The Advocate 16 Aug 2016
Legislation allowing ride-sharing service Uber to operate in Tasmania will require the support of at least one undecided MLC to pass, with several members concerned about the bill’s impact on the state’s taxi drivers.
The Taxi and Hire Vehicle Industries Amendment Bill is set to be debated by the upper house on Wednesday, with the government requiring support from one of Rosemary Armitage, Rob Valentine and Labor MLCs Josh Willie and Craig Farrell.
Labor MHAs voted against the legislation in the House of Assembly in April, but the party did not outline its voting intentions on Monday.
Both Ms Armitage and Mr Valentine are yet to decide on a position, but Mr Valentine said compensation, licensing and boundaries of operation would be important considerations.
The bill is expected to be supported by Independents Ruth Forrest, Tony Mulder, Greg Hall and Michael Gaffney and Liberals Vanessa Goodwin and Leonie Hiscutt, with Independent Kerry Finch also understood to be leaning towards supporting the bill.
The vote is likely to be a close one, with Independents Ivan Dean, Robert Armstrong and Tania Rattray all holding significant concerns about the damage Uber’s entry into the state could have on the taxi industry.
MLCs received briefings from key stakeholders last week.
Uber have said they initially planned to only operate in Hobart and it’s unclear if the service plans to operate outside peak tourist periods.
Mr Dean said he thought taxi drivers had been “dealt a poor hand” and would struggle to support the bill.
Mr Armstrong said he had to weigh up whether the introduction of Uber would put taxi drivers out of business before deciding his vote.
He said Uber’s significantly lower overhead costs meant it had an unfair advantage over the taxi industry.
Mr Hall said Uber’s concept was a “transformation of the way we do things”, while Ms Forrest said the legislation had the potential to create legitimate opportunities to support the state’s public transport system.
Transport Minister Rene Hidding said he was confident the bill would pass.
“We’ve been nation-leading in our balanced approach to the sharing economy and the greater consumer choice it offers Tasmanians,” he said.
“The legislation that provides for the operation of ride-sourcing companies such as Uber provides a regulatory framework that is fair and provides necessary protections for consumers.”
An Uber spokesman said the company was working with the government and hopeful “sensible, safety-based ridesharing regulations” would pass soon”.
The Tasmanian Taxi Council could not be contacted.