In case you have missed it, we are in the middle of an election campaign and on 2 July Australia will decide which three-word slogan is most appealing. The choices are “Jobs and Growth” from the Coalition Government lead by Malcolm Turnbull and “Health and Education” from Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten. Bill’s is kind of self-explanatory, but Malcolm’s is rather ambiguous. He has also stuffed it up; it should have been “Growth and Jobs” as he says we need growth to create jobs. My question however is ‘growth’ for whom and what kind of jobs? We know he is super impressed by Uber and its explosive growth from a small start-up to a $A87 billion global juggernaut in little more than seven years, he has said so in parliament, and who can forget former treasurer Joe Hockey’s enthusiastic outburst in the same place: “Uber means jobs, jobs, jobs”. Evidently Malcolm and his party admires this global, law breaking, tax cheating multi-billion dollar insurgent for providing thousands of low-skilled contract jobs with no industrial rights, no entitlements and no job security. Jobs and growth indeed! A shining example for Malcolm’s agile, innovative and entrepreneurial 21st century Australia. Even the taxi industry is treating its ‘worker bees’ better, if only slightly.

Despite the blatant contempt Uber has shown towards our state governments and their passenger transport laws, and despite continuing to operate after it had been issued with letters to desist, being threatened with legal action and the issuing of fines to its drivers, government after government is scrambling to legalise UberX and ridesharing in general while at the same time taking the opportunity to virtually deregulate the taxi industry. Last year the ACT was first off the block, soon followed by NSW. In February this year Tasmania announced it would legalise ride sharing and in April both Western Australia and South Australia followed suit announcing it would be legal from 1 July. However, things have gone a bit haywire in both states, more so in SA. Read full story: Will WA and SA cave into Uber’s bullying

Only Queensland and Victoria, both Labor run, are left, but they are expected to roll over sometime in July. Ironically, in April the Queensland Parliament passed a bill, tabled by Rob Katter, increasing fines for UberX drivers to $2,356 while administrators of illegal taxi services face penalties of up to $23,560. It also increased the powers of transport investigators. Since then Queensland Transport has issued a reported $540,207 in fines to UberX drivers, however, no fines have been levied against Uber management.

Taxi app ingogo has come up with what it thinks is a brilliant idea – fixed fares. It has developed a new algorithm, which operates much like Uber’s. Passengers booking through the app can only pay by stored card, but unlike Uber the quote the app displays is more than a quote. It is a guaranteed fixed fare. Is it such a brilliant idea? Find out here: ingogo’s fixed fares

Taxi driver activist groups have been demonstrating repeatedly against ridesharing and UberX in particular. They have lobbied politicians, raged on social media, driven in convoys and held protest meetings and rallies. What have they achieved? Absolutely nothing. Tim Hoi canvasses the issue of ‘non-violent direct action’ in the form of on-going blockades of airports and CBDs and argues, had we done that 12 months ago UberX would have been stopped. See: Stop the traffic

There is also an article by WA academic and taxi driver David Sangiorgio Uber’s “sharing economy” assertions are a dangerous nonsense and another one by me about the phoney disagreement between Cabcharge and the NSW Taxi Council.

As I write this the date is 30 May. I’m running later than usual and am truly embarrassed and  sorry. Please sign up to a free subscription on this page and get notified by email when a new issue is online.

Thanks for your patience,

Peer Lindholdt

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OZ Cabbie February 2017

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