Uber legalised in NSW, WA to follow today: Compensation confirmed for taxi owners

#hashtags: #UberX #Western Australia #Uber #Australian #Australian Capital Territory

The New South Wales government has announced a series of sweeping changes to the state’s taxi and hire car industry, in the process legalising the controversial UberX ride-sharing service.

The news is expected to be followed by a similar announcement in Western Australia, where a spokesperson for the government has confirmed that UberX service’s newly legal status will be detailed later today.

Uber had its first Australian legislation win in September, when the Australian Capital Territory announced that the UberX service would be made legal in the jurisdiction.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said that the new laws, effective immediately, mean that consumers now have more choice in their commute, while also benefiting from increased competition in the industry.

“These reforms are expected to blow the doors of innovation wide open for ‘booked’ services, where customers can track their driver, provide direct feedback, hold them more accountable and choose from accessible price points,” Constance said.

As with the deregulation of other industries in years past, the legalisation of UberX will be joined by a $250 million compensation package for taxi licence-holders, who will now be operating in an industry significantly different to the one they bought into.

“It’s important that we don’t forget those who have poured their savings into taxi licences over the past decades and ensure they get equitable assistance as this industry adjusts to changes in our economy,” Constance said.

Full details of the compensation plan are still to come, although the NSW government has confirmed it will use consolidated revenue, along with a $1 levy on all UberX fares over the next five years to fund the package.

Taxi licence holders can expect compensation of up to $20,000 per plate, for up to two licences. This will be available to licensees who obtained a licence before July 1, 2015.

An additional $142 million will be spent to help taxi licensees facing hardship as a result of the changes, and a buy-back scheme for hire cars will be launched.

The NSW government has also confirmed a $3 million boost for the NSW small business commissioner’s office to advise taxi operators on adjusting to the new landscape, along with an additional $15.5 million per year in funding for safe and reliable wheelchair accessible taxi services.

Taxi services will also retain exclusive access to access to taxi ranks and the right to be hailed in the street. The NSW government claims that these two aspects account for around 70 percent of taxi usage, meaning that taxi licences will continue to hold significant value in the future.

Safety will also get a boost, with the industry to be overseen by a new regulator and Commissioner, intended to ensure that operators are abiding by the rules.

“Once Parliament resumes, I will introduce legislation to provide for the full reform package including a new regulator and Commissioner to hold all point to point services to account, with significant power and penalties,” Constance said.

“These include the ability to name and shame companies, seek court imposed fines of millions of dollars and in the worst case scenario a two year prison term for their company personnel.”

The Western Australian government is expected to announce its own reforms later today, legalising the UberX service.

Elsewhere, Queensland has announced that its review of the taxi industry will be completed by August 2016, while Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has promised to address the role of ride-sharing services in the state.

Victoria could be the next to legalise UberX, with the state’s taxi association recently announcing that it will dial back its resistance to the popular service in favour of industry and internal reform.