of time before an incident occurs and a driver faces the possible denial of insurance cover, leading to substantial financial loss.”
In a statement issue on Thursday, Taxi Council of Queensland CEO Benjamin Walsh said the EPG discussion paper should not be taken seriously.
“It appears to have been written by a group of graduates and it has no bearing whatsoever on government policy,” Mr Walsh said.
“No consultation was done with industry or any other stakeholder, and the entire premise on which this paper is based is completely false.”