Federal politicians to join the Uber revolution in Canberra

Federal politicians will soon be driven around Canberra by Uber after the government gave the go-ahead for Parliamentarians to use the ride-sharing service at taxpayer's expense.

A ministerial circular has confirmed that Uber cars are an official mode of transport, but only in the ACT.
A ministerial circular has confirmed that Uber cars are an official mode of transport, but only in the ACT.  Photo: Getty Images

But the MPs and Senators' ticket-to-ride expires at the borders of the Australian Capital Territory, the nation's only jurisdiction to have legalised and regulated Uber.

Special Minister of State Mal Brough confirmed in a ministerial circular on Monday that Uber cars are now sanctioned as an official mode of transport for politicians who can then bill the fares to their expense accounts.

But parliamentarians' wives, children and other "designated persons" are excluded from officially sanctioned Uber travel until the Remuneration Tribunal follows the Parliament and tweaks the rules.

Parliamentary staffers too are expected to be given the go-ahead within days to catch Ubers around Canberra.


The territory government legalised Uber on October 30 and speculation is growing that its giant neighbour NSW will be next off the rank in giving the service the legal green light.  

The ACT Government is already using Uber to ferry its public servants around and Canberra-based Commonwealth , including the ATO which spent $3.8 million on taxis in the last financial year, are known to be looking at the idea of using Uber to trim transport costs.

Mr Brough made it clear in his circular that the use of Ubers was subject to the same rules as any other form of official politicians' travel.

"I note that the ACT is the only Australian State or Territory to currently have regulated ride-sharing services," the minister wrote. 

"Unless and until jurisdictions other than the ACT regulate ride-sharing services, the use of ride-sharing services under the parliamentary entitlements framework will only be available in the ACT." 

An Uber spokesman welcomed the decision on Monday and predicted it would be a springboard for more growth for the service in the capital.

"We welcome the Government's decision to embrace a more reliable and affordable travel option for parliamentarians, which will save taxpayers money on Government travel costs," he said.

"We know that Parliament House is one of most popular pick up spots in Canberra, so as conversations with other departments progress, we look forward to all Parliamentarians making the most of the efficiency and cost saving that ride-sharing provides."

The Canberra Taxi Industry Association did not respond to requests for comment.

Federal Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh praised his Labor colleagues in the ACT Government for being first to regulate Uber and called on the Prime Minister to do more on the "sharing economy". 

"Sharing economy services don't only offer Australian consumers a better deal; they can also help governments save money and run more efficiently," Dr Leigh said.

"This kind of outcome is only possible because the ACT has shown leadership in developing a targeted and appropriate framework for services like Uber to operate legally.

"We need to see that same leadership from Malcolm Turnbull, yet the sharing economy wasn't even mentioned in last week's Innovation Statement."


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