Perspective needed in uber (so-called) “popularity”
Queensland’s peak taxi body has called on politicians and regulators to keep perspective when talking about the popularity of illegal taxi services.
Taxi Council Queensland (TCQ) CEO Benjamin Wash said he supported comments from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday calling for a level playing field across the taxi industry.
However he is concerned by some comments from politicians and journalists that the illegal taxi service was “incredibly popular”, stating that the figures showed “Queenslanders overwhelmingly don’t want private taxis that ignore safety regulations”.
“While uber talk about their 150,000 customers, the Queensland taxi industry has 110 million customers.”
“By their own figures – which are likely inflated and cannot be proved, uber transports around 0.13 per cent of the amount of customers who catch taxis. You can’t make public policy on that,” he explained.
Mr Wash said while uber talk about transporting 100,000 customers per year, taxis transport over 250,000 customers per day in Queensland alone.
He also pointed out that the 100,000 “downloads” of the uber app claimed by the company are dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of downloads of apps from taxi companies in Brisbane alone.
“The popularity of uber doesn’t exist, but they have done a good job of spinning the facts and influencing some gullible journalists to preach their message in a messianic fashion.”
He said TCQ was about the facts, not the hype, and re-emphasised that the 15,000 small business owners that made up the Queensland taxi industry were committed to high customer service, safety based regulation and servicing all areas at all times.
“uber is operating illegally and Queenslanders – by the actual numbers – are rejecting this.”
The Premier has weighed into the debate over whether Queensland cabbies need protection from the controversial ride-share service Uber. Katrina Blowers reports.
Last week’s report of an alleged sexual assault of a female passenger by an uber driver in Perth may be difficult to prove because the illegal taxi service refuses to abide by Government safety regulations that include cameras, according to the CEO of Taxi Council Queensland.
Benjamin Wash also predicted that sexual assaults by uber drivers will increase if the illegal taxi service continues to operate as they are less likely to be convicted, and pointed to other assaults in Melbourne and overseas.
"uber X is operating outside the law, meaning they have no safety measures, taking us back to the dark ages," Mr Wash said.
"In Queensland there are over 250,000 taxi fares every day yet the incidence of driver misbehaviour is very rare, partly because the actions of drivers are captured on in-car cameras and taxis are GPS monitored."
He said when there is an incident, police have video proof and can use camera footage from taxis to convict drivers that do the wrong thing.
"In every industry there are people from time to time who break the law. This includes police, teachers, lawyers and taxi drivers."
"Some uber X drivers will break the law, but the driver can do or say anything and then deny it, and there's nothing you can do."
Mr Wash said while he cannot comment on the recent allegation, he has no doubt that uber will become a haven for sexual predators as well as drivers that are rejected or sacked by the taxi industry.
"If a driver inappropriately touches a passenger in a taxi we can prove it. But in an illegal taxi like uber X, it becomes a 'he said - she said situation', meaning it is far more difficult for prosecutors to secure a conviction.
"In fact I believe many victims of uber drivers will not even bother reporting it."
Mr Wash warned that uber drivers don't have daily criminal checks like Queensland taxi drivers and can turn off their phone, making their location untraceable, as an uber driver recently did when he kidnapped a woman overseas.
"Illegal taxis flout the law and are unsafe and uninsured. I appeal to the public not to risk their lives by using these services."
Casino will breathe new life into small business – taxi industry
Queensland’s taxi peak body believes Brisbane’s new casino will stimulate local tourism and small business in a way the city has not seen since World Expo.
Taxi Council Queensland chief executive officer Benjamin Wash said the state’s taxi industry is made up of over 15,000 small business owners, who are just some of those that will benefit from projects like casinos and cruise ship terminals.
He said the industry has developed its tourism image over the past few years through close engagement with other tourism industry participants, and will be ready to be the ‘face of Queensland’ when the casino opens.
“Taxi drivers are often the first people tourists see when they arrive and the last they see before they depart, and we’ve been implementing a tourism ambassador program across Queensland for the past few years.”
Mr Wash is also expecting to see an increase in the number of taxi drivers, not only due to the casino but as major events like the Commonwealth Games draw near.
“There are around 250,000 taxi fares every day across Queensland and this will increase, meaning we will need more drivers, so I’d be encouraging anyone who wants a fulfilling career to come forward now,” he said.
“Many Queenslanders would be surprised to learn that while taxis might carry a brand on their cars, this is only a booking arrangement. Most cabs are owned by everyday people who have invested their savings into a taxi licence, and many are retirees.”
He said every driver is a small business person, making the taxi industry one of the largest supporters of small business in the state.
“We welcome development and congratulate both the Newman and Palaszczuk Government’s for their foresight in bringing a world class casino and lifestyle precinct to Brisbane.”