Government warns taxi industry it cannot stop Uber in the ACT

Government warns taxi industry it cannot stop Uber in the ACT

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has warned the taxi industry he will not stop the arrival of ride-sharing company Uber or arrest drivers, but will instead support competition through reform.

His comments come as a number of taxi owners and drivers plan to strike on Wednesday morning and protest at the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The government has warned the taxi industry on the eve of strike action that it cannot stop Uber's arrival.

The government has warned the taxi industry on the eve of strike action that it cannot stop Uber's arrival.

"The bottom line in all of this is that the government will not be able to arrest our way out of Uber's entry into the market," Mr Barr said.

The ride-sharing company is expected to arrive in Canberra as soon as next month with the government to release a review of the taxi industry within weeks.


The strike, which is set to last between 8am and 11am across the ACT, has been organised by taxi owners, drivers and representatives such as the Sikh Taxi Drivers Association of Canberra.<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--><!--[endif]-->

Association chairman Jagjit Singh said he hoped close to 200 drivers would also take part in a peaceful protest at the ACT Legislative Assembly, subject to police approval.

"We are paying thousands in registration, insurance and other fees each month, and Uber drivers don't have the burden of those costs.

"We don't think the public know how much taxis have to pay."

Mr Barr said he was sympathetic to the concerns of taxi drivers although arrival of the ride-sharing company could not be stopped.

"I understand the range of issues that are confronting the taxi industry and that are why we commissioned the innovation review but there are a couple of basic facts," Mr Barr said.

"Uber will enter into the Canberra market and they can either come in in to the market in a regulated way – which is what we are looking towards – or they will operate in an unregulated way, which is not what the government would prefer."

Mr Barr said the government had engaged with the taxi industry and they could expect a reform package to include a number of market regulations for Uber.

"We will not be arresting Uber drivers or people who use an Uber service and our preference is for a regulated environment and that is that we are working towards," he said.

"Importantly, there will also be a lot of deregulation of the taxi industry in order to create a more level playing field."

Canberra Taxi Industry Association chairman Mark McKeough said he was aware of the proposed strike on Wednesday morning but had not organised it.

"We never promote a strike because we are conscious that the people who get hurt are the passengers, and they are the people we look after," he said.

"The organisers of the action have also urged drivers to be respectful of the public."

A Territory and Municipal Services spokesman said motorists should expect possible delays along Canberra Avenue, State Circle and Commonwealth Avenue during the protest.

"Motorists are advised that the ACT government has also reserved a space for some taxi drivers to park their vehicle to limit any congestion on and surrounding London Circuit," he said.

"An area of 50 car spaces will be cordoned off inside the car park at the intersection of London Circuit and Theatre Lane, opposite Mooseheads for drivers."

Bus stops outside the ACT Legislative Assembly and near the London Circuit and Akuna Street intersection may be temporarily closed if buses cannot access passengers.

Henry Belot is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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