Booked hire drivers have been accepting cash fares since the services started operating back in 2014, and the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) is posing the question – where is the money?
Chief executive officer Blair Davies said it’s pretty clear that these cash payments go straight into the black economy, never to be seen by the taxman or anyone else.
“Because of the way booked hire services are set up, what’s to stop their drivers from just pocketing the money and not declaring it?
“In taxis, the fare is recorded by the taximeter so it doesn’t matter whether the customer pays by cash or a credit/debit card. On-meter transactions produce records that are auditable by the tax office and other authorised entities. The GST gets collected and remitted. The income is subject to income tax.
“When a customer pays a booked hire driver in cash, there’s likely to be no record of the transaction whatsoever and no tax paid by the driver.
“It then begs the question – what’s the government doing to catch booked hire drivers doing that and what’s it doing to stamp out the practice?”
Mr Davies said on top of everything else, even some booked hire drivers accepting cash puts all booked hire drivers at risk of robbery. Thieves have no way of telling which drivers will have cash on them and which will not.
“It is a problem area that needs to be urgently addressed,” he said.
“The Government has to start getting some street smarts when dealing with booked hire services. It can’t keep pretending that everyone is going to do the right thing, especially when these drivers can reward themselves by gaming the system.”
The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) says Queenslanders should be worried by claims of police in London that Uber is more concerned about protecting its reputation than it is about public safety.
TCQ chief executive officer Blair Davies said London’s metropolitan police have accused Uber of not reporting serious crimes so it can avoid reputational damage.
“Uber neglected to tell police that one of its drivers had allegedly sexually assaulted a passenger and then the same driver reportedly offended again,” said Mr Davies.
“In another unreported incident, an Uber driver is alleged to have used a pepper spray gun during a road rage dispute.
“While these things happened in London, it would be naïve of us to think we’re immune to these kinds of criminal behaviour in Queensland.”
Mr Davies suggested that because booked hire services are being given what amounts to a free pass by the State Government through lax regulations, which are different to those that apply to taxis, there are likely to be unreported incidents happening here.
“The Queensland Government can’t pretend that there is no problem here. Reported crimes are just the tip of the iceberg, unreported crimes still have real victims and real perpetrators,” he said.
“It’s time the Government got serious about protecting vulnerable Queenslanders, real people who it has put at risk by a laissez-faire approach to overseeing booked hire services.”
The State Government seems to be conflicted in the way it is dealing with multinational companies, according to the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ).
“Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath is crying foul over Lottoland claiming it isn’t a fair deal for local businesses or for people buying lotto tickets, but those same arguments are just as applicable to Uber and its services,” said TCQ chief executive officer Blair Davies.
“The Attorney-General complains that because the money Lottoland makes doesn’t go into Queensland revenues it isn’t re-invested in local services, but how is that different from what the leading provider of booked hire services is doing?”
Mr Davies said that the Government’s new regulations for the personalised transport sector don’t do anything to ensure that taxes are being properly paid by booked hire providers or that profits are not transferred offshore to tax havens.
“If Queensland’s first law officer is so upset about the lack of a level playing field when it comes to selling lookalike lottery tickets, it begs the question as to what advice she provided to her Cabinet colleagues when they considered setting new rules for taxis, limousines and booked hire services?
“The State Government may not have any power to regulate Lottoland, but it certainly has the power to regulate booked hire providers like Uber. The Attorney General’s arguments about Lottoland are right, but she would be better focussed on removing the double standards being applied to Uber.”
An offer by the Queensland Government’s Office of Small Business to provide mentoring services to the taxi industry has received a qualified welcome by the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ).
The Office of Small Business is partnering with TAFE Queensland to offer free mentoring services for taxi and limousine license holders and operators. The aim is to help them respond to industry change.
“Of course, we are not sure what experiential learning public servants and TAFE officers would have that is relevant to the plight facing small business people in the taxi industry,” said TCQ chief executive officer Blair Davies.
“Our members have been bruised and battered competing with a global giant that has been prepared to operate outside Queensland laws and that has been prepared to lose literally billions a year to subsidise their fares and undercut taxi fares.”
Uber reportedly lost a staggering US$3bn last year (or almost AU$4bn) and is possibly on track to lose a similar amount this year.
“There is no real parallel for what small business taxi owners and operators have experienced. They have been thrown under the proverbial bus by the Government. Now, the Government seemingly wants to appease them by offering some free mentoring to help them cope.”
Mr Davies said the State Government is looking at the impact of their regulatory changes through rose coloured glasses.
“It is offering band aids to people who have been seriously injured,” he said. “Our members don’t need to be helped to feel better about their financial losses.
“What they need is serious financial assistance, something that they can take to the bank.
“We doubt that the banks and lending institutions are going to back off pushing our members for loan repayments just because they have a more positive outlook.
“Free mentoring may be better than nothing, but it is no substitute for the Government accepting its responsibility to put meaningful dollars on the table to help the industry adjust to the new regulatory environment.”
The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) is once again calling for the State Government to do its bit to ensure all drivers working in the personalised transport sector have an ABN and are registered for GST as part of the driver authorisation process.
TCQ’s chief executive officer Blair Davies points out that while drivers in the taxi industry have been complying with their obligations to pay tax, there is a question mark as to whether booked hire drivers are doing the same.
“If GST isn’t being collected on all personalised transport services then Queensland taxpayers lose out,” he said. GST is a tax that benefits the States.
“We know that Uber has faced scrutiny by senate committees in relation to how little tax it pays in Australia. TCQ, like most of the community, thinks that all companies and individuals doing business in Australia should pay their fair share of tax.
Mr Davies said the Queensland Government could help the ATO ensure that booked hire drivers comply with their income tax obligations simply by making it a requirement for driver authorisation.
“It’s about time our State Government started working cooperatively with the Commonwealth Government on such issues. Allowing any booked hire drivers to slip through the cracks when it comes to paying tax isn’t looking after Queensland’s best interests.”
The appeal by Uber against its ban in London was to be expected, according to the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ).
Transport for London (TfL) revoked Uber’s license to operate as a booking entity in September because of safety issues and its attempts to avoid regulation. TfL determined that Uber was not a “fit and proper” company to hold a licence.
“We don’t need to look very far to understand why the London regulator took that action,” said TCQ chief executive officer Blair Davies.
“Uber has a worldwide track record of trying to get away with providing services that gloss over safety and pay scant regard to the rules. Here in Queensland they’re doing the same.
“Instead of standing up to Uber and making them pay realistic license fees, CTP, and have proper safety and security equipment, the State Government has appeared too timid to take them on.”
Mr Davies said in the United States there are criminal investigations into Uber for bribing foreign governments, stealing trade secrets, sabotaging competitors, and various misrepresentations. TfL’s concerns are entirely consistent with what has become a snowball of problems, that keeps getting bigger and bigger day by day.
“In London, we’re seeing corporate clients leaving Uber and taking their business back to taxi companies because of concerns about their liability in dealing with a supplier deemed to be unfit,” he said.
“London corporates are looking at their risk exposure and concluding that the safety and security of taxis is worth paying for. It’s something that Queensland businesses also need to consider.
“Of course, that assumes that the Queensland Government will be ignoring the US and UK experiences when it considers Uber’s application for booking entity authorisation to operate in Queensland past 1 December 2017.”
The State Government should consider mandating anti-tamper GPS units in booked hire service vehicles as a positive step towards addressing personal safety issues, according to the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ).
Chief executive officer Blair Davies said the Government has so far ignored the obvious, refusing to make security cameras mandatory in booked hire vehicles like they are in taxis, so non-removable GPS units could be a start to improving safety.
“Booked hire drivers are only tracked by an app on their smartphone, so once a driver’s phone is turned off or discarded, the tracking system is rendered completely useless,” he said.
“Any booked hire driver getting up to no good simply has to turn their phone off and they disappear off the radar. It is weakness in the safety system that can put consumers’ personal safety at significant risk.
“There have been multiple alleged rapes and an alleged kidnapping involving Uber drivers in recent months, and chances are some those incidents could have been averted had the vehicles involved had GPS units installed.”
Mr Davies said as long as the Government ignores the issue, the personal safety of Queenslanders will remain at risk.
“While the Government continues to put mandating security cameras for booked hire vehicles in the too hard basket, requiring anti-tamper GPS units in them could be a useful stop gap option.
“The Government can’t keep burying its head in the sand when it comes to personal safety.”
There’s still time to nominate candidates for this year’s TCQ industry awards.
The annual awards acknowledge the efforts of people in the taxi industry who make outstanding contributions to improve the personalised transport sector.
“There are a lot of people in the industry who often don’t see their efforts as being valued, but the awards try to remedy that by showing that TCQ appreciates the work they do in their local communities,” said Taxi Industry Council of Queensland chief executive officer Blair Davies.
Awards will be presented in four separate categories including Driver of the Year, Operator of the Year, Significant Achiever of the Year and Customer Service of the Year.
Nominations have been steadily coming into TCQ head office since they were opened in September and with the closing date being Tuesday, October 31, members are being encouraged to make sure not to miss the cut-off point to get their nominations in.
For more information on the awards and how to submit a nomination, please visit www.tcq.org.au/tcq-awards-nominations.html
The awards will be presented at the TCQ industry awards dinner on Wednesday, November 22 at Easts Leagues club, Coorparoo.
The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) is disappointed with an anti-discrimination video made by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), saying it should be replaced with more appropriate content.
The video portrays a fictitious taxi driver refusing to pick up a person of colour in front of a building, while at the same time offering service to a white male who hadn’t been waiting as long. It portrayed a clear case of the type of discrimination that taxi drivers are warned during their training is completely unacceptable and inexcusable.
“Disappointingly, the video fails to reflect the high degree of racial diversity in the taxi industry which results in cabbies far more often being the victims of discrimination rather than the other way around. A white male stereotype doesn’t fit the typical taxi driver anywhere in Queensland or the rest of Australia,” said TCQ chief executive officer Blair Davies.
“As an industry, we have zero tolerance for racial discrimination by drivers. Unfortunately, discrimination laws and the Human Rights Commission provide no protection when consumers discriminate against our drivers.
“We understand that the Commission is trying to educate the community about the different forms discrimination may take, but this particular video is poorly conceived for that purpose.
“The Commission had an opportunity to take a real stand and help taxi drivers of colour, but instead, once again it chose to fail them, and fail them badly.”
Mr Davies said it was also strange that the AHRC was promoting taxi customers and the public, who see discrimination occur, not to do anything else than stand and watch it. This may be the only thing that can be done in other circumstances but in the case of taxi drivers, the behaviour should be reported.
“Taxi Companies will take strong disciplinary action against any taxi driver found discriminating against passengers whatever the reason. We need customers to tell us when our service isn’t what it should be, and in any cases of discriminatory behaviour, that feedback is vitally important.”
He said, TCQ will be asking the industry’s national body, the Australian Taxi Industry Association (ATIA), to write to the AHRC recommending the video be replaced with one that’s more appropriate and a better use of taxpayers’ money.
“The AHRC should recognise the inappropriateness of casting taxi drivers as perpetrators of racial discrimination when they are far more likely to be the victims of discrimination rather than perpetrators.”
The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) has renewed its call for the establishment of a register of disaffiliated drivers in the personalised transport sector.
TCQ says the register would help prevent drivers who have been disaffiliated or removed from one platform from moving to another platform.
“The system needs to protect consumers by recording and tracking bad drivers and making that information available to authorised booking entities,” said TCQ chief executive officer Blair Davies.
“The system also needs balance so at the same it respects drivers’ rights to privacy, and protects customers and drivers against harassment and victimisation.”
He said TCQ also believes the government must set up a process for managing the risks of drivers having multiple affiliations.
“The Government’s new regulations don’t seem to have thought through the risks of drivers potentially finishing their shift driving a taxi and then logging onto a booked hire platform to make extra money. Without a break and recovery time, it’s a recipe for more fatigued drivers on the road, making our roads less safe for everyone.”