Queensland’s transport minister says she’s a “taxi person” and Uber is “weird” but insists she’s open to allowing the ride-sharing app to operate legally.
Jackie Trad, also the state’s deputy premier, announced on Wednesday the government had appointed former director-general of main roads Jim Varghese to head an independent task force to review the state’s taxi strategic plan.
The plan, due to expire this year, will also consider limousine and ride-share services.
While announcing Dr Varghese’s appointment, Ms Trad said she had ridden once in a UberX car in Sydney that her friend had ordered but didn’t like the feeling of being in a stranger’s car.
“I did find it personally weird,” Ms Trad said.
“I’m a taxi person, I use taxis all the time, so I’m stuck in my ways I have to say in terms of that.”
But Ms Trad insisted the government wouldn’t be stuck in its ways and, recognising Uber’s popularity, would be open to regulatory reform.
Dr Varghese won’t have to complete his review until August next year, meaning Uber and similar ride-sharing apps would remain illegal in the meantime.
That would allow enough time to get it right, Ms Trad said.
That’s despite a string of attacks on Uber drivers in Brisbane at the weekend that are being blamed on taxi drivers frustrated at the ride-sharing app operating illegally, while the government takes its time ensuring an even playing field.
“There is no excuse for violence, there is no excuse for bullying or intimidation,” Ms Trad said.
“We are determined to get this right – not to rush it – and we don’t want to have people intimidate the government around this reform.”
Ms Trad said the government had fined Uber drivers about $1.7m since the service came into the Queensland market and would continue to do so.
Uber welcomed the review, but said it was disappointed the current plan would expire long before the review was completed.
“The status quo can not be maintained while Queenslanders wait for a 10 month review to conclude,” a spokesman said.
Taxi Council Queensland urged the government not to accept submissions from Uber until they stopped operating “illegal taxi services”.
“It is unacceptable for a government to allow a company that is in clear breach of the law to participate in a review of legislation,” CEO Benjamin Wash said.
“Uber have a right to lobby for a change like we all do, but until that change happens they must be forced to abide by existing laws.”