The Queensland government’s failure to act quickly to legalise ride-sharing could see one monopoly replaced with another, a Sydney start-up has warned.
As the Taxi Council of Queensland demanded the state government crack down on Uber drivers, Sydney-based GoCar was keen to start in the state.
Uber is ‘not going anywhere’
Fines for drivers have doubled in Queensland but Uber is urging them not to pay as it vows to continue operating. 7 News Queensland
But it warned the longer ride-sharing remained illegal, the more likely it was Uber would have a near-monopoly in the state.
GoCar, a ride-sharing service developed by taxi booking app GoCatch, has been operating in Sydney since early this year after the Baird government legalised the practice.
GoCatch chief executive Ned Moorfield said Queensland was at risk of falling behind the rest of the nation if it did not open the door to ride-sharing in the state.
On Thursday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk brought forward a taskforce review of Queensland’s taxi and ride-share industry by a month, so that it would report back to Parliament in July.
“Brisbane and south-east Queensland will be a pretty important region for us and we’re watching with interest what’s happening here regulatory wise,” Mr Moorfield said.
Unlike Uber, which has gained a foothold in Brisbane despite it acting illegally in the state, GoCar did not flout local laws in Australia.
“You need very deep pockets to do that,” Mr Moorfield said.
“Uber’s been paying millions of dollars in fines and those fines have just gone up significantly, so we won’t be rolling out here and exposing ourselves to the risk of having to pay those large fines.
“I think that’s to the detriment of ride-sharing drivers at the moment, because they’re being really squeezed by Uber dropping their pricing and we don’t think it’s particularly good for passengers, either, having just one (ride-sharing service) to choose from.”
Mr Moorfield said GoCar’s determination not to break the law could ultimately hurt his company, seeing as ride-sharing was clearly popular whether it was illegal or not.
“The point I’ve made to the (Queensland) taskforce is in New South Wales, they enacted a lot of the needed changes through changes in regulation, rather than changes in legislation,” he said.
“That allowed us to start operating quite quickly.
“The NSW government made the announcement and, at midnight that day, we were able to start operating legally.
“So I hope they’ll be able to take the same approach in Queensland and we’d hope to see that happen in the second half of this year.
“If it goes beyond that, it’s only going to favour Uber in building more of an incumbent position and we’ll just be replacing one monopoly with another.”
The Taxi Council of Queensland has spearheaded the opposition to ride-sharing in Queensland, arguing Uber had impacted “thousands of small businesses” that operated legal taxis in the state.
Although taxi owners had spent tens – even hundreds – of thousands of dollars on taxi plates in Queensland, Mr Moorfield said that was no reason to hold legalisation back.
“No investment’s risk-free,” he said.
“At the end of the day, they made an investment and I don’t think the concerns of a small number of plate owners should mean that people in Queensland are having to pay excessive fares for taxis.
“To protect a few thousand plate owners at the detriment of millions of people who want more choice and cheaper alternatives to catching a taxi.
“I’d have thought, from a public policy perspective, you’d have to favour what passengers want and not what plate owners want.
“And I think the government will realise that.”
Mr Moorfield said GoCar could be made available in Queensland as soon as it was made legal.
“We’ve now got the technology working so it’s easy for us to switch on in new cities as it becomes legal,” he said.