Under Australia’s three-tier government system of Federal, State and Local, transport regulation falls into the responsibilities of State and Territory governments. The growing popularity of Uber and ridesharing platforms in the last year has seen the $62.5 billion-valued company fight battles in multiple states to have it legalised.
Ridesharing Laws in Australia
Uber is a ridesharing service that allows its customers to submit a ride request through their smartphones, then be connected with a driver. Before the existence of Uber, ridesharing laws were not in place in Australian States and Territories. It was the popularity of Uber that forced States and Territory governments to create a set of laws and regulations for ridesharing practices.
Inconsistent Ridesharing Laws
Transport is regulated on State level is so it can adapt according to each State and Territory’s specific needs. Considerations for state economies are an important factor for governments in deciding whether or not the legalisation of Uber is in the state’s best interest.
For example, for government-worker based ACT and central business hub NSW, it may have been more beneficial to the population to be given another option regarding transport, and may even boost the economy with more competition. On the other hand, the small population and more regional Northern Territory may have less of a need for Uber and taxi drivers may need more support from its government.
The Current Landscape
At the moment, only the ACT and NSW have officially legalised Uber. On 1 July 2016, Uber will also be officially legalised in SA and WA. In Tasmania, Uber has become a step closer to becoming legalised after the passing of a bill in Tasmania’s Lower House with tri-partisan support.
On the other hand, Victoria has stated it will not rush into making a decision as it considers whether or not to legalise Uber. Similarly in Queensland, Uber has not yet been officially legalised and currently operate illegally under taxi regulations. The Queensland government in fact recently passed new regulations imposing higher fines of up to $2,356 for Uber drivers and $23,560 for administrators of illegal ridesharing services.
In February 2016, the Northern Territory announced that it had made a decision to ban Uber from operating in NT altogether.
How do the Regulations Differ?
It’s significant that while Australia is becoming increasingly Uber-friendly, regulations differ and not all of them are in Uber’s favour. In the States that have legalised Uber, each of them has offered an assistance package to taxi drivers to ease the transition. This package offers a levy of $1 for every trip, applied to both Uber and taxis, which will go towards the assistance scheme. Each government has also implemented additional costs and checks for Uber drivers.
SA is considered to have implemented the most expensive regulatory state for Uber so far. In SA, an individual who wants to be an Uber driver must pay for third party insurance at $269, a lifetime support levy of $77, vehicle accreditation fee of $85 in addition to costs relating to getting a Working with Children Check, National Criminal Check and medical and eyesight certificates.
While it is relatively cheaper in the ACT, NSW and WA, Uber drivers must still be prepared to hand over a hefty sum. In the ACT, they are required to pay $100 per year for a Public Vehicle Driver Authority Card along with police character checks, driver history checks and health checks. In NSW, Uber drivers must apply for a one-time private hire vehicle accreditation at $45 along with the necessary criminal and health checks.
The landscape is rapidly changing for Uber in Australia as more states give in to the pressure and pass regulations to legalise the ridesharing service. However, Australia is still not completely Uber-friendly. Consumers should ultimately be aware of where Uber stands in their State or Territory and their rights in the circumstances.