Qld minister denies Uber free ride

Queensland’s transport minister insists the government is already cracking down on illegal ride-sharing services like Uber.

Stirling Hinchliffe’s comments come after a parliamentary committee this week recommended he take urgent action to ensure the current regulations, which deem Uber to be an illegal taxi service, are enforced.
But Mr Hinchliffe says that is already happening, denying suggestions the government had issued a directive for Department of Transport and Main Roads officer to stop fining drivers.

“No, there’s been some 17,000 hours of enforcement put in by the department of transport in relation to these regulations,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“That’s an important thing and I want to see that continue and make sure that we continue to work on how we can enforce our appropriate transport regulations.”

Mr Hinchliffe said some Uber drivers had been fined over the past few days, but conceded that had been due to driving unsafe vehicles, not for operating without a taxi licence.

The Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee’s report found that Uber was using technology to actively avoid transport officers, making enforcement difficult.

The report was looking into a bill that Katter’s Australian Party MP Rob Katter introduced calling for Uber drivers to be issued with demerit points.

The committee didn’t support the bill, arguing Uber’s tactics to avoid punishment would mean it would take too long for the points to appear on drivers’ records.
​Mr Hinchliffe also had reservations about the demerit points plan, given demerit points were only used to punish unsafe road practices, like speeding.

“That’s why the government will have to look at this very seriously and cautiously,” he said.

Despite not having the government’s backing, Mr Katter on Thursday pushed ahead with his bill, arguing demerit points were needed because fines weren’t doing enough to deter Uber.

“If Uber and the likes were going to pay the fines for their drivers and barrage their way through the laws with money, then we had to look at alternative ways to fix this,” he said.

Mr Katter on Thursday afternoon successfully moved a motion to fast-track his bill, which means it would now be debated next month.

Uber’s director of public policy, Brad Kitschke, insisted the service wasn’t illegal in Queensland and said drivers weren’t being taken to task over unpaid fines.

“They are not doing anything wrong,” he said.

But the Taxi Council Queensland disagreed, calling for the government to urgently act and uphold the law.

“The law is the law, and at the moment we have an uneven playing field,” the council said in a statement.

The government will release its taxi strategy in August, which will detail how ride-sharing services will fit into the state’s transport landscape.

Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/national/2016/03/17/14/53/urgent-need-for-uber-crackdown-katter#cVwb3RgUwbrDGGBw.99